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Degrees of Separation: How Couples Can Stop Fighting Over the Thermostat

It’s a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Boy and girl bicker over the thermostat.

It’s a real problem

Perhaps feeling partially responsible for causing marital discord, the thermostat manufacturer Honeywell commissioned a study to determine just how many couples are squabbling over the temperature in their homes. What they found shouldn’t shock anyone who has been living with a significant other for any length of time: A full 30% of respondents said they disagree over degrees and 27% admitted to adjusting the thermostat when no one was looking. It’s even worse among parents. Among couples with children, 34% can’t settle on a temperature and 28% will change the thermostat on the sly.

This places the thermostat right up there with other classic causes of conflict among couples, including battling over the TV remote and chores.

So why the spats over thermostats?

Blame biology

The thyroid gland is sort of a biological thermostat. It controls the rate at which the body uses energy and maintains your basal body temperature. That’s the temperature of your body at rest, which might explain why these arguments tend to flare when pairs try to relax.

Health issues can compound problems, too. People with an underactive thyroid tend to run cooler. If your mate is constantly cold, he or she may have a thyroid problem. Conversely, those with an overactive thyroid are more sensitive to heat.

There may also be gender differences at play. People with more lean muscle mass tend to have a higher body temperature. And those people tend to be men. Of course, we’re speaking generally here.

Exercise is also a consideration. To stop sweating so much, you need to work up a sweat through routine exercise. Fit folks have a higher tolerance for heat. This applies to both men and women. That just might be the motivation your mate needs to hit the treadmill.

Consider the cost

There’s no getting around it. Even the most efficient air conditioning system will increase energy costs. And this can be the root of many power struggles over the thermostat.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can save 10% a year on cooling costs by bumping your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees. So, while 70 degrees might be ideal for you, your budget-conscious partner may prefer 77 degrees or even a balmy 80 degrees.

Find a happy medium

Fortunately, there are ways couples can coexist in comfort.

If cost is the chief concern, there are steps you can take to keep conditioned air inside where it belongs. This way the air conditioner won’t have to work so hard. Seal the windows and install a door sweep to fill the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold. Plus, keeping your window curtains closed will block sunlight, which will help lower the temperature.

You can also supplement the air conditioner with fans. Fans can’t lower the temperature, but they can make it feel 4 to 8 degrees cooler simply by moving the air. So, maybe couples can compromise by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees, provided a fan is running.

But if each person insists on their own comfort level, then the answer is a zoned heating and cooling system. Each zone has its own thermostat, giving each member of the family control over the temperature in their own rooms.

Also, consider smart thermostats. These can be programmed to learn your daily patterns to automatically adjust the temperature depending on who’s home first. Users can also lock the controls, putting an end to those covert thermostat adjustments.

We’re not saying a smart thermostat will save your marriage, but it will save $125 to $180 on your energy bill.
 

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