Sometimes Mr. Green gets a rant worth quoting at length, especially if it reinforces his own skepticism about substituting technology for common sense. Here goes:
Hey Mr. Green,
You recently mentioned various energy–conservation projects, one being to install a programmable thermostat. Well, yes, they may work for some people, but the one we had was without a doubt the sorriest piece of electrical equipment ever to deface an innocent wall.
Our coldest and most miserable winter in more than 50 years was caused by that savage little monstrosity in the downsized house we moved into. Being retired, we aren't robots on a rigid schedule, and didn't need any fool computer telling us when to turn on the furnace. However, instructions in hand, we humored that idiotic device, trying to move it down from 72º to a more reasonable, lower figure in winter, but it popped right back up. Nothing we did to this instrument of the devil, this Rasputin, or maybe Cheney, would help. We ended up turning it on when the house got cold and shutting it off when it warmed up. A pair of bare wires and a clothespin would have accomplished the same thing.
Finally we bought a real thermostat like the one we had in our other house for 40 years. All we have to do is rotate it one way to warm up the place, and turn it the other way to cool it down—the very epitome of simplicity and efficiency. No goofy buttons, no failed attempts to coordinate time and temperature, and no waste of natural gas.
So, after our experience, whenever someone comes around with "programmable thermostat" I start thinking of getting out my heaviest hammer and gleefully smashing that electronic monstrosity to bits.
–Tom (location undisclosed)
Tom, I share your antagonism toward gadgetry, but millions of folks are so “distracted from distraction by distraction,” as T.S. Eliot put it long ago, that they simply can’t focus on mundane tasks like adjusting the thermostat. It was mainly for these unfortunate victims of the economic system and the false gods of digital technology that I prescribed the programmable thermostat. Personally, I consider these and many other energy gadgets to be the moral equivalent of overmedication. If you live sensibly, you won’t need most of those remedies advertised on TV to keep your bladder happy and your legs from involuntary twitching.
But don’t go gleefully hammering your old thermostat—or any used thermostat. Recycling well is your best revenge. Find out where to do so by contacting your local waste-management authorities or locate nearest thermostat recycler at earth911.com.
And if you know anybody who has one of those older thermostats that might contain mercury, implore them not to smash or discard the device, but recycle it. Last year 1,300 pound of toxic mercury were contained by the recycling of 100,000 old thermostats.
People who still get their knickers in a knot about the minute amount of mercury in fluorescent lightbulbs should note: Those 100,000 thermostats contain as much of the toxic metal as 118 million fluorescent bulbs, or a roughly a bulb for every U.S. household.