World-Wide Wackiness

Published: June 3, 2009 - by Dan Holohan

Categories: Darn-Good Stories, Troubled Heating Systems

man trapped behind wall grate graphic xl

Troubled times in Heatingland

Some wacky things in the news have made me wonder about the current state of Heatingland. For instance, there’s a brand-new, 108-bed, National Health Services hospital in Wales (Heatingland extends beyond the shores of the U.S.) that recently opened with a pristine hydronic-radiant-floor heating system. Now, at first glance, this may seem like a wonderfully modern addition to Heatingland, and a welcome omen for things to come, but hang on. The folks in charge at the hospital haven’t been able to move any patients into the new place because the floor surface temperature is 104-degrees Fahrenheit, and no one seems to know what to do about that. The patients have to remain in the Victorian-era hospital over in the next village for the time being, even though that place is falling apart, and scheduled to close for good. They wait, coughing, hacking and suffering, as the brand-new radiant floor pumps out more heat than Shakira. Leighton Adrews, a Welsh Assembly member said, "This was meant to be one of the most environmentally friendly hospitals because of the nature of the heating system, but the under-floor heating has made the floor too hot to walk on."

After all these years of radiant design throughout Heatingland, this really shouldn’t be happening. But maybe they got a great price.

And how about this? Last April, the folks in charge of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania schools decided to close them all for two days because it got hot outside. Who knew?

It was going to take them at least 48 hours to switch the two-pipe system from heating to cooling and that was just too long for the children of Heatingland to take. Can’t have uncomfortable little ones, can we? Of course not.

I hark back to the days when I was a young citizen of Heatingland (and I know this is going to make me sound like an old fogey). When I was a pup, my school’s air conditioning was an opened window, if I was lucky enough to be sitting near one, and the cover of my marble composition notebook, which I used for a fan. Heating was a steam radiator that pumped out enough heat to make me vomit (a good reason not to sit near the window). This radiator was also the place where my vicious teachers kept those small containers of milk, which we bought for two cents every afternoon. Calcium builds strong bones.

Oh, and the cracked-opened window was our zone valve. The vicious teachers were our thermostats. We weren’t supposed to be comfortable in school. That’s what school was for – to make us miserable.

But it’s no sweat in Harrisburg, PA. If a kid is uncomfortable, he or she is liable to get on a cell phone and call mom at work. Mom will drive down in the Hummer to pick up the sweaty little brat, but not before consulting her attorney. Heatingland isn’t what it once was.

But change isn’t bad. Last year, the government of Scotland, working through the Warm Deal Programme, installed insulation in 6,018 private homes where the elderly and poor live. This was up by more than 1,000 over the previous year, and by 2015, they will have insulated all the homes. The government covers the cost of this. Heating is a right for the poor and elderly in Scotland.
As part of the Central Heating Programme, the government of Scotland also installed 14,430 new heating systems for the poor and the elderly, and this was a 61% increase over what they had installed during the previous year. How about that?

Meanwhile, last winter, and this was in Bay City, Michigan, a 92-year-old, World War II veteran by the name of Marvin Schur froze to death in his bedroom. The authorities found him on the floor. He was wearing four layers of clothes.

How did that happen? The local power company had installed a limiting device on his electric meter. This thing blows like a fuse if you use more than a certain amount of power. It’s supposed to get your attention. You have to reset it by hand. They did this because Mr. Schur, 92 years old and of a feeble mind, owned the power company $1,000. They let him know they were doing this not by knocking on his door and telling him, but by leaving a note taped to his door. The neighbors said Mr. Schur rarely went outside, so he didn’t see the note.

When they came to get his body, they found the money clipped to the bill on his kitchen table. Got elderly parents living in Heatingland? Check on them.

Speaking of which, in Cumberland, Rhode Island, a bunch of high-school kids got together and decided to form the Cumberland Youth Commission. They do all sorts of things to raise money so they can help the poor and the elderly pay their oil bills. They do this by granting vouchers, which they then give to the oil company that serves the person in need. Most of these kids don’t even have driver’s licenses but they are the good citizens of Heatingland and they make me feel great about the future. Tough times bring out the best in some people.

And then there is this from Reuters, which appeared last February: “A study of more than 20,000 people in China has shown that exposure to burning solid fuel indoors for heat and cooking may cause the lung ailment known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The finding, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is significant because COPD has long been associated with smoking, and very little research has been done to find out why non-smokers also suffer from the disease. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.”

So if I understand this correctly, you’re not supposed to have an open, solid-fuel cooking fire going inside your house when the windows and doors are closed during the winter. I would think that the citizens of Heatingland should have figured that out, but some of our citizens are pretty wacky.

Margaret Write of Ogden, Utah is one of the wacky ones. Margaret is 55 years old. She is a smallish woman and she had a house with old, rather large heating ducts (can you see it coming?). It was a Sunday morning and Margaret decided to vacuum inside the ductwork. I think this is a job for a professional, but, hey, what do I know?

Margaret removed the register from this old, 24-inch wide, six-foot-deep, vertical duct and then reached way in with the vacuum. Way in.

They found her 30 hours later, with just her little feet waggling from the hole in the wall, but she’s okay. And that duct sure was clean!

How about this stinker? Stephen Office lives in England and the courts just sentenced him to a good long stretch in the slammer. How come? Because Stephen found his mother Margaret, aged 74, lying unconscious at the bottom of her basement stairs (it’s a tough year for the Margarets). Instead of helping her, Stephen turned off the radiator so that she might freeze to death.

Death by radiator. That’s cold, Stephen.

Speaking of criminals, The Sofia Central Heating Company (that’s in Bulgaria) just got caught stealing a bunch of levs from their customers. Sofia has a hot-water, district-heating system, a remnant of the Soviets days. The company was ripping off 20,000 levs (that’s about $14,000) every month from each block of apartments throughout Sofia. They were doing this by lowering (by about nine degrees Fahrenheit) the temperature of the hot water they supplied to the radiators. They figured no one would notice, but the Federation of Consumers busted them. The Federation looks out for the citizens of Heatingland, and for that, we can be grateful.

And perhaps you can use that story the next time you’re trying to sell outdoor-temperature reset controls. Lower the water temperature. Save levs!