| NEW YORK, July 29
NEW YORK, July 29 When Harvey Montijo first
moved in with his wife Natalie, he remembers exactly how long it
took to get into a tiff about household temperature.
"Right from the get-go," remembers the 31-year-old
orthopedic resident in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The problem: Florida native Montijo likes the house a
relatively balmy 75 Fahrenheit (24 Celsius). Natalie, a grant
writer who is also 31, prefers a cooler and comfortable 70F. So
the parents of two came up with an elegant solution, one which
might seem familiar to husbands everywhere.
"The house is set at 70," Montijo deadpans. "She won."
On its face, thermostat control might seem like a trivial
issue. But as any spouse will tell you, small issues can often
turn out to have outsized effects - both on the marital
relationship, and the family budget.
Indeed, according to one recent survey by manufacturer
Honeywell, 30 percent of respondents who live with at least one
person admit they can never agree with housemates about
temperature. And 27 percent take matters into their own hands,
by changing settings without others' knowledge.
That easily beats out other household flashpoints like
control of the TV remote, cited by 16 percent of people as a
Younger Americans, in particular, seem persnickety about
home temperature, with 39 percent of those age 18 to 34 fiddling
with the thermostat dial on the sly.
According to experts, though, thermostat wars might not
solely be about physical comfort. They might be about other
things entirely - like control over household decision-making,
for instance, or about money matters.
"Make sure you're arguing about the right thing," says Mary
Claire Allvine, an Atlanta financial planner and author of "The
Family CFO: The Couple's Business Plan for Love and Money."
"You might be arguing about temperature, when it really
comes down to stress about bills and cash flow," Allvine says.
"So don't talk about 68 degrees versus 72, when the real issue
is that you are spending more money than you have coming in."
Indeed, there is no denying that the savings from lower
energy usage can be formidable. In the summer, each degree you
raise your thermostat above 72 can save between 1 percent and 3
percent on your energy bills, according to the California Energy
Commission's Consumer Energy Center.
David Sylvestre-Margolis knows about energy squabbles all
too well. The 40-year-old publicist and his partner Georges
enjoy a spacious Manhattan pad that can cost a whopping $1,000 a
month, or more, to heat during the winter.
David likes to set the thermostat around 70F, but Georges
prefers to kick around the house in a T-shirt with temperatures
in the mid-70sF. "He wants to have a warm apartment, and then he
complains about the electric bill," Sylvestre-Margolis laughs.
"And he doesn't want to wear a sweater, which I find ludicrous."
Thankfully, there are some practical fixes that couples can
implement. Programmable thermostats such as Nest, which is a
unit of Google Inc, can help solve the problem, by
automatically adjusting temperature depending on which partner
gets home at what time. They also tend to save users about $180
a year in energy costs, according to Energy Star, an
energy-efficiency program of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Just make sure you are using them correctly. "Technology is
only as good as the user," says Amy Matthews, a licensed
contractor and host of multiple shows on the DIY Network.
"One can purchase a $30 thermostat and have it programmed
correctly, and save more money than the $200 thermostat that is
wifi-enabled and not used correctly."
If you suspect the issue goes much deeper than haggling over
a degree or two, couples can also adopt more drastic measures.
Allvine suggests swapping bill-paying duties for a few months,
which can help drive the point home on energy costs.
"If the real issue is that one partner is a saver and the
other is a spender, then it's usually the saver who is always
getting stressed out," she says. "So switch the roles of bill
payment for a while, and have the spender be the one to write
those checks. Then they have to take on that responsibility
about how tight money can get."
As for Harvey Montijo, he is at peace with the outcome of
his household's Battle of the Thermostat. Since he works the
long and erratic hours of a medical resident, and his wife is
home much more, "she is the one who gets to make that decision,"
"But it does mean our bills are a little higher. And it
means I have to wear a sweater."
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here;
Editing by Lauren Young and Lisa Shumaker)