Old Fashioned Values
Living with my parents for the last 4 months has given me some interesting glimpses into their mindset. They come from the silent generation. These folks are older than boomers and have a different outlook on life than the boomers.
Setting the scene
As I have mentioned previously, my parents live in the UK. Their house has radiator heating and no AC. The heating system is controlled by a thermostat, and is currently set to 21C or 23C when they are using the shower. (They are in their 80s and feel the cold).
Every night, before he went to bed, my father would turn the heating off. I asked him why and his response was that growing up poor, they turned everything off to save money. I told him that heating the house from cold every day took more energy than just leaving the heat on, controlled by the thermostat. That was met with scoffs of disbelief.
So I challenged him. They know what their energy bill usually is, so for one month, just leave it on and let the thermostat do its thing. Don’t turn it off, and I bet your energy consumption goes down. If it does not go down, I will pay the energy bill for the month. He agreed to the test, but could not possibly see how this would reduce his bill.
One month later and of course the energy usage was lower, even as we moved into December and it started to get a lot colder. He was amazed. The why of course is pretty simple, given that the house did not need to be heated from cold every day, but he had never considered this. I guess when he was young, they did not have thermostats like we have today. The heat was binary – on or off and you regulated it by turning it on when you were cold, and off when you weren’t!
This is of course, not just limited to my father. My mother has a habit of turning the satellite box off before turning off the TV. Why? Because its what her father taught her to do many years ago. Any electrical appliance, not in use, must be turned off to keep the energy bill down. Now back in the 40s and 50s I might agree. Modern electronics however does not work that way.
Many electrical devices are not truly turned off. After all, if they were, how would the remote turn them back on. Also the satellite box in question has a DVR function and you can hear the hard drive spin up even when its ‘off’.
In the FIRE community there is a fair amount of cross over with minimalists and frugalists (is that even a word?). Often we are asked to consider what the older generations would have done given that many were dirt poor and extremely frugal. It is worth noting though that often technology has made some of that thinking obsolete. The problem is that you sometimes have to prove it to the older folks who don’t understand the technology.
And my father is very happy with his lowered energy bill.