How To Not Fall Out With Flatmates About Heating
The Debrief: Don’t let your relationships get as icy as the weather…
It was around this time of year in 2003 that my university house became a divided home. It wasn’t boys, it wasn’t someone stealing the last toilet roll/bit of cheese/slice of freezer bread – it wasn’t even a drunken row following a round of our favourite cocktail (a glass of white wine, an apple VK and a double vodka shot, in a pint glass). It was the central heating.
Too cold, too hot, turn it off, turn it on, when it should go on, when it should go off, whether you should just stick a bloody jumper on – these are the debates which filled our brains way more than anything we learned in our two hours of seminars a day.
As we enter that terrible time of the year when ‘I turned the heating on last night for the first time,’ becomes a genuine conversation starter, here’s the best way to avoid fighting with your housemates about the heating.
I adore my friend Amy, but we’re of a different species. She could be cold while full-on dancing in a sweaty nightclub while wearing a jumper, while I have a core temperature of a constantly hot-flashing, menopausal woman. So, it was probably the worst idea ever to stick me in a room with a seven-foot long radiator, while she resided in the totally uninsulated (and probably totally illegally built) roof conversion.
In another house I lived in, my poor friend Liz, who loves fresh air, opted for the front-facing, ground-floor bedroom, not realising it meant she could basically never have a window open, ever. Thinking about where you all sleep from the start could save you arguments further down the line.
It’s great that you have a course that keeps you in lecture theatres and libraries nine hours a day, or a job that requires you to be in an office. Some of us have to spend most of the day at home. And sorry, but that means sometimes the house has to be heated when you’re not there. It’s annoying but I promise, it’s not going to bankrupt you.
Be reasonable – no-one should have to read by torchlight because they’re so cold that even having their nose and fingers out from under the duvet is unbearable (I actually did this – it usually meant I’d just fall asleep).
…but don’t take the mick
Life is about compromises – it’s a cliché because it’s true. Don’t just crank the heating up to max so you can sit around in hotpants, totally sockless. Do try a jumper (never a onesie), or blankets, or a cup of tea before you overrule all your mates and flick the switch. Speak to your housemates and agree what’s fair for everyone.
And it doesn’t have to be roasting from the minute you wake until the second you sleep. You live in the UK, deal with it.
They will deny it to this very day, but I know for a fact that, after some of our many summits to agree the hours and levels of heating, some of my housemates would sneak down and change the thermostat. Argue your case and be open with people – as in the rest of life, being shady just winds everyone right up.
Some people get colder than others. Some rooms are so poorly (illegally) insulated, you can honestly hear icicles forming in the rattling, unglazed windows, and they will remain cold when the rest of the house is tropic. And there are some things not worth arguing about – one of those is your heating.
If a compromise cannot be reached, turn to electric heaters for those people and rooms that need them. It’ll save you money, as well as friendships.
Turn on your landlord, not your mates
If something’s not right in the house, speak up. Get landlords to buy electric heaters, drain the central heating system, even look at fixing draughty windows. Don’t suffer in silence – and by silence, I mean passive-aggressive comments over dinner.
Don’t live in a hole
Picking a house is hard. Finding a house you like and is available is practically impossible. But if you’re able, do have a little think about whether you’re signing up to live in a shithole. The house of heating wars also had so much mould clothes had to be chucked, a genuine slug problem, and metal benches instead of couches. It should’ve been no surprise that the heating was totally inadequate.
When you view a property in July, as well as thinking about sipping cider in the tiny back garden, have a little think about the radiators.
Turn it into a competition
Maybe we were absolute idiots, but in one flat I lived in, me and my three housemates took pride in making it as long as we possibly could into the year before turning our heating on. We’d smugly laugh to ourselves from underneath duvets about our weak-willed mates who’d buckled, while we hardily ventured into December without giving a penny to the gas man.
Though maybe that laughing was just our teeth chattering. Regardless, you could give that a go.
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Picture: Ada Hamza
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