When you’ve been in the small room with the fan heater for long enough you start to feel it. When you start to feel it, it’s too late. It’s already too hot. It sneaks up on you and then it’s uncomfortable. It’s funny, really, as whenever you turn on the fan heater in the small room you almost laugh at how inadequate it is to deal with the heating of a room, even this room with its not very large dimensions. It’s an old heater and you wonder if it is past it. Maybe it needs to be retired? A possibility, but you keep it as it still does the job, still sneaks up, and you don’t want to kill off a career as an electrical appliance which maybe has entered its twilight – the shadows are lengthening and dogs are becoming frisky as the cool descends – but which still has something to offer.

I vividly recall bringing a small fan heater we had as a kid close to my feet, to warm them up, as I watched the 1990 World Cup mtches. I didn’t get up early to watch those games live so it was bitterly cold in the daylight hours of that June/July school holidays period. Bitterly cold, or the heating was inadequate – perhaps a combination of the two. This was the first time when I came to fully understand the cruelty dormant in the concept of the thermostat. A cruelty able to inflict misery, apparently at random. I developed little techniques to get this small fan heater going again when its beige plastic brain decided that the room had reached an optimum temperature and needed no further assistance in warming up-related activity. But it wasn’t warm. Not at all. My feet were getting cold again. If I had have been a technically minded youth – someone who takes things apart to learn how they work and then puts them back together, and thus can build his own, after a fashion – I would have opened the bugger up, removed the ‘computer’ or whatever the sensor was called (it may even have simply been a timer) and then the thing would have kept going no matter what it detected were the conditions in the room. But I wasn’t. ‘Opening things up’ was to me the same as breaking them, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do that. It was cold, and I needed a functioning heater – if a heater which was functional until it turned itself off was the only option, so be it. One technique, my favourite, was to run the fan with no heat, and then when it had been going a few minutes, change to a heated setting, thereby tricking the unit into keeping going but now pumping warmth. Can’t say that it worked too well, but it was my chief tactic at the time. Subsequently a school friend told me of growing up in New Zealand, where presumably it was much colder than in Sydney, and he would open doors and encourage breezes to infiltrate the room to lower the temperature and encourage the thermostat to re-appraise the situation and turn the heat back on. It was a scientific approach that I would have never considered. It was cold: I wasn’t going to open doors and windows to make it colder.

As a little boy I recall a small radiator being turned on as I dressed for school. It was useless, as it needed time to take any effect and turning it on as you dressed gave no relief whatsoever. The only thing I learnt, apart from radiator heaters are useless unless they have been on for half an hour or more, is that when you dangle your school tie onto the element of one of these it will melt it.

Fan heat sneaks up, small fans aren’t adequate and can prompt silly, almost superstitious, behaviour, and radiator heaters can destroy but don’t heat a space very well. Have I actually learned anything or grown up at all?

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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