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Stand back! It's time to set new thermostat

The Baltimore Sun

Recently my wife and I decided we hadn't taken on enough debt with just a mortgage, car loan and college loan, so we replaced the old heating and air-conditioning system in our home with a brand new system.

The new system costs an obscene amount of money.

Oh, but don't worry about us. We can certainly swing it, especially if I pick up a second and third job somewhere, maybe at Wegman's or someplace like that.

Anyway, I'd like to be able to report that we're enjoying the new heating and air-conditioning system, except that wouldn't be true, because we're afraid to touch the new thermostat.

By the way, the new thermostat isn't even called a thermostat.

It's called a TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control, which just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

And it's about as easy to use as you'd imagine something called a TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control would be.

Personally, I was fine with the old thermostat.

For one thing, the old thermostat was round, the way God intended.

It had two settings (auto and on) and you moved the little dial thing for heat and air. A chimpanzee could work it.

And that's the standard by which I measure the user-friendliness of all technology: Could a chimp figure it out? Then maybe I have a shot.

The new thermostat is rectangular, has back-lighting and a touch-screen with a menu that looks like something you'd use to program a new orbit for the Voyager II satellite.

One of the guys who installed the new system programmed the thermostat for us.

"It's real easy to use," he said.

So right away, I knew we were doomed.

Because the only time people say "It's real easy to use" is when they sense you're going to freak out over how complicated something is.

Then he explained how the TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control worked.

He said we could program our heating and cooling over four different schedule periods per day: Wake, Leave, Return and Sleep.

There were also Default Program settings, Schedule Period Cancellation settings, Temperature Override settings, Permanent Hold and Vacation Hold settings.

Did I mention there was a Manual Override of Fan Schedule?

I should probably mention that.

Anyway, maybe you're starting to see the problem here.

"How do you turn the heat on?" I finally asked the guy.

He said the heat was on.

Then he continued to program the thing - we were now into Cleaning Your Comfort Control Screen, during which the TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control locks out all the touch keys for 30 seconds, so you could clean, say, a finger smudge off the screen.

Boy, you talk about pressure.

A digital clock counts down the 30 seconds. And if you don't clean the screen with a damp cloth before the clock ticks down to zero, the roof of your house blows off and the whole place explodes.

OK, I made that part up. I guess you could program it for another 30 seconds.

But with that stupid clock ticking down, you do sort of feel like it's a race against time, like James Bond trying to shut down the timing device on that nuclear bomb in Goldfinger.

Anyway, when the guy was finished programming the thermostat, he handed me the TCONT800 Series Touch Screen Programmable Comfort Control Owner's Guide, which is 400 pages thick and has dozens of illustrations.

I'm sure it'll be a big help.

Maybe I'll take the summer off to read it.

By the way, I don't know if you've bought a new central air-conditioning unit recently, but these things are now the size of a missile silo.

Our old central air-conditioning unit was this little rusty thing that looked like something you'd find rattling outside the redneck sheriff's office in an old Dukes of Hazzard episode.

But the new one is tall and sleek and stands like a giant green sentry on a pad in the back yard.

I'm sure it works real well, too.

And maybe by the time the hot weather rolls around, we'll have figured out how to use the thermostat so we can cool the house.

Although that's not something you should bet on, that's for sure.


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