Monday, February 21, 2011

Hit The Showers, Kid

I like to think of myself as being somewhat eco-friendly. I could certainly do more, of course, as could we all, but I think I try to minimize the magnitude of my negative effects on the planet. I usually remember to take my own bags when I shop; I try to ride my bike when I don’t need to drive; things like that.

One area into which I’ve really put a lot of work is the adjustment of the temperature setting on my water heater. It’s just silly to have 200° F (366.33° K) water sitting around in a tank that you have to cool down in order to use, right? Right. Astoundingly, it’s been estimated* that the median U.S. houseowner wastes $23,500 dollars annually by keeping their water unnecessarily hot.

To this end, I spent the first several years after purchasing my house getting the heater dialed in to the ideal setting. To understand my definition of “ideal” in this context, a brief primer on thermostatically-regulated di-hydrogen oxide temperature control is warranted:

There’s, umm … some little sensor thingy in there that turns some fire on when it gets too cold and turns the fire off when it gets too hot.

I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. Maybe. I think.

Anyway, the water temperature cycles up and down within some range according to how you’ve set the thermostat. The ideal setting is such that at its coldest, your perfect shower won’t require any cold water mixed in at all.

And so it was that from 2004 to 2007, the primary focus of my very existence was temperature adjustment (which may have contributed to a number of failed relationships, but hey, whaddya gonna do?), and having succeeded in my efforts, I have enjoyed perfect showers since then, while minimizing my consumption of natural gas, and thereby helping to save polar bears.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, the goddamned water was too goddamned cold.

Being of an inquisitive mind, and having taken Research Methods 101 (twice!), I quickly formulated several hypotheses that could potentially explain the earth-shattering change, which I present graphically below:

Above: Comic Sans MS font was used in order to undermine any chance in hell of being taken seriously by the scientific community.

The pink sinusoidal line represents the temperature cycle prior to yesterday, and the red horizontal line represents the temperature required for the Ideal Shower (the concept of Ideal Shower, for the present discussion, does not take into account the presence of (or lack thereof) 1) beer, or 2) company). As you can see, at its coldest, the water was just slightly warmer than what I required for showeric nirvana.

My first instinct was that something had happened to the water heater itself. The green sinusoid represents an expansion of the temperature range that the water cycles through; that is, it gets hotter before the little sensor thingy turns the fire off, and colder before the little sensor thingy turns the fire back on. The purple sinusoid represents an alternative explanation, in which the range of temperatures has shifted downward. Either occurrence results in the minimum of the cycle being below the Ideal Shower Temperature (IST).

I’ve begun sampling the tank temperature every 10 minutes in order to compare those data to the cyclic pattern that I had previously established and provide support for one hypothesis or the other. I hope and pray that one of them remains a viable candidate, because a third explanation is represented by the blue horizontal line, indicating that my IST has actually shifted upward, no doubt due to a metabolic shift within my body, signaling a rapid deterioration of my physical functioning and being a harbinger of my imminent and certain demise.

Please keep me in your thoughts, because that last one would kind of suck. At least for me.

* Estimated by me, based on no data whatsoever.


Niamh B said...

Single most creepy thing a live in land lord ever said to me was "Do you like showers Niamh?"

anyway - enjoyed this science rich analysis.

sarah said...

I'm afraid I've ruined relationships by inviting them into my shower.

guest: holy shit! this water is lava hot!

me: I have to have it that hot to occasionally warm my cold nearly-dead heart and keep it from sputtering out.

The Dead Acorn said...

That is WAY creepy, Niamh B ... so did you move out, or did he eventually become Mr. Various Cushions?

Sarah ... I'm going to be giggling about "cold nearly-dead heart" all day.

Niamh B said...

Nope, I moved Mr Various Cushions in with me at the time, and kept a carving knife in my room under the bed just in case, and moved out suddenly when the opportunity arose. His cat was creepy too, used to get into random rooms at night, and scratch you if you ever dared to try and eat your dinner while he was around. Delightful place it was.