The weather is getting colder in Virginia, and the past week has been especially dreary.
In California, we didn’t have central heat (or air conditioning), so when the temperature went down, we’d just pile on sweaters and maybe put on the space heater. The only time it was a problem was at night, but even then, it was a simple matter of adding a few blankets to the bed.
This week, despite the cold temperatures outside, we didn’t put the heat on. It’s just not something we think to do. It has been about 65o in our apartment, and that hasn’t been uncomfortable at all.
But it has occurred to me that perhaps there’s more than just our adaptability at play. You see, we have people living on 2 sides of our apartment, and there is an apartment below ours as well. It’s likely that those neighbors do have their heat on, and that heat is rising up to our apartment.
We’re comfortable, and we don’t have to pay for heat, but is that ethical?
If we ran our heat, those neighbors would probably save money on their electric bills, and we’d pay a little more. I don’t know how much of a difference it would make in the temperature since we have high ceilings and we’d probably lose a bit through the roof. Maybe we wouldn’t need the blankets that we usually have thrown on our laps.
Complicating matters is that sometimes, it’s too warm. A few nights, even with the wicked cold outside, I slept with the bedroom fan on because it was too hot to sleep. If those downstairs neighbors are heating our apartment, it’s costing us more money to run that fan.
Furthering my confusion is that this summer, we ran our air conditioning. Those same neighbors probably benefited from that if you assume the same heat transfer mechanisms are at play.
We haven’t met these neighbors, so it feels a little awkward to knock on the door and say, “Hey we think we might be leeching heat off you. How do you feel about that?”
Is there some sort of solution that I haven’t thought of, or should we just accept that this exchange of energy is an consequence of apartment living from which we are currently benefitting?