A Heated Issue

>> Wednesday, 20 January 2010

You might wonder, having read yesterday's post on the current freezing temperatures in Moscow, how the people here cope with that. Do they sit inside, nursing their Ovaltine in fingerless mittens, watching their breath cloud the air in Dickension style as they huddle down inside their slanket and kangeroo-hop around their homes inside their big slippers? Do they sleep in their overcoats and in three layers of clothes? Are the insides of their windows prettily decorated by Jack Frost when they wake in the morning? Or do they simply crank up the thermostat to the max and think 'be damned to the heating bills!'

Well, outside of Moscow, I'm afraid I can't say. But inside of Moscow, none of the above. In fact, as far as I know, most homes don't actually posess a thermostat to control their own hot water or central heating, because it's all centrally controlled. So - and the environmentally aware reading this should probably look away now - the heating (the cost of which is usually included in your rent or service charge) goes on in October / November regardless of your individual preference, and off some time in the Spring. (If, that is, the White Witch ever releases her grip enough on Narnia/Russia to let Spring arrive, and I'm thinking that the jury is out on that right now). It doesn't matter if there is an unseasonably mild spell, or a ridiculously cold snap, the heating rumbles along whatever.

You might wonder whether central control of warmth means that people are left to freeze in their sleep by cost-cutting administrators, but actually - due no doubt to the wealth of natural resources here - the opposite seems to be the case. Most houses / apartments / public buildings that I've visited are warm and toasty, if not roasting. It's possible to be practically weeping from the cold as you (well, me, in any case) return from the school run and yet within 5 minutes of finding refuge inside, feeling so hot that you end up stripping down to a t-shirt.

Obviously this adds an interesting aspect to trips outside, because you find that you're piling the layers on yourself or your children in anticipation of the minus 15deg C day waiting for you whilst still inside your 25 degC home. Think about it; the difference between the two extremes can be around 40degC or more...

I was discussing this with Husband, who is of course a lot more experienced in dealing with this problem than I am, having lived here before.

Me: "How do people live like this?"

Husband: "Well. The Russians, of course, have developed a highly sophisticated method of dealing with over-heated homes that allows them to control the temperature precisely."

Me: "Oh, thank god. Can we get whatever it is? Is it easily available? What do they do?"

Husband (deadpan): "They open a window."


Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy 20 January 2010 at 20:11  

It's the same here. Drives me nuts because the boys go down to t-shirts and then I have to get jumpers etc on before even attempting outdoors stuff...

We heat the garden a lot. BUT, we are heated from water heated by the cooling towers in the local factory and then pumped around the town. Quite effective really!

Nicola 20 January 2010 at 20:16  

ha ha! The first apartment we had in Chicago also had this system of heating - the only problem was because it was a high rise we couldn't open the windows! I recall sitting around in my underwear some evenings, because it was so hot, and having to sleep with just a sheet and not a duvet at all. Most bizarre.

TheMadHouse 20 January 2010 at 20:17  

Oh I didnt realise that was how they did it, I remember Fraught mummy posting about it. I guess it will be fine once you get used to it, well it will have to be fine, as you cant do anything about it!!

Footballers Knees 20 January 2010 at 20:44  

My chillblanes are throbbing at the thought of it all. There's nothing for it - am sending a care package of chocolate and magazines. Although we both know what Mum says about that sort of thing.

Heather 20 January 2010 at 20:52  

ah, the wonders of modern technology eh, free windows for all!

nappy valley girl 20 January 2010 at 22:28  

I've heard that a lot of New York apartments are centrally controlled, too. In our house we have a thermostat, but no timer for the heating, so it has to stay on all night (or else you'd freeze in the morning). Seems like a whole different attidude from the UK, where we're all so used to shivering under our duvets or putting on another jumper.....

sharon 21 January 2010 at 01:21  

And I bet he said it in that incredibly dry irritating way men have when they think of something sensible that we haven't worked out for ourselves!

Claire 21 January 2010 at 07:37  

It's the same here in Finland. We can control our radiators but only if the centrally controlled heating has gone on. If not then turning the radiator dial does zip. But, because we live on the 5th floor and heat rises we rarely even have to trun the radiators on :) although in the summer when it gets above 20C it generally means our apartment is roasting :/

A Modern Mother 21 January 2010 at 07:41  

I have a friend who grew up in Siberia (!) and I heard the same thing from her. They all keep the windows open. She married a Brit, who remembers scraping ice off the INSIDE of a window in the UK because the house was so cold because of minimal heating. Two opposites. She grew up with the windows open, him closed. It's funny to see them interact.

London City Mum 21 January 2010 at 11:31  

Oh I love it! That is exactly the type of comment I would have made (sorry!), so can well imagine your face.

Very funny. You can hit me when you next see me.


Kate Morris 21 January 2010 at 11:32  

I didn't realize you had moved to Moscow. Makes me feel like a wimp, read my the post I've just posted about not having heating for 8 days. I remember being ill prepared for Moscow in December about 15 years ago. I wore tights and two pairs of jeans but could only bear to be out for ten minutes at a time!

Pippa 21 January 2010 at 12:34  

ooh, get him! Lol, hope you have found a way to suitably punish him for teasing you ;)

Jo Beaufoix 21 January 2010 at 17:35  

Snort. Well that's one way to deal with it. Blimey Potty, it must be so strange and extremely hard on the nose and ears. Hope all is well lovely. If a little hot/cold. x

Elsie Button 21 January 2010 at 20:22  

oh WOW, just been catching up, after weeks of non blogging (apart from the odd crap post of my own) and you are now there!! Been enjoying your sister's posts - what a great idea! and will love reading about your adventures in moscow - good luck and speak soon xx

http://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com 22 January 2010 at 05:09  

always so practical aren't they? Men? Keep warm. And stay cool by the sounds of it. hope you're getting to grips with it all x

Home Office Mum 22 January 2010 at 11:45  

maybe that's what those little russian dolls are meant to symbolise. You start off with the person who is outside and end up with the tiny person that is left once they've taken all their kit off inside.

Expat mum 22 January 2010 at 18:48  

It's like that at my children's school. It can be a million below freezing outside but the kids are wearing t-shirts and tank tops inside because of the heat. I walk the Little Guy into his classroom and am practically fainting after about ten steps inside the building.

Hullaballoo 23 January 2010 at 23:21  

Very funny post. Glad you are settling in okay and navigating the Russian heating systems.

Sparx 25 January 2010 at 23:00  

Oh yes, I lived in a centrally controlled apartment building in Toronto once and somedays a window did get cracked open... not often mind you... sounds like a major adjustement...

Beta Dad 29 May 2010 at 19:00  

We had centrally controlled heat when we lived in Kutusovsky 14 back in the Soviet days. Unfortunately, it did cut out frequently and we *did* sit around with our fur coats and hats on. We also lost hot water on a regular basis. We would boil huge pots of water to use for bathing after about the third day of going without.

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