Why average is a bad way to measure temperature

Feb 09 2011 Published by under [Et Al]

Me: Hello, I'm just wondering if there is something you can do about the temperature in the classroom I teach in.

Facilities Guy: What's the problem?

Me: Well, on Monday it was 60 degrees and everyone was wearing coats. Today it was 85 and could have passed for a sauna.

FG: It's set for 72.

Me: But it is never actually at 72, rather at least 10 degrees in either direction. And there is no way to change it in the room when I get there to determine whether layers need to go on or off.

FG: Yeah, it is centrally set and works on an average.

Me: Allowing a 20 degree standard deviation?

FG: What?

Me: Nothing. Is there any way that we can get it closer to that 72?

FG: You can open windows.

Me: The room doesn't have windows.

FG: Right, then no.

Dude, Fuck. Sigh....

12 responses so far

  • Jen says:

    I certainly sympathize! One of my fall classes was taught in a windowless room. For some reason, the air conditioning was always on. While this was great during the warm Aug/Sept months, by November, my students and I were shivering in coats and hats (the temperature always ranged from 58°-65°F). No amount of complaining from any of the instructors who taught in that room changed the situation. One instructor brought in a portable space heater, which apparently helped until facilities caught her and chewed her out. I'm thankful I no longer teach in that classroom.

  • A teaching lab that I taught in used to get so cold in the winter that I would make all my students light there bunsen burners to warm the room even though we weren't using them for experiments. Summertime, we'd bring in a plethora of box fans to try and cool down the temperature in the "sweatlodge."

  • physioprof says:

    The low-level HVAC people who answer the "Help Desk" phone line or whatthefuckever can't do jacke shitte. You need to find out who is the high-level person in charge of HVAC control systems, and make that person your friend.

  • Dr. O says:

    If there's a thermostat in the room you can try putting an ice pack on it to kick the heat on, or glove warmers to cool it off.

  • thehermitage says:

    The more stories you tell, the more I think the spandrel workshop is a cover and you are like totally my PI. Our HVAC is RIDICULOUS, and don't even get me started on the flickering lights routed through the no-interrupt power supply.

  • Are you teaching in my lab? Seriously, I think you are.

  • In one teaching computer room here, it is so hot that when I came in yesterday, one of the students had opened all the windows *and put the AC on*. It was snowing outside.

  • yep, I had a teacher in high school who used to do exactly that!

  • lin says:

    In my building the temperature of the rooms vary with the direction of the wind: northern wind: north offices are so cold you would like to wear coats and gloves, while at the other side of the building (mere 20 meters) they are hot, while south gives me a nicely warmed room, and the other side is friezing. Keeping the doors to the corridor open doesn’t help at all, it merely creates a draft. We are in an really old building, and at the 20th floor in the more windy regions…. Word is we will move at some point, but for now moving is more expensive than heating and repairing stuff in this dreadful building.

  • proflikesubstance says:


  • proflikesubstance says:

    Now I need to add HVAC McGyver to my CV?

  • Dr. O says:

    Just sayin' - it works. Or you can wait on the HVAC guys to finish their smoke break in the basement...

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