Thermostat settings are hot-button issue in Canadian households

British Columbians most likely to change settings on the sly

As fall continues and temperatures drop across Canada, we may be in for a winter of increased home energy use. December has already brought record-breaking snowfalls to Alberta, and British Columbians are being asked to conserve on account of a natural gas shortage.

A Canada-wide survey by Research Co. sought to find out if Canadians are relying more heavily on home heating. Across the country, two in five residents (41 per cent) say their energy use at home has increased over the past few weeks.

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Atlantic Canadians, who endured a severe cold snap on the second half of November, are ahead of every other region when it comes to home heating (46 per cent say their use has increased recently), followed by Ontario and British Columbia (43 per cent each), and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (42 per cent). The provinces where the fewest Canadians are reporting a growth in energy use at home are Quebec (37 per cent) and Alberta (36 per cent).

The cold nights of November also provide the first opportunity to see how Canadian households are handling the thermostat. As part of this survey, we asked those who are married or living with a significant other who is in charge of setting the temperature at home.

Two in five Canadians (40 per cent) claim to be solely responsible for this task, while fewer than one in five (18 per cent) defer the duty to their spouse or partner. Three in ten (30 per cent) say they both share equally when it comes to home heating decisions, while 12 per cent are undecided or chose not to answer the question.

Canadian men are more likely to claim they are exclusively in charge of the thermostat at home (43 per cent, compared to 38 per cent for women), while Canadian women are more likely to say home heating is a joint responsibility (34 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for men).

Albertans are way ahead of every other region in having the largest proportion of residents (68 per cent) who say they unilaterally call the shots on home heating, followed by Manitoba and Saskatchewan (53                                                        per cent).

Quebec boasts the largest proportion of residents who say home heating decisions are taken by both partners (46 per cent, compared to the Canadian average of 30 per cent) and also the largest number of respondents who defer to their spouse or partner (24 per cent, compared to the Canadian average of 18 per cent).

British Columbia is second to Quebec on reaching home heating decisions bilaterally (34 per cent), followed by Atlantic Canada (33 per cent).

While these numbers point to some pronounced regional differences, it is what we do when our spouse or partner is not looking that adds a necessary layer of analysis. Regardless of whether the household is one where a single person (supposedly) makes decisions on home heating, there is little stopping us from making our way to the thermostat and changing the settings.

Across the country, three in ten Canadians (30 per cent) say they change the temperature at home without telling their spouse or significant other “all of the time” or “most of the time,” while just 19 per cent say they have “never” taken this course of action.

Women are decidedly more likely to change the settings without warning (35 per cent) than men (25 per cent). There is little fluctuation across age groups, but some regional disparities become evident once again.

British Columbians are more likely to change the settings when nobody is looking (35 per cent) and the least likely to say they would never fidget with the controls without the knowledge of their spouse or partner (eight per cent).

The results paint a clear picture of how coupled Canadians in specific provinces are dealing with the so-called “thermostat war.”

Quebecers appear to be extremely respectful, in great part because they affirm that the decision on home heating is taken equally. More than a third would not touch the thermostat after consensus has been reached.

British Columbians may have one of the highest proportions of people in the country who say they decide home heating settings equally. However, they are also more likely to do whatever they please – without consultation.

Residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are more likely admit they fool around with the thermostat “only sometimes.” For them, adjusting the settings seems to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Albertans are in a league of their own. They are more likely to say they take charge individually and are also the least likely to be overruled. They must be doing something right.

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