It is bizarre. I live in Minnesota, but in college I spent a semester in Perth, WA - I’m still amazed by the fact that Aussies don’t seem to include central heating in house construction. The lack of air conditioning I can see - it gets bloody hot there, sure, but people can (and do) live without A/C everywhere. But no heating? Huh?! Inconceivable! I can’t even wrap my mind around it, still, and I lived there for 6 months.
Perth winters seem similar to Sydney winters - cold (40s F/5ish C) and wet. I’d much rather have Minnesota’s 0s and snow than Perth’s drizzle. Cold and wet is pretty close to the coldest cold there is.
I’m not going to make fun. I’m not going to even point out that this would be shorts weather in Minneapolis in January. And trust me, some people would be wearing shorts in the winter if it got this warm.
No my thing here is the block heater issue. 39 degrees is nowhere near cold enough to need a block heater or special weight motor oil for your car. If you car won’t start at that temperature there is something wrong with it. I don’t have a block heater and my cars always start.
Also, basements don’t do much to warm up the house. Most people don’t heat them.
I’ve slept in a house at a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius (around 45F), but I had a huge pile of blankets to keep me warm and I was quite comfortable. Until I had to get out of bed.
The house was under construction and had no furnace or insulation; but it was (and is) so efficient at capturing the sun’s heat that the internal temperature merely dipped to +6 when the outside temperature dipped to -35C.
That’s a house designed for constant hot and humid conditions. You do not use that design if you expect remperatures to drop below 20C or so; if you expect colder temperatures, you make the vents closeable, then add insulation and a decent heater. If you expect wide diurnal temperature variation, you add mass inside the insulation to moderate the indoor temperature changes.
That won’t work. As much as we Sydneysiders might have been whinging yesterday (and I was the chief whinger) about the cold, our winters are short and we have even shorter memories. We get about six weeks of cool-to-cold weather before spring starts to arrive and we forget about the brief period of frozen toes and wishing we actually owned a winter coat.
That said, one of the biggest complainers about the cold I can remember ever meeting was a Canadian friend who was visiting in '95, having just spent five years in Summer Beaver. Where it regularly got to -40 degrees.
I’m sure you’re right. I wouldn’t know what a block heater even looked like.I was more setting the scene in describing the fact that people in those much colder countries are organised for it in various ways, and we’re not.
‘Doona’ was a brand of duvet and the word just moved into general use to describe any down-filled quilt. cf ‘Esky’. A counterpane wouldn’t keep anyone warm and I haven’t seen that word used outside a hospital ward in over 30 years.
Well, sure. You see, -40 is winter, but -2 to +2 is just plain uncomfortable. Too warm for a parka, but too cold for a windbreaker. Canadians just don’t know how to dress for such warm/cold weather; in Canada, it’s either bloody cold (-40) or bloody hot (+40) in the southern parts where most people live. Trust me, having lived here all my life, there seems to be little in between. We look forward to going to places that do not have a rep for cold like we know it–like Australia.
Here’s my “cold in Australia” story:
My sister (Canadian born and raised) married an Australian, from Perth. They lived in Perth. One morning, it was very cold by Perth standards. He headed out to get in the car to go to work, but was back in the house a few minutes later. “Spoons-sis,” he asked, “there’s ice on the car windows. What do I do?”
My sister, ever the Canadian, said, “Scrape it off.”
“Get a scraper and scrape it off.”
“Well, won’t that damage the window or something?”
And my sister, six months pregnant, went out with a kitchen spatula, and showed my never-seen-frost Australian brother-in-law how to scrape ice off a windshield. Both she and he laugh about it to this day, but honestly–ice on the windshield? It’s not rocket science. I’ve gotta go with the cold-weather folks here and echo my sister: scrape it off!
Block heaters don’t start to be necessary until about -25 or -30C. The only time I remember needing one semi-recently was the morning of my aunt’s funeral in February, in Peterborough, Ontario. It had been -32C that night (extremely unusual in the warm south of Ontario), and we had stayed at my other aunt’s house near the top of the hill in Kawartha Heights. My stepfather’s Buick Roadmaster wouldn’t start. Never had that problem at -20.
Well, technically, you’re supposed to insulate and apply a vapour barrier to the floors as well as the walls between the unheated areas and the main living areas. It helps reduce sound transmission as well.
A counterpane is a quilt or bedspread. It isn’t a duvet. Never has been in my experience here in Auckland – and I grew up in a household which used bedspreads (which is what we called them, not counterpanes). “Counterpane” is definitely old-fashioned, and very British. I think you’ll find the “South Seas Poms”, Martini Enfield, are more the Mainlanders, especially in Canterbury.
When I lived in Japan we used to laugh at the Aussies who’d never seen snow: come winter, the slightest fall of dandruff-sized flakes which wouldn’t even settle would send them outside squealing like kids and trying to catch them on their tongues. Australians are so cute.
But yeah – counterpane seems to be something either pre WWII here, or a regional usage only. Heavens, I hadn’t even seen the word in a while – last time when I used to read novels based in the Victorian era.
Still don’t really keep you warm. Had to have a hot water bottle with a bedspread when I was growing up, in Auckland winters. These days, I stick to an underlay blanket, flannelette sheets, a tatty ol’ duvet (probably summer weight, but I don’t care) and a thermal blanket. All sussed. Only had to use the hottie once this winter. Fairly mild overall here in Auckland. Apart from a cold storm or two.