DEAR SUN SPOTS: I met a friend at Shaw’s who lives in senior housing and she told me that they changed the thermostat on the wall for heat and now she doesn’t have any heat. Do they have the right to do this?
She says the thermostat is so sensitive that the heat from the television affects it.
Can you check if they do the same thing at other places in Lewiston or anywhere in Auburn? — No Name, Lisbon
ANSWER: Sun Spots began her research on this question with a query to Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Housing Authority. Deborah said that thermostat policies are set by the property management company, not by the state, although there is a law regulating landlord-provided heat.
You can read this law at Maine.gov (http://tinyurl.com/7rq4xbr). What Sun Spots gathers from her reading is that heat may not be less than 68 degrees and specifies where and when that temperature reading must be taken (“at a distance of 3 feet from the exterior walls, 5 feet above floor level at an outside temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit”) unless all parties agree to a lower temperature, which may not be lower than 62 degrees.
Deborah noted that “properties try to maintain a comprehensive building heating/cooling plan. If one person has the thermostat at 100, it may affect heat in other units. Same if someone has the air conditioning set for 60 degrees. So while it may feel ‘arbitrary and capricious’ on the part of the landlord/property management group to ask that tenants set their thermostat at certain temp, it could be a way for them to keep building as a whole at comfortable temp. Same for the policy of 'don't open windows in winter.'"
In light of the rising price of energy, it seems likely that many if not all public housing will be converting thermostats to control heating and cooling building-wide. So even if an older building is not technologically equipped for such monitoring now, that seems likely to change in the near future.
Perhaps if your friend moves her TV and other heat-producing devices away from the thermostat she will be more comfortable.
Residents might also want to get an electric throw. Sun Spots got one years ago for her dad, whose Parkinson's meant he was cold even at the height of summer. It's like an electric blanket but smaller and lighter, perfect for use while sitting or napping.
A space heater in the bathroom might make some people more comfortable when showering or bathing. Just be sure to keep the heater and cord well away from the tub and be sure to be dry when operating it.
For a list of the dozens of senior and low-income housing in Androscoggin County, you can call the Lewiston Housing Authority at 783-1423 or the Maine Housing Authority at 800-452-4668, which also has listings for other Maine counties. These lists include the property manager's name and phone number if you want to shop for the warmest apartment.
DEAR SUN SPOTS: Your column is full of interesting information, and I read it every day. Thank you for the service you provide.
I was wondering if you or your readers could help me? I'm looking for a piano or guitar teacher for a beginner (age 11) in the Canton-Dixfield area. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you in advance. — No Name via email
ANSWER: Sun Spots does not know of anyone in the area you specify, but she has the following in her Rolodex:
* Joan Hamann, Greene, firstname.lastname@example.org, 375-4883
* Rachel Eastman Feeley and daughter, Studio 88 Music School, Auburn, email@example.com, 783-0465 (also teach violin and trained in Suzuki talent education method)
This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.