The Rule of One Degree

October 23rd, 2019 | Posted by David Richardson in David Richardson | Home

It’s that time of year when thermostats are switched to heating in the evening and cooling in the afternoon as we try to maintain comfort in our homes and offices. Unfortunately, some of our lives look like this back and forth thermostat war. If you’ve ever felt like you take one step forward and one step back, you know what I’m talking about.

David Richardson is an NCI Curriculum Developer & Instructor

Every day we make decisions that can move us forward or backward. If these decisions are inconsistent, it’s like turning a thermostat back and forth, one degree at a time and we get stuck in the same spot.

It might not seem like a lot at the time, but each small decision we make builds on one another and will have a huge impact on the direction we take. Ultimately, we decide how to adjust our thermostats in life. If we move it up one degree at a time, we move forward. If we move it down one degree at a time, we move backward. Finally, if we move it back and forth, we stay in the same place with no progress. That’s the rule of one degree.

Water and the One Degree Rule

Consider what happens to water as the temperature changes. If you take a pot of water at room temperature and place it in the freezer, its temperature will drop below 32° F and the water will turn solid – there is no movement.

Once you remove the frozen water from the freezer and place it on the counter, it begins to warm up. A slow increase in temperature from 32° to 33° F starts the transformation from ice to water where it can move. At this point, latent heat (hidden capacity) begins to play a role. It only takes 144 Btus (British thermal units) to convert ice to water.

While there is still one degree of change, the momentum is just getting started. This is one reason so many give up on New Year’s resolutions. When people don’t see results as quickly as they think they should, they stop. They don’t give the rule of one degree enough time to work.

As the pot of water continues sitting in room temperature air, it slowly warms up. But, if you put that pot of water on a stovetop, and fire up the burner, the process accelerates. As the temperature continues increasing from 33° to 211°, it takes only 180 additional Btus from this point to move water towards the boiling point.

Change is hard and it happens slowly, so it’s important to keep adding one degree at a time. It takes an increase of 179° to convert ice to water that begins to boil and then again changes state.

When the temperature increases from 211° to 212° F, a tremendous amount of energy is released all at once and the boiling water converts to steam. This is the same type of action that occurs when you achieve a breakthrough or success because you consistently added one degree to what you were doing.

All that latent heat is converted at once as though it came out of nowhere. The entire time this reaction was slowly building through the consistent application of energy. When water boils at atmospheric conditions, 970 Btus of heat is released all at once as a change of state occurs.

Beware of Complacency

It takes the constant addition of one degree to reach the boiling point and maintain it. Complacency is a big danger once you reach this point. It’s easy to think you’ve arrived and now you can take it easy. I’ve been a victim of this thinking. I removed heat from the water because I adjusted my thermostat in the wrong direction. The temperature started to drop, and I had to start over again. My momentum was lost and had to be regained to get back to the boiling point.

“Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat.” – Napoleon Hill

All of us change as a direct result of the daily decisions we make and the habits they eventually become. Positive change doesn’t take place overnight — it’s the result of hard work and repetition. As you start, things might not happen as quickly as you want them to. Adding one degree often takes us out of our comfort zone but allows us to do things we normally wouldn’t. Getting up an extra hour early or turning off the television may be needed.

Where to Start

Define your boiling point, your 212° F. Unlike water, each of us has different targets to aim for. For one person it might be to quit smoking or eat better, while for another it may be to become a better technician or company owner.  

Once you define the boiling points in your life, outline what you want to achieve and put it in writing, in front of your face, so you see it every single day. If you really want to crank up the heat, give your boiling point a deadline date. If you don’t define them, they’ll be defined for you by someone or something else.

There’s no thermometer to let you know how close you’re getting to your 212° F. You never know when you’ll move from 211° to 212° F. A major breakthrough could be around the corner and you can miss it unless you continue to add one degree.

Is it easy? No. Change is hard regardless of what anyone tells you. If it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. Make a pact with yourself to start adding one degree today from wherever you are. The trick is to start, just one degree at a time. Don’t try to add 100° all at once, you’ll burn out.

This isn’t a one-time event. Just as an HVAC system cycles over and over again, you’ll have to apply the rule of one degree to various phases of your life as you grow, and your conditions change. Put yourself in control of the decisions you make and start to benefit from the rule of one degree each day.

David Richardson serves the HVAC industry as a curriculum developer and trainer at National Comfort Institute, Inc. (NCI). NCI specializes in training that focuses on improving, measuring, and verifying HVAC and Building Performance.

If you’re an HVAC contractor or technician interested in learning how to add one degree, contact me at NCI’s website is full of free technical articles and downloads to help you improve your professionalism and strengthen your company.

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