Why not heated furniture to fight coronaplague?

In their righteous muscular efforts to “control” coronavirus, some state governors and city mayors have ordered restaurants shut down, except for outdoor dining. In response, restaurants have built four-sided tents filled with CO2-emitting propane heaters. It is unclear why this is different from being indoors, other than the lack of a real HVAC system. The tent sides are necessary, though, because otherwise the propane heat will blow away.

Why not heat the customers instead of the air?

Back in 2010, I wrote Heated Furniture to Save Energy?

A lot of cars have heated seats. When the seat heater is on, most drivers will set the interior temperature 3-7 degrees lower than with the seat heater off. Why not apply the same technology to houses?

Imagine being at home in a 65-degree house. Even in a T-shirt and jeans, it would probably be comfortable to walk around, stir a pot on the stove, carry laundry, scrub and clean, walk on a treadmill while typing on a computer (as I’m doing now!). However, if one were to sit down and read a book, it would begin to seem cold. Why not install heat in all of the seats and beds of the house? And sensors to turn the heat on and off automatically? In a lot of ways, this would be more comfortable than a current house because the air temperature would be set for actively moving around while the seat temperature would be set for sedentary activities.

There is a fine line between brilliant and stupid, of course, but could it be that coronaplague has pushed this idea over the line?

A Dutch company, sit & heat, seems to have thought of this: heated cushions that can fit into a standard frame. Serta makes a chair-shaped electric quilt (could not survive outdoors) for only $64. A plastic chair with a built-in 750-watt heater is $900 (Galanter & Jones; they have sofas too at roughly $6,000 and claim they are “cast stone”).

If heated chairs were mass-produced in Asia, presumably the cost per chair would be only about $100 more than a regular outdoor chair. That should be affordable for a restaurant.


22 thoughts on “Why not heated furniture to fight coronaplague?

  1. I had the same idea, and indeed invested in an electric blanket for when I am working late on the sofa.
    Another version would be heat lamps, though I don’t know if IR radiation has side effects.

  2. It’s hard to buy new supplies for your restaurant when it’s already out of business and cannot open for business, indoors or outdoors. Not to say this isn’t a good idea for the future, considering that this is only the first of the Plagues.

    • Also: seat heaters in cars are useful mostly until the climate control system pumps heat into the passenger compartment and then you switch them off. The cold air is still going to be impinging on you while your seat is warmed. It’s like having heated seats in a car and leaving the windows open. I use the heated seats in my Escape Hybrid for about 4 minutes while the interior warms up – they become uncomfortable after that because the body thermoregulates and the engine pumps heat in. Sounds boutique to me.

  3. Overall it’s not a terrible idea and has uses beyond Corona for the Dutch company, especially. I would buy their products if I wanted to run an outdoor restaurant in a cold climate. Restaurant managers take note for next year, if there is a next year for you. The other problem for MA would be the electrical energy expense. Presumably these appurtenances would be provided free of charge, but as you know, electricity costs a lot of money in Massachusetts compared to other places in the country, so the energy cost and so forth would have to be transferred to the customer (unless the Legislature decided to subsidize them.) I think we’re second only to Hawaii in terms of electrical energy cost/kWh.

    “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). the average retail Massachusetts electric price is 22.02 ¢/kWh, compared to the national average price of 13.17 ¢/kWh.”

    I guess some of that could be overcome with clever marketing: “Warm your butt this winter with your rack of ribs at our smokehouse!” You can sell anything if you put enough effort into it.

  4. In California they are shutting down outdoor restaurants, and the weather there is pretty mild compared to Northeast. So it seems like it might not matter if you have a way to get customers to sit outdoors, all outdoor dining will be forbidden.

    • Commiefornia quickly becomes an unlivable socialist wonderland. Complete with hypocritical dear leaders who cannot be voted out.

      Personally, I’ve seen all of that before, in the good old USSR. That’s why I’m selling my house in Silicon Valley and GTFO. No reason to wait for the inevitable.

  5. If it’s a four-sided tent, that’s basically indoor dining.

    The latest stories on the progress of the US epidemic sound pretty bad.

    Boston Globe: ‘Makes you ask why the hell we even bother.’ Infectious disease experts face disillusionment as COVID-19 pandemic worsens.

    Atlantic Monthly: The U.S. Has Passed the Hospital Breaking Point. A new statistic shows that health-care workers are running out of space to treat COVID-19 patients.

    The latest US projections are for more than 2000 dead each day in December, or more than 60,000 dead in December alone. The total is expected to be well over 400,000 by March, which is more than the number of US deaths in World War II.

    Trump is still President, but it sounds like he’s completely checked out. New York Times. “Moody and by accounts of his advisers sometimes depressed, the president barely shows up to work, ignoring the health and economic crises afflicting the nation and largely clearing his public schedule of meetings unrelated to his desperate bid to rewrite the election results. He has fixated on rewarding friends, purging the disloyal and punishing a growing list of perceived enemies that now includes Republican governors, his own attorney general and even Fox News.”

    • @Russil:

      It’s worth noting:

      Britain has had 61,245 deaths with a population of 66.6 million.
      America has had 281,000 deaths with a population of 328.2 million.

      4.92x population, 4.59x the number of deaths.

      So we’re doing better than Britain, if only marginally.

      The British also had a lot more deaths in WWII. I don’t really see what Trump could have done to meaningfully reduce the problem here in the United States. California can’t do it under Gavin Newsom. New York can’t do it under Andrew Cuomo. There are a lot of things wrong with Trump, in my estimation, but the COVID response isn’t one of them – except politically. He should have done the mask order with a big smile. That would have gotten him a couple million more votes, and he would have won the election handily, at zero cost. That was his biggest mistake.

    • Alex –

      This line of thinking is nonsense: “I don’t see what Trump [could’ve done differently]…”

      How can people of any intellect say that with a straight face?

      Trump could have done what any of the countries in the long list of countries who have fared better than the US has done. Why are people so blind to the obvious reality that our response was totally botched, and many other countries with far fewer resources did an outstanding job? Short of that, he could have at least advocated for, and set an example by, wearing masks. That’s something that costs nothing and has zero downside. Instead, he appealed to his idiot followers by making it an anti-science political wedge under the guise of liberty, faith and fake everything under the sun.

      I don’t get the extreme irrationality and hypocrisy that republicans are drawn to. Four adult Americans who well knew the risks they signed up for killed in Benghazi, a random act of terrorism in a highly conflicted country, of which similar embassy attacks with orders of magnitude more deaths happened under Reagan and Bush. Yet republicans lose their freeking minds so long as Hilary can be the scapegoat. Lock her up! 400k deaths, of which a large percentage could have been avoided if not for extreme negligence and ignorance of history: no big deal; it couldn’t have been avoided.

      Republicans, and their decades long anti-science, anti-reality crusade have conditioned their constituents to worship profit seeking, “job creators” and support an ever increasing income disparity above all else, to the countries, and their own demise. And, the devastation they and you have been conditioned to accept as a result of this pandemic–“nothing could’ve been done”–is just a warm up for the real armageddon and pain, which will come in the form of a much longer time frame of boiling the frog, global warming. Our future generations will be devastated by who knows what, famine, floods, etc. And, some percentage of the people will still be insisting that it isn’t happening, and if it is, nothing could’ve been done. Sheer ignorance.

    • Senorpablo: I guess the question is, now that Trump is on his way out, what should the US do now? From the Atlantic Monthly article, it sounds like a lot of hospitals are full, and health-care workers are burning out.

      Getting vaccines out to high-risk populations (long-term care residents, health-care workers) is an obvious priority.

      Having Congress provide more funding to state governments and to households would make it easier for people to stay home.

      Encouraging people to wear masks, and to postpone getting together for Christmas, would help to slow the spread.

      In Canada’s Atlantic provinces, having travel restrictions (no trips to Aruba!) and a two-week quarantine for anyone arriving from outside the province has helped to keep the number of new cases close to zero. In Australia, the quarantine facilities are centralized, i.e. arrivals go straight to a quarantine hotel.

    • @Alex lists comparative death rates between US and UK, but it depends where you look. The US has large areas of low population density. Like for like cities, just now:

      Population Cases Deaths
      NYC 8175133 335670 4.1% 24328 0.3% (worldometer.info)
      LON 7556900 176682 2.3% 7177 0.1% (data.london.gov.uk)

      You can question whether these are like-for-like stats since authorities differ as to definitions and assiduousness. The salient fact is that USA and UK, with continental Europe, are bunched together well away from eg Singapore (5.8M, 58k, 29). All indications are that Trumpery is not a major factor.

      Also, guess what: German WW2 bombers didn’t blow up many properties in NYC.

    • @Senorpablo: Please don’t lump me in with all the Republicans! They don’t want me. I’ve been saying for approximately four years that Donald Trump was doing many, many things the Wrong Way, and I’m still saying that today.

      As far as the masks go, there has always been a lot of conflicting evidence about their efficacy. For my part, I’ve been wearing them according to the Governor’s Mandates here in Massachusetts since they were promulgated, as have everyone in my family. I think Trump was incredibly foolish and politically dumb, numb, and ill-advised with the way he handled the mask situation. He could have had another several million voters in this election if he had made a few minor adjustments to take that issue away from his foes completely. He totally screwed himself with it, and he also hurt the Republican Party and is still hurting them with his obstinacy.

      If Trump had just said: “OK, folks, the evidence may be contradictory, but that’s because we’ve never dealt with this situation before. I recommend everyone wear masks according to the CDC guidelines.” He could have said that one time in a press conference, repeated it in a couple of interviews and at his rallies, and for approximately *zero* political cost he would have taken that issue completely off the table. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. In fact he could have turned it all to his advantage if he had been even moderately politically adept. But No. And as anyone who has read my opinions here in the past six months knows, I believe John Bolton was right.

      @/df: I know about the differences in deaths during WWII and why they occurred. We didn’t suffer through the blitzkrieg and the V2s, the buzz-bomb V1s and many other things.

    • Alex: You do raise a good point, though of course Trump would have had to be specific about the CDC guidelines to which he was referring (i.e., not the CDC guidelines that said healthy people should NOT wear a mask, consistent with WHO guidance through early June)!

      He probably could also have gotten a lot of mileage by staying out of it, saying that anyone could visit the CDC and WHO web sites, that individual states had multi-$billion public health operations, and that the Feds were going to prepay for vaccines, but that people shouldn’t think of this as a federal issue. Maybe add that he was going to host a Zoom meeting among the state governors/public health officials so that they could voluntarily coordinate their policies.

    • @Philg: Exactly, things like that. You know, get some politically savvy people together in a brainstorming session and say: “Ok, this mask situation is turning into a real liability. We’re getting beaten up about it on the pages of every newspaper in this country. How do we blunt the impact of that without hurting ourselves?”

      There are plenty of smart and politically-savvy people who could have helped him craft that message and the subsequent actions if he had been a tiny bit more open to it. It’s very sad, because I think his obstinacy about it cost him a lot of votes, in the hundreds of thousands at least. And that’s all I really care to say about it.

    • @Philg: And although I there’s no way I can prove John Bolton was telling the truth when he said of the Administration that there was no feeling that everyone was on the same team, that it was a war of all-against-all, with Person X being disparaged to Person Y and then the reverse, and that Eisenhower would have thrown up his hands and went back to wherever he is at the moment, it rings true, because that kind of teamwork is what you need to have to make political messaging strategy work. If you can’t get the Boss to recognize there’s a problem and get everyone on the team together with the response, you’re in real trouble, and I’ve lived through that before.

    • Alex –

      I lump you in with republicans because you sound like one with respect to our handling of the pandemic. No reputable expect is saying that nothing could’ve been done now, nor were they ever. As for the mask evidence, or lack thereof, that’s nonsense. That may have been your take on whatever “evidence” you were finding and interpreting, but no experts were saying that. And again, who cares what the evidence says about the efficacy, when there’s zero downside to wearing a mask. There absolutely was not evidence to support that wearing a mask was harmful with COVID. The initial messaging about the public not needing masks could’ve been handled much better perhaps, both during and after that period. But the intent was good and sound. People were hoarding toilet paper, even though no one was taking more shits than usual. People are irrational. Those missteps were trivial compared to everything else the Trump administration did do, or failed to do. “It’ll just go away” “We’re rounding the corner” “hydroxychloriquine is a miracle drug” “maybe inject disinfectant into the body”

      Other countries with respect for science and expertise bit the bullet in the short term, and now they’re getting back to normal. Idiot americans will have drug this out for over a year and suffered much more, but thank god we still have the liberty to be stupid and foolish as we like.

    • Also, wasn’t Boris Johnson taking more or less the same stance as Trump until he was overcome with reality when he almost died in the hospital from the fake plague? So why even compare England, who pretty much took the same tact as the US?

  6. And the $900 (retail) Galanter & Jones electric chair is made in the Phillipines, all plastic, only in Charcoal, with some electrical bits thrown in there. If you take the “E” out of Heated, it’s “Hated Furniture.” But apparently not with Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop spread all over it.

    So don’t listen to me. I’m too poor and Deplorable to know what I’m talking about. And I don’t know anybody who can help me make money off the Next Big Scam.


  7. “Why not heat the customers instead of the air?”
    You’d probably want to make infrared part of your solution. A 72F sunny day feels warmer than a 72F overcast day. Old-fashioned fireplaces heat the far side of the room with radiant energy coming off the bricks. And of course you can buy electric-powered infrared heaters.

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