Many if not all of us have played the game of “thermostat tag.” We bump the thermostat setting up or down just a bit in an attempt to make things more comfortable. The digital thermostat is a popular design solution and will respond to as little as 1/2 degree change in the setting.
Five primary factors affect how we sense temperature as individuals. Activity and occupancy, acclimatization, fitness, age, and metabolism each play a role in our comfort. Each person will respond differently to a given thermostat setting. The effects vary widely from one individual to another, and can only be generally predicted. Here are some of the predictors that professionals consider when designing a comfort system for your home or workplace:
ACTIVITY (AND OCCUPANCY)
Activity, even within the home, has a great effect on comfort. The person who is constantly moving about from one cooling zone (living – kitchen – utility) to another will feel some discomfort if temperatures differ from one area to another. A person at rest will generate about 350 Btu’s per hour of heat, a person doing moderate office work 350 Btu’s, and a person doing light bench work might generate as much as 750 Btu’s per hour – more than twice as much as a person simply occupying a recliner. A bedroom converted to a workout room will certainly require redesign to take into account the need for added cooling.
The process of a person’s natural adjustment over time to a change in the environment is acclimatization or acclimation. The human body over months and years becomes ‘acclimatized’ and adapts to the prevailing climate. Changes in altitude, temperature, humidity, and daily activity are all taken into account. For example, our friends from cooler climates are acclimated to be more tolerant of cold than are native South Floridians. Conversely, these folks will likely be far less tolerant of the South Florida heat and humidity.
Acclimatization can take place in as little as a few hours, or as long as several years to adapt to the summer heat and humidity. The readiest way to adapt in the short term to change our manner of dress in response. As seasons change, we adapt our dress to suit our individual comfort. My relatives from up north will wear shorts and short sleeve shirts, while I (Florida resident for 50-plus years) dress against the weather in long sleeves and a jacket.
Personal fitness affects personal comfort in many ways. Muscle cells need a lot of energy, which means they burn a lot of calories. Calories are a measure of heat and directly convert to the Btu’s by which we measure the cooling and heating in our homes. A fit person’s cells will use less energy to do a task and will need less cooling after an activity. A fit person, however, thought possibly more active than someone out of shape, will not ‘feel the heat’ like one accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle.
Senior citizens are frequently uncomfortable at lower temperature settings. My parents, for example, always wore sweaters when they visited our 10o cooler home. More than a matter of preference, there are many physical effects of aging that make the human body respond differently to the surroundings. For a wonderful article from the Senior perspective, click here.
Our bodies generate energy from the consumption and metabolization of food. Metabolism includes all the things our bodies do to turn our food into energy. Metabolic differences affect the heat generated during an activity and the way in which our bodies perceive heat and cold. Heat is lost through exposure to our environment. Because metabolic rates vary from person to person, so does our perception of the surrounding temperature.
Home comfort design demands both experience and expertise and is best designed with your personal comfort in mind. Every HVAC professional is called upon to meet certain standards of design. Comfort, however, is a personal matter. At Complete Comfort our design approach takes into account your use and occupancy of the home or workplace. Call us today at (561) 531-5659.