In the last few weeks winter has arrived, bringing with it snow, ice and for many offices a renewed tussle over the ‘correct’ setting for the office thermostat! Striking a balance in the office temperature that keeps everyone satisfied becomes well-nigh impossible – perhaps even more so than at any other time of the year.
It may not come as a surprise to you to find that historically, office air-conditioning systems were designed using an optimum office temperature based on a standard 1960’s formula. This was calculated on the typical clothing and metabolic rate of a 40-year-old, 11 stone man!
The metabolic rate is a measure of how fast our bodies generate heat, and this varies drastically depending on weight, age and (you guessed it…) gender. Boris Kingma from Maastricht University Medical Centre conducted a study on this and found that on average, women have significantly lower metabolic rates than men and as a result require their working environment 3°C (5.4F) warmer in order to be comfortable.
A typical response of a worker feeling too hot or too cold is to crank the temperature and fan speed significantly up or down. However, major changes to the temperature can cause your air conditioning system to heat or cool much further than intended. It will also greatly increase the amount of component stress which could lead to unexpected maintenance costs. With a little patience, small adjustments to the temperature or fan speed can create the desired effect without roasting or freezing your colleagues!
To save energy and reduce drastic fluctuations in temperature, you should also consider making use of the AUTO setting on your thermostat. AUTO means the fan turns on automatically when the system is in cool or heat mode to reach the optimum temperature. You simply programme the required temperature and the thermostat will calculate the optimum settings to efficiently cool or heat your space to maintain the optimum working climate.
Remember the air-conditioning isn’t the only source of heat in an office. There are many factors that increase the temperature of an office naturally. These factors are described as ‘heat gains’ and include sources of heat like the sun, people, the lights, computers and printers to name but a few.
So, not only does what is in the office have an impact, but also the design of the building. Large windows that let in a lot of sunlight may make a room feel warmer, whereas high ceilings may create poor air distribution, meaning air conditioning systems have to work harder. Knowing your building, as well as the people in it, is crucial to getting that ideal temperature.
Over the years studies have found that the average preferred temperature for a workplace is 22°c but this is also very dependent on the type of work being done! An article from the BBC on this subject makes the following observation:
‘… the ambient temperature can do more than influence your productivity – it can change the way you think. Warm environments are better for creative thinking, while cooler workplaces are thought to help keep people alert during repetitive or monotonous tasks.’
Taking these factors into account and knowing how to use your air conditioning system should ensure that everyone keeps happy this winter.
For more in-depth analysis on heating and cooling solutions or if you suspect your office air conditioning and control system is overdue for an upgrade, please do get in touch with us today.
It will cost you nothing, and could save a large degree of stress and tension over the months ahead!