Thermal comfort is a state of mind that shows satisfaction with the environment based on a thermal rating. The quality of thermal comfort is assessed by subjective evaluation and is configured by a number of factors. For the office environment, it is important to have a comfortable space, especially in the winter months. As a business owner, one should understand the dynamics of thermal comfort to provide a quality workspace for employees.
Heat is essential during the winter months and employees want to feel comfortable, allowing for projects to be finished quickly and progress to be made. There are six basic factors that determine thermal comfort, with the most common indicator being air temperature. An employee can easily feel the heat if the environment is warm, and will feel chilled when the temperature in the office is too cool. However, air temperature is not valid alone as an accurate measure of thermal comfort. The six factors together can equally evaluate the thermal comfort of those in the office space.
There are four environmental factors that can be attributed to determining thermal comfort. Air temperature, which mentioned previously, will be a reading of the air that surrounds the body. Radiant temperature is a thermal radiation reading of heat that radiates from a warm object. The radiant temperature has a stronger influence on if heat is gained or lost rather than air temperature. Examples of this type of heat would be a dryer or oven.
Air velocity is another factor, a term describing the speed of air as it moves across the individual. If the air is cooler than the environment, air velocity can cool the employee. With air velocity, people can feel stuffy when the air is stagnant without ventilation. Heat loss can be increased when air is moved in warm or humid environments. Air movement is increased with physical activity so if employees are moving constantly, the air will be affected.
Humidity is also a factor to be considered. Humidity is a term that describes if water is heated and evaporated in the environment. The water in the air determines the humidity levels. 40 to 70 percent relative humidity is required to have quality thermal comfort. High or low humidity can affect individual’s health with increased sweat, dry skin or dry throat.
Personal Factors of Thermal Comfort
There are also personal factors to be considered when it comes to thermal comfort. Thermal comfort is dependent to the clothing of the individual as well as insulation of the clothing. Too much clothing can affect the warmth of the environment just as wearing minimal clothing. If insulation is not provided in the clothing with a cool environment, the individual can be at risk for issues such as frost bite or hypothermia.
The option to add layers or take away layers will be beneficial to employees as they can change what they wear based on how they feel at the time. Different seasons affect individuals differently, so having the option to add coats or take off jackets will help with thermal comfort.
The type of work will also be a factor in thermal comfort. As work becomes more physical, the heat produced will increase. As more heat is produced, more needs to be lost to keep the individual from overheating. Size weight, sex, fitness capabilities and age should all be considered of employees when trying to configure thermal comfort. Each can have an impact on how an employee will feel in the given environment.
Consider all of these factors to make the right decision for thermal comfort with your business. An HVAC company can also assist you with more information on determining the right comfort level for employees.
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