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Why is it so hard to please everyone when it comes to temperature?

Eugene Adams Inc. Newsletter Winter 2003/04

Why can't we agree about something as simple as temperature? When people enjoy the freedom to choose their temperature, why do they so often differ in their preferences? There are physiological reasons for this, some based on obvious differences between one individual and another. For one thing, there is a big difference between men and women. Women burn only about 72% as many calories as do men. that is why a man can be more comfortable in a room where a woman would be cold. His higher rate of metabolism keeps him warm.

 

Another important factor is age. Our metabolism slows down as we get older. At 70 years, a person is burning 30% fewer calories that he did at 35. so, producing less heat inside, older people need a warmer room... Not to be overlooked is the effect of one's body weight. compared with a slender individual, a person who is overweight generates more heat in relation to the area of skin by which he dissipates it. So we often notice that an overweight man prefers the room cooler than does a slender one...

 

However, the fact that one person's preferred temperature is different from another's does not mean they cannot both be comfortable in the same room. For everyone there is a range of temperature, above and below his ideal preference, in which he is comfortable. For example, take a man and a woman, he might choose 75 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal temperature, but he would be comfortable anywhere between 70 and 80 degrees F. A woman might prefer the room at 80 degrees F., but would find tolerable any temperature between76 and 84 degrees F.; so both of them would be comfortable in a room kept between 76 and 80 degrees F.

 

It is this overlapping of individual comfort ranges that provides the solution to the problem. The problem is usually this simple when only a couple or a family is involved. But when we get into a larger group, it gets more complex. If a dozen persons share a business office, or several dozen are dining in a restaurant, there are that many more individual preferences to take into account. Or suppose a hundred or more persons are present in a theater or a meeting place. Does this larger number of differing choices as to the ideal temperature make it impossible to satisfy everyone? Fortunately it does not.

 

Although individual preferences differ, in a large group the choices cluster around an average temperature that is the same whether there are a dozen, a hundred, or a thousand. How do we determine this optimum comfort temperature,  that is, the temperature at which the greatest number is comfortable?

 

At 78 degrees F. (26 degrees Celsius) 97% of the people in a large groups will be comfortable. But two degrees up will cause 15% to report that they are too warm; likewise, two degrees down will make 15% - a different 15% - of the occupants too cold. A deviation of more than four degrees either up or down will make the majority of persons uncomfortably warm or cold. So while it may be true that "you can't please everyone", yet the goal should be to please as many as possible. And 97 out of 100 is nearly everyone.