The surrounding temperature affects your productivity and how the body reacts. Some environmental temperatures may cause serious health problems, such as a hot environment that can lead to dehydration, skin diseases, and cancer, among others.
On the other hand, cold temperatures may lead to eye irritation, fatigue, throat irritation, headache, and poor concentration. Therefore, thermal comfort is crucial in ensuring a safe and workable environment for all humans.
The following article will discuss four significant factors to consider to maintain thermal comfort. However, to begin with, let’s do a quick review to understand thermal comfort and its importance.
What is Thermal Comfort?
Thermal comfort is a mental condition that expresses contentment with the thermal environment and can be assessed using a subjective evaluation. The human body is like an engine that uses food to release energy. For the body to continue with its normal operation, it must release the excess heat into the environment. The heat released is relative to the temperature difference.
For example, the body will not release enough heat in a hot environment, while in a cold climate, it loses more. The body is subjected to discomfort in both scenarios (cold and hot).
Thermal comfort is very significant, considering thermal conditions can be life-threatening to humans. When the body temperatures get into a hyperthermia or hypothermia state, it can seriously affect human health and individual productivity.
Most homeowners and companies have modified their building’s external environment to reduce the effort that the human body requires to achieve stability at an average body temperature, which is vital for the correct functioning of the human psychological process. Studies show employees who are satisfied with their thermal environment are more productive.
Four Important Factors for Thermal Comfort
1. Metabolic Rate
Metabolic rate is crucial in determining thermal comfort. It refers to how food (especially carbohydrates and starch) is broken into energy within the organism. People have varying metabolic rates due to physical activity, age, size, body weight, sex, and health condition. Besides, environmental conditions can also affect individual metabolic rates.
People engaging in more physical activity/work produce more heat; hence, they lose more heat to prevent overheating. Therefore, the nature of work and activity employees are exposed to will determine the measures to ensure thermal comfort.
2. Clothing Insulation
The type and number of clothes you wear affect your thermal comfort. Clothes affect heat loss or gain and consequently affect the thermal balance. Clothing insulation can help prevent heat loss and keep you warm; however, excess clothing can often lead to overheating. The thickness of the garment determines the insulating ability of any clothing. Besides, the material used in making the cloth, its ability to allow air movement, and its relative humidity also determine its insulating ability.
Wearing too many or too few clothes for a specific environment causes thermal discomfort. Therefore, your clothing should be proportionate to the environmental temperature to maintain thermal balance. Physical activity will also determine the type and number of clothes you should put on to maintain comfort.
In some companies, employees must wear specific uniforms, which may affect their thermal comfort. This is because some employees may fail to adapt their clothing to suit how hot or cold they are. Therefore, employers need to consider how clothing affects the comfort of their employees.
Humidity can be defined as the concentration of vapor in the air. When the humidity is high in the environment, it implies there is too much water in the air. This limits the evaporation of sweat from the skin, which is the natural cooling method. Therefore, in non-conditioned rooms where the weather conditions affect the interior thermal environment, the humidity level increases, making it hard for people to cool down, which can cause thermal discomfort.
4. Wellbeing and Sicknesses
An individual’s health conditions also affect comfort. Some sicknesses, such as the common flu or cold, may prevent the body from achieving and maintaining normal body temperature. This means an individual will require more external measures to achieve thermal comfort and balance.
Some other conditions may increase body temperature and release too much heat into the environment. The patient will require more ventilation or a colder climate to achieve thermal comfort in such cases. Nevertheless, thermal comfort will be determined by whether the thermal environment is uniform.
Other wellbeing factors that determine comfort include access to food and drinks, state of health, and acclimatization. For instance, an individual with little or no food lacks enough energy, and the metabolic rates are low. This means the body will not produce adequate heat and may be exposed to thermal discomfort.
Thermal comfort is crucial not only in improving individual performance but also in ensuring their safety and wellness. In addition, understanding thermal comfort is vital in introducing effective climate control systems. Most companies have been striving to ensure their employees achieve thermal comfort, which affects their work rate. Measures taken include installing an HVAC system and introducing convenient and effective work gears to maintain thermal comfort.