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Why are air-conditioned buildings often too cold for women compared to men?
January 14, 2016

Why are air-conditioned buildings often too cold for women compared to men?

There can be many reasons why buildings are often too cold. Here are some possible explanations:

  • Some buildings overcool air to reduce humidity
  • Some Air-Conditioning systems do not work well under part load conditions
  • People think the air conditioning isn’t working if it’s not a little cold
  • Being able to make people feel cold in the summer is a sign of power and prestige
  • Men stuffed into heavy suits may control the thermostat
  • Energy is too cheap giving people little incentive to save on the air conditioning

Fanger (1982), Fanger and Langkilde (1975), and Nevins et al. (1966) used equal numbers of male and female subjects, so comfort conditions for the two sexes can be compared. The experiments show that men and women prefer almost the same thermal environments. Women’s skin temperature and evaporative loss are slightly lower than those for men, and this balances the somewhat lower metabolism of women. The reason that women often prefer higher ambient temperatures than men may be partly explained by the lighter clothing normally worn by women.

Females are more sensitive than males to a deviation from an optimal temperature and express more dissatisfaction, especially in cooler conditions.

The extensive studies, which form the basis for existing international standards for the thermal environment (ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55, ISO EN 7730, EN 15251) included equal amount of male and female subjects and no difference in preference was observed. Despite this fact, we may often find women are colder during summer time in air conditioned offices. This can however, in most cases be attributed to the difference in clothing level between men and women. It seems the thermostat settings in summer in air-conditioned buildings are often too low and below the recommended range in existing standards.

Excerpt from the article “Are women feeling colder than men in air-conditioning buildings?” by Bjarne W. Olesen, REHVA Journal October 2015.