14 January 2010

Our Shrunken Thermal Comfort Zone

I feel like everything Steve Mouzon posts on his blog is something I have also been thinking about. For example, I notice that if I spend a whole winter day indoors I become colder and start pushing the thermostat upwards. But if I spend an hour outside walking, sledding or kicking the soccer ball then the house can be kept cooler.. a lot cooler. And there is a similar reverse effect in the summer if spending a lot of time at the pool or at the park. Read the entire article at The Original Green if you have time.

The human comfort range has shrunk to its smallest size in human history over the past half-century. Our ancestors had a comfort range of probably 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Near 90 degrees, they might cool themselves with a hand-held fan. Near 60 degrees, they would put on an extra layer of clothes. Today, however, there are Thermostat Wars all over the US over 2 degrees....

.... what’s the most effective way of assuring that people want to expand their comfort range?

The best known way is to entice them to go outdoors. As people spend more time outdoors, they become more acclimated to the local environment and need less full-body conditioning when they return indoors...

.... which is better: spending lots of money for slightly more efficient equipment that will have a small positive effect on energy use, or spending to create great outdoor public and private realms that will have a large positive effect on energy use, with the added bonus that people get great pleasure out of them?

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