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Why Women Find Air Conditioning Colder Than Men

men vs women air conditioning debate

AC Debate

It is a reality that women feel the cold more than men and there is nothing like the freezing weather conditions to highlight this. During the winter months, blood circulation to the extremities of our body are slowed right down, for example to the feet and hands. This is a method of conserving the heat in order to ensure that the vital organs, like lungs and the heart continue functioning well.

Although we have feelings of being hot or cold throughout a typical day, the core temperature of our body is always at approximately 37C. It is vital for our survival to maintain this temperature. Hypothermia can be caused by a drop of 2C, and death will be the result in case the temperature drops 12C.

As women have fat layers distributed more evenly in their body, the seasonal differences for them are more marked. The fat layer works like the internal insulation. It draws the blood and heat inwards, leaving the noses, toes and fingers cold. This is why the development of Raynaud’s disease is more likely in women. Raynaud’s disease is a condition that is caused when the blood circulation to extremities is insufficient.

Another reason is that the muscle mass which generates heat is present more in men. The muscles are well supplied with the blood vessels, which increases the warmth and the blood flow.

In addition, the action of blood-thickening of the female hormone oestrogen might prevent a good amount of blood flow to the thinnest capillary blood vessels in the feet, hands and even the ears. Although the chances of women suffering from cold feet and hands are up to 9 times more than that for men, there are many measures that women can take in order to feel warm.

How air conditioning affects us in the office:

According to a new study, managers of office buildings who set the air conditioning to very cold temperatures are making their employees feel cold and they are wasting energy and money as well.

The heating and air conditioning standards in the office environments were originally based on resting metabolic rates for the males – it is a measure of the amount of energy used by the person at rest –according to the researchers. The fact is that standards got developed in the 1960s in order to accommodate a resting metabolic rate of a man of 40 years having a weight of 70 kilograms (154 lbs.), they said. As such, this makes the temperatures uncomfortable for the people having different body types, especially the female workers.

By adjusting the thermostats, the building managers can help their employees be more comfortable at work and at the same time, save money from the lower cooling and heating costs, said Boris Kingma, the lead researcher of the study and a biophysicist at the Maastricht University in Netherlands.

Boris, along with his colleagues, examined the physiology of sixteen women who were lightly clothed. The women performed some office work inside a climate chamber. The metabolic rates of the women were calculated by measuring the oxygen they were consuming and the carbon-dioxide they were producing. The skin temperature of the women, the humidity and air temperature of the chamber were also measured by the researchers.

It was found by the researchers, that the metabolic rates of the women were significantly lower than the standard one that is based on a 40 year old man. Kingma said that one reason for this is that generally women are smaller compared to men and the percentage of fat cells in women is higher than the males. Less heat is produced by fat cells, as compared to the muscle cells. This partially explains the reason why women have lower metabolic rates than men.

Kingma said that new findings support the previous research from the other studies, showing that the women prefer higher temperatures (3 degree Celsius) than men.

It was written by the researchers in the study that current standards of metabolic rates should be adjusted after including metabolic values for the females, in order to reduce the gender discrimination bias in the predictions of thermal comfort.

Optimum temperatures for women dressed in regular, light clothes, doing some office work was found to be 24.5C (75F) as compared to men who were recorded at 22C (71F). Hence the Maastricht study concluded that the gender discriminating bias in the thermal comfort must be reduced by buildings.

In many buildings, the consumption of energy is much higher, due to the fact that the standard is set for the heat production of men’s body, said Kingma, the lead author of the study in the Netherlands.

If one has a more accurate view of thermal demand of people inside a building, then they can design a building in such a way that lot less energy is wasted and this means that the emissions of carbon dioxide will be less too. If the temperatures are set higher, it would positively contribute towards battling the global warming issue too.

Female users of social media applauded the science behind one of most common dilemmas they face at work.

New cooling and heating standards must take into account the average age, workers body size and their sex, although there is a need for more research in order to come up with the best formula.

According to Kingma, the climate-control settings in the buildings are there to help people in maintaining a core body heat that is about 37 degree Celsius. If someone enters into a room that is too cold or too hot, energy will be used by their body, like sweating or shivering, in order to maintain the right body temperature.

Moreover, generally there will be extra mistakes made by the office workers when they are stationed in a chilly office environment compared to when they are stationed in warm environments. This was found in a study done in 2004. It was shown by this month-long study that when the temperature of the office increased from 38C to 43C, the typing errors reduced by 44% and the typing productivity increased by 150%.

However, using little energy during day time can be good for our body. Many office workers spend the majority of their time sitting at their desks. Therefore, it may be beneficial for them if their body burns fewer calories in order to keep them warm or to keep them cool. However, the temperatures in shared spaces (like an office) should not be too hot or too cold so that people feel uncomfortable.

Architects, engineers and building managers are encouraged by the researchers to be aware of and to implement an improved cooling and heating standard once it is available.


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