A new study has found that keeping offices cool can be tricky.
The findings of a paper published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggest that offices should be heated in an air-conditioning system with an external fan, rather than an internal one.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, looked at the cooling effect of temperature on office temperatures, as well as the cooling effectiveness of fans in cooling a large office space.
The research team used an online survey of 1,300 people.
They found that in the heat of the office, office spaces can become uncomfortably hot, but that it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, people tend to prefer to keep their offices cool.
In the study, respondents who were in an office that was hot in the summer were less likely to report discomfort and a lack of energy when compared to those who were not.
“The cooling effect that comes from air conditioning is much smaller than what you might expect from a heating system,” says lead author Terese Cramer, an assistant professor of industrial and environmental engineering at UT Health.
“We think that the cooling effects are more likely to come from an internal air conditioner, like an air conditioning unit, rather [than] from an external air condition, like a fan.”
The study found that office space temperatures that were within 10 degrees Celsius (33.5 degrees Fahrenheit) of the average office temperature did not have a significant cooling effect on employees’ energy bills.
“There was no clear effect of air conditioning on energy expenditure,” Cramer says.
“It didn’t seem to have any effect at all on overall office energy use, or overall energy use efficiency.”
The cooling effect comes from the air conditioning, but it’s not always beneficial The study was based on a survey that was conducted during a heat wave in the spring of 2015.
The researchers found that most respondents had experienced at least one summer heat wave, and most people reported feeling a need to change their work space.
Some of the respondents who had experienced summer heat waves reported feeling uncomfortable in their office, but they were more likely than those who had not experienced a summer heat event to prefer staying in the office.
The team also found that people who had spent more than three hours in the room with the fan, or had had to go outside to cool the room, were more satisfied with the cooling of their offices.
“I think that [the cooling effect] could be a lot more than just a cooling effect,” Cramers says.
“[It could be] a cooling of the air conditioners and the air-con units and the fan.”
He cautions that, although cooling systems are not the only way to cool office spaces, the cooling benefits of air-conduction systems should be taken into account.
“People should really think about cooling through an external source,” he says.
The authors say that, for now, the best approach is to keep offices cool in an environment that is not as hot.
“Ideally, you should always have an external heating or cooling system to help you keep your office cool,” Cargill says.