LEAVE THAT THERMOSTAT ALONE!!!! Staying comfortable in our homes and workplaces has become something of a battleground over the last three decades. OK, let’s not pull any punches — it’s a war! Especially when you think about all the different age groups and generations who live and work together. Each “group” has different comfort needs and as we get older, our needs become variable. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer, rainy or dry, one person’s comfort zone is another person’s discomfort zone.
And thus the conflict.
In the work world, building owners and facility managers, faced with ever increasing costs for energy and ever changing rules for energy efficiency often have to find ways to “lock out” consumers from adjusting thermostats. Or they install “dummy” stats that do nothing but placated a psychological need to control individual comfort.
The problem persists, people! It’s worse than ever before.
But now we have the Internet and cellular phone technology!
Just this week, The Wall Street Journal came out with an article titled, “Office Thermostat Wars,” written by Sue Shellenbarger. She writes, “Few workplace disputes are as divisive as where to set the office thermostat. Some three in five employees tamper with the thermostat without asking colleagues, according to a 2015 survey of 301 employees by Survey Sampling International for OpenWorks, a Phoenix commercial-cleaning company.”
Shellenbarger goes on to say that summertime is the season of guerilla warfare where people begin blocking air vents with cardboard, breaking into locked thermostat boxes to have their way with the temperature. Some even go as far as putting miniature wading pools under their desks so they can keep their bare feel wet and cool.
It’s also the season where the level of building tenant complaints increase. Oh and when the guerilla tactics stop working, employees begin bringing in personal heaters and fans and blankets, and sweaters and even finger-less gloves!
So much for saving energy, right?
The answer, apparently, is our Smart Phone. Because, people, to fix thermostat wars, well, there’s an App for that.
Shellenbarger cites one called Comfy that let’s people “order-up” a 10-minute blast of cold or hot air on demand for their specific area. She writes, “To avoid conflicts, Comfy requires at least two people in the same zone to make an identical request within 10 minutes of sending a blast of air.”
Well I guess both solutions have a certain cool factor. But what if the best answer is within the grasp of Performance-based Contractors?
Home/Building Performance Versus Thermostat Control
In the HVAC world, an immense amount of research has been done by ASHRAE and other organizations to identify a range of temperatures that works for the largest number of people. There are standard practice design criteria by which most buildings and mechanical systems are designed and built. In other words, when we read about surveys that talk about 60% of people being unhappy with the temperature in their office, the problem is one caused by the mechanical system.
It ain’t performing the way is was designed to perform.
In many instances, the cause can be found in the layout of the space (which most likely has changed several times since the design was implemented). In addition, most people aren’t looking at the building side of the HVAC duct system.
David Richardson, a curriculum instructor and developer for the National Comfort Institute, wrote an article titled, The Building Side of the Duct System, where he asks the question, “Have you ever considered the role of the building in relationship to the HVAC system?” In it he discusses the role of air flow and temperature delivery in conditioned spaces.
This is the domain of Performance-Based Contracting™. A Performance-Based Contractor™ delivers comfort, safety and energy efficiency with proven documented results. The issues that lead to battles over the thermostat are, as Richardson writes, “Often invisible, so you need processes in place to uncover them and determine which side of the duct system the real issue is on. Is the issue on the building side of the duct system? Is the issue on the traditional side of the duct system, or is it a combination of both?”
The bottom line is that the season of thermostat wars offers a tremendous opportunity for performance-based contractors to correct issues plaguing homeowners as well as commercial building tenants. If you want to be a hero and help commercial and residential building owners take control of their comfort (as well as their energy, health, and safety), then make the season of the thermostat into the season of Performance-based Contracting.
Then, if your customers want to fiddle about with apps like Comfy and Vector Occupant, well they can knowing it isn’t just another band-aid fix to a bigger problem.