As a thermal comfort researcher, men often complain to me that their wives turn up the thermostat because they prefer warmer conditions (Why women secretly turn up the heating, G2, 12 October). There is no such thing as a single comfort temperature. A thin lady is likely to feel colder than a plump one. A recent sample in English homes recorded living room temperatures from 10C to 25C. Thermostat settings are driven by many factors including environmental beliefs, customs, daily routines, incomes or different approaches to heating. The heating and energy industries would love us to heat whole buildings, but all we often need to do is heat the people inside them. Average winter living-room temperatures in New Zealand are around 14C where people sit by a small heater when relaxing. In Japanese homes temperatures can fall to 5C indoors because people keep warm with a “Kotatsu”, a small heater by their chair covered by a shared rug, as in parts of Spain. We all adapt to those temperatures we normally occupy. If uncomfortable, and we can afford to, we change our environments.
Emeritus Professor Sue Roaf
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