The offices are either too hot or too cold: is there a better way to adjust the temperature?
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In any office, home and other common room, there are almost always those who are cold, hot and those who do not understand at all because of what all this turmoil with the thermostat is.

Often, the owners and employees of the building conduct a survey among those who occupy the premises to find out how the heating and cooling systems work. They ask those who are indoors if they feel comfortable, whether they want to be cooler or warmer. However, each has its own ideal temperature at a particular point in time. It depends on various factors: age and gender, level of physical activity, clothing, and even how much a person is tense at the moment.This is a difficult problem. For example, people who go into a cool room in summer may feel comfortable at first, but in the end they will be cool.

In modern heating and cooling manuals for businesses where these human characteristics are considered static for an extended period of time, it is recommended to keep the temperature in winter between 68.5 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (20.3 and 23.8 Celsius), and in the summer, 75 and 80.5 (23.8 and 26.9). As a result, people are too hot or too cold, no matter how well the room is heated or cooled.

Most will feel comfortable, which will have a positive effect on their health and performance., if heaters and air conditioners can adapt to people's feelings in real time, including changes during the day. Our research team is working on how to incorporate people's feedback on temperature into heating and cooling systems. Our development will help people feel more comfortable, and also allow building owners to spend less energy.

People's wishes

Some researchers suggested that employees simply vote on what the temperature should be. Through the application on the phone or through the site, people in the room can tell them if they are cold or hot, and what they need to feel better. Then the algorithm analyzes the responses of the team and calculates the temperature, which theoretically should suit the majority.

In some systems, users can vote on whether they feel comfortable and what could help them. Carol Minass, CC BY-ND

However, this method has two serious limitations. For the best result, it is required to constantly receive information from people who need to work; still not taking into account the fact that those who still feel uncomfortable, could take care of themselves, putting on or taking off her jacket. The system also does not take into account how the human body perceives temperature. And this is directly related to whether people prefer to stay in a warmer or cooler room.

Remote temperature control

In our previous study, we installed a variety of temperature sensors throughout the office, combined their indicators with information from bracelets that measured body temperature and heartbeat of those who were in the room, and voting results regarding well-being in the application. We found out that adding data about the body's response allowed the algorithm to more accurately calculate the temperature in the room so that people feel more comfortable in the room they occupy.

A system with a large number of sensors monitors the indicators of the environment and people in the room and adjusts the heating and cooling systems accordingly. Carol Minass, CC BY-ND

In our current projectWe are looking for a way to simplify the system and make it less noticeable to people, removing bracelets and applications, and using only a remote skin temperature scanner that measures how comfortable a person is. We have developed a method that uses ordinary cameras, a thermal image, and remote sensors that determine the position of people in a room, focus on their faces, and measure body temperature. Based on the data obtained, our algorithm calculates whether there is a need and how to change the temperature in the room, regardless of the number of people in the room. When testing in the office where there were seven people, they complained less that they were too cold or hot.

The facial recognition program, together with cameras that determine the temperature, can assess what a person feels: he is warm or cold, or he is in perfect order. Carol Minass, CC BY-ND

This method is most effective in rooms with a large number of people, in open offices, meeting rooms and theaters. The method can be adjusted and adjusted for differences in temperature between people in different parts of the room, as well as depending on whether they are standing, sitting or walking. The system can be configured on the go, without requiring people to constantly give feedback. Our group will continue to study this method and other ways that are not dependent on people, which will help you feel more comfortable and be healthier and more efficient.

About the authors of the study. Carol Minassa is an associate professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. Da Lee is a graduate student at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. Vainit Kamat is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan.

Photo: Edwin & Kelly Tofslie CC BY-ND 4.0

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