The Battle for Control Over the Air Conditioner
August 23, 2023
We’re halfway through summer and air conditioners have been running on full blast across the U.S. No doubt many homes and workplaces have had conversations, if not debates, about the ideal indoor temperature setting. As the summer heat rages on, so does the battle for control over the air conditioner.
Cool Facts About AC Preferences
Temperature preferences can vary significantly depending on geographical region, location (work vs. home), and even gender. To help us understand how air conditioner preferences vary, here are a few interesting facts about air conditioner use across the U.S.:
- One in five homes have their indoor temperature set to 69 degrees Fahrenheit or lower during the summer
- 18% of homes have the thermostat set to 77 degrees or warmer
- Americans living in colder climates prefer cooler indoor temperatures
- Heating a home requires more energy than cooling it
- Only in hot-humid regions does energy expenditure on air conditioning exceed that of heating
- Men typically prefer cooler temperatures, compared to women
So what is the ideal indoor temperature setting? It’s a question that has been studied and debated without a clear answer, partly because of the biological component: men and women have physical differences affecting their perception of temperature.
A study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that women’s core body temperatures were consistently higher than men’s. Because women have higher body temperatures, they are more sensitive to cooler temperatures. In addition, fluctuations in hormone levels can further increase a woman’s sensitivity to colder temperatures.
Women’s hands and feet are, on average, three degrees colder than men’s; this is partly because women’s bodies are better able to conserve heat. Men’s body temperatures tend to be higher because their metabolism runs about 23% higher than women’s, generating more heat. In the workplace, these differences are exacerbated by attire: women typically wear blouses and dresses, while men suit up.
How We Feel Cold
Though perceptions of temperature may vary, the process is the same for men and women. The brain receives impulses from nerves in the skin about skin temperature and the rate of change in skin temperature. Information about the rate of change in skin temperature is critical for the brain in order to provide warning about the possibility of a falling core temperature in the body. When the hypothalamus receives impulses from the skin signaling a lower temperature, the nervous system is instructed to generate metabolic heat through shivering. Blood vessels constrict, keeping heat closer to the internal organs, rather than transporting warm blood to cold skin.
Impulses received by the cerebral cortex help us understand how cold we feel and motivate us to put on more clothes, rub our hands together, and complain.
To learn more about how the body perceives temperature, check out this article by The Conversation.
Finding A Middle Ground
There may not be an indoor temperature that satisfies both men and women, but having two central air-conditioning units or a single central air-conditioning unit with multiple thermostats in a two-story home could help control temperatures and increase energy savings.
Either of these options creates a zoned system that includes dampers within the ductwork that help regulate the flow of air and temperature in each zone. A zoned system provides greater control over temperatures in specific areas of the home and offers significant energy savings over time.
Homeowners considering upgrading or replacing their air conditioning system need to consider the following:
The size of the home
The load calculation provided by a licensed HVAC technician
The system’s Seasonal Energy Efficient Ratio (SEER)
An Energy Star-rated air conditioner to qualify for a federal income tax credit.
For installation and system recommendations, reach out to Hamilton Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Rooter for a free consultation.
Last Updated: November 14, 2023