Online educational resource on achieving indoor environmental quality with radiant based HVAC systems
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residential heating design

NEW: Important joint statement by Canada's HVAC Trade Associations on the quality of designs, installations and inspections of residential HVAC systems.

Thermal Comfort Standards
(yes they exist!)

If the indoor environment conditioned by the HVAC system is not based on these standards what exactly is it based on?

ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55   Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy

Title, Purpose and Scope of ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55

ISO Standard 7730 Ergonomics of the thermal environment - Analytical
determination and interpretation of thermal comfort using calculation of the PMV and PPD indices and local thermal comfort criteria

ISO Standard 7726 Ergonomics of the thermal environment — Instruments for measuring physical

ISO Standard 14415 Ergonomics of the thermal environment — Application of International Standards to people with special requirements 

List of Competencies for the HVAC Technician
Commentary: Even though you as a consumer rely on the builder and HVAC contractor to deliver indoor environmental quality, there is no formal IEQ study requirement in North America for HVAC technicians. Likewise there is no requirement in most construction programs and many architectural and engineering programs.

This is not a new problem and governments and representatives from the health and building sciences have published conference documents on this issue.

Note: occasionally some assume the following ventilation and heat loss/gain calculations standards address thermal comfort but they do not - they only address those items as defined in their scopes and purposes.

1. CAN/CSA F280-12 - Determining the required capacity of residential space heating and cooling appliances

This Standard provides a calculation method for determining the heat loss and heat gain of buildings (as described in Clause 1.3 below) for the purpose of selecting the appropriate output capacity of a space heating appliance or group of appliances and the output capacity of a cooling appliance or group of appliances.

2. CAN/CSA-F326-M91 (R2010) - Residential Mechanical Ventilation Systems

This Standard defines the requirements for performance, installation and application, and performance verification of mechanical ventilation systems

3. ANSI/ASHRAE 62.2-2004 Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings

This standard defines the roles of and minimum requirement for mechanical and natural ventilation systems and the building envelope intended to provide acceptable indoor air quality in low-rise residential buildings.

Thermal Comfort: A 40 grit perspective for consumers
Copyright (C) 2012, Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L. (Eng.) and content contributors

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You are likely here because you care about your indoor climate. So take a look at the instrumentation inside the car1. This photo lent to us by LumaSense, is one of several types of test set-ups which better automobile manufactures employ to determine how you might thermally feel inside their products.

Have you noticed how manufactures have improved their windows, offer heated (and now cooled seats), put zoning controls in the front and back, made the interiors more sound proof, and the air of better quality?  These features came after doing extensive "human factor" based research. The results are being used to create the ideal indoor climate for your driving pleasure.   

So here's the million dollar question for you the educated consumers...

Why would you be willing to invest hundreds of thousands of your dollars (way more than the price of your new car or liposuction) into a home where you and your family will spend most of your time and you don't really know whether you will be comfortable in it or not? Do you see builders doing thermal comfort research? Why not? Do your own homework and see how many people in the numerous HVAC chat rooms are trying to solve thermal comfort problems with people who likely created many of the problems to begin with. Our favourite site for entertainment is the GardenWeb HVAC forum...have a look - scroll through the current and past threads and observe an entire population trying to fix problems and make decisions on stuff with people who have good intentions but many of them couldn't define the elements of thermal comfort even if their licenses depended on it.

Understand, the health of the indoor environment has an impact on you and your families health. If your decision on your indoor climate is not based on science...exactly whose sales pitch are you relying on...those who want your money? Really? Gather around folks while we have a heart to heart about you and your shopping experience for thermal comfort.

As odd as it seems, people spend more time researching pet food, beds and linens, or sports and audio equipment then they do their own indoor environment. If consumers actually treated their investment in their indoor climate like shopping for cosmetic surgeons they would end up with much better results...anyways, the car manufacturers know and care about your physiological and psychological comfort and it shows by their research and the introduction of healthy and comfortable features and benefits.

So you Jill and Jack from the school of hard knocks maybe with a degree or two behind your name, have you yet asked the builders or renovators how much formal thermal comfort research have they done while building to the lowest allowable standards in North America affectionately called the, "Building Codes"? No? Pity.

How about the HVAC sub trades and their are going to give them a cheque representing your hard earned money in exchange for an undetermined indoor climate? Have you asked them what formal training they have on human physiology and psychology as it relates to thermal comfort...after all it'll be a real live human being (that would be you) that will complain. No? We are not surprised since human factors are not included in HVAC nor building construction educational curriculums - go figure.

As bizarre as it sounds, if you are like most educated consumers you have boughtWhere will your indoor climate system score? into a hook, line and sinker on code based HVAC "comfort" systems without doing the same level of research that likely earned you your first diploma or degree.

Why do we know this?

Because like the visitors of on-line HVAC chat forums, consumers who shop for thermal comfort almost always gravitate to discussions about HVAC equipment and systems rather than hitting the books on thermal comfort and human physiology which is what the car manufacturers did - you see the boys and girls in the car design business get it...the building industry (still) doesn't get it. Remember grandpa's saying, "if all you carry in your pouch is a hammer, everything looks like a nail"? Well a large segment of the industry only carries a hammer and tries to solve every thermal comfort problem with equipment and mechanical systems without understanding the real problems. As an example, we have pointed out in several articles that the majority in industry see heating and cooling as an "air based" problem when the root of the problem in our opinion is a surface temperature problem. I have stated in several publication that if building codes dropped the reference to controlling air temperatures and switched the requirements to controlling mean radiant temperature, building performance specifications would have to change overnight. I am not alone in this position, many including those from the UK's Health and Safety Executive Team concur.

Ok enough of that - let's get back to you and your shopping for thermal comfort...

So look, there are a lot of people way smarter than us - you are likely one of them - but even we can see the public relations, marketing and sales machine have convinced the brightest and wealthiest people on the continent that comfort is a piece of mechanical equipment or it comes from the bling adorning the home interior.  As University of Toronto Professor Ted Kesik has said, “No industry that I know of provides so little factual information to the consumers of its product…”

Just look around you, in the magazines, at the shopping mall at the show homes...everybody does it but very few really put comfort into scientific can buy a comfort heating system from a comfort specialist, sit in a comfortable chair, walk on comfortable flooring, wear comfortable clothes all under comfortable lighting and soothing music but yet still feel hot, dry, damp, clammy and cold...what's up with that?

Here is the thing...other than the people we've trained (grin), the majority of S & M folks (sales and marketing) selling stuff for your home can't tell you about true human thermal comfort. You can test them the article we did originally for Dr. A. Bailes III over at Energy Vanguard on thermal comfort then with your knowledge go ask the S & M crowd selling thermal comfort to define it and see what happens.

So why do people selling thermal comfort products and services not know what thermal comfort is?

Wait for it....because they don't have with the smarts and cheque book come to them pre-programmed to buy the bottom in "built to code HVAC systems" so you can spend more money on the building bling. It's true...North Americans spend more money on outdoor furniture, hardware, appliances, pets and cosmetics than they do on the very indoor climates they constantly complain about...we like to say consumers have been swiped by the "poo and goo machines" by the dollars they spend on fifi, fido and facial creams...and let's face it - the HVAC industry is pathetic at marketing against the big bling machines...and its tough because what we have to offer is invisible. Now on the other hand, if you were to listen to the health and building scientists they would tell you to pay attention to the invisible...yes its abstract but we're talking about your physiological and psychological well being and they know about that stuff.


Well...because as medical professionals they have been researching it formally since the late 1800's. They even have fancy instruments to evaluate you and your indoor spaces just as the car manufacturers have done. The good news is out of this science based research has emerged the indoor climate engineer working with thermal comfort standards (see side bar and below) to create the ideal thermal environment for you and yours.

Wait a minute you might say...thermal comfort standards...huh?

Are you surprised to hear there are in fact 'thermal comfort standards'? Yes? Well they have been published as early as 1966 (see below) but don't worry - you are not alone, most veterans in the building industry don't know they exist either.

So why doesn't the building industry know about thermal comfort standards?

Well wait for it (again)....because they don't have to know...and since you with the smarts and cheque book don't come pre-programmed to ask to see their thermal comfort research proving their indoor climates meet the indoor climate standards - they will never know (drum roll) unless you ask...and if you do ask - don't be surprised to get the same cocky look you get from your dressed to the nines pooch wearing the pretty pink pet pullover.

That's why this is the most important web site you can study when it comes to your new home or renovation - it is your money and your decision where to invest it...we can only hope from here on in you'll do the necessary research to really understand what it takes to make you thermally comfortable.

The best part - you can spend as much time as you like reading our research based content without any obligation - all we ask is that you do something positive with your new found knowledge. (see Part II, Built to Code HVAC Systems)

Some history on thermal comfort standards.

1966 Version of ASHRAE Standard 55: Thermal Comfort Conditions

ASHRAE Standard 55 - 1966

1966 Version of ASHRAE Standard 55: Thermal Comfort Conditions

1966 Introduction and reference to the 1938 Code of Minimum Requirements for Comfort Air Conditioning.

Someone forgot to tell the building industry that the minimum requirements were replaced over 45 years ago...oh well.

"When measuring the thermal indoor climate, it is important to remember that humans do not feel the room temperature, they feel the heat loss from the body. The parameters that must be measured are those which affect the energy loss, namely: Air Temperature, Mean Radiant Temperature, Air Velocity and Humidity. The influence of these parameters on energy loss is not equal and it is not sufficient to measure only one of them." LumaSense (ref. B & K)

"Two conditions must be fulfilled to maintain thermal comfort. One is that the actual combination of skin temperature and the body's core temperature provide a sensation of thermal neutrality. The second is the fulfillment of the body's energy balance: the heat produced by the metabolism should be equal to the amount of heat lost from the body. The metabolism is the energy released by oxidation processes in the human body, which depends on the muscular activity." LumaSense (ref. B & K)

Related reading:

Do I need an engineer? A Guide to HVAC/Indoor Climate Design Service Providers
Where will your indoor climate system score?
How to "ball park" your budget for indoor climate control.
Indoor environments: Self assessment
Built to code: What does it mean for consumer thermal comfort?
The Total Comfort System - The "Un-minimum" System
Thermal Comfort: A 40 grit perspective for consumers
Thermal Comfort: A Condition of Mind

Do-It-Yourself HVAC - Should you do it?
The Cost of HVAC Systems - Are You Paying Too Much for Downgrades?
Radiant Installations - The Good, Bad and Ugly
Thermal Comfort Surveys - Post Occupancy, Part I
Thermal Comfort Surveys - Post Occupancy, Part II

Thermal Comfort: Everyone Wants It but Few Know the ASHRAE Standard
Indoor Environmental Quality
Thermal Comfort Simulator: Have some fun
The History of Ventilation and Temperature Control

1. Credit/Reference: LumaSense Technologies Inc. Denmark

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