Why People are Always Fighting Over the Thermostat


{♫Intro♫} Negotiating thermostat settings can be one of the most frustrating squabbles you’ll ever have. Whether it’s family or roommates, or co-workers or classmates, finding that Goldilocks temperature that will suit everyone can be rough. You’d think it would be easier for us all to agree on a comfortable temperature. I mean, we’re all human. But there’s actually a lot of biology and psychology explaining why different people experience ambient temperatures differently. It all starts with your skin, which is covered in sensory nerves called thermoreceptors that send impulses to your brain, keeping it up-to-date on the temperature. Your brain uses this information to keep your body temperature stable and influence your behavior so can you be comfortable as possible— like putting on a hoodie in a chilly room, or peeling off your winter coat on the first day of spring. People generally feel most comfortable somewhere in between the point where they start shivering and the temperature when they start sweating. In both of those instances, the body has to do something to stay comfortable. But within that range, there’s what scientists call the thermalneutral zone, or TNZ. That’s the range of ambient temperatures
where you can regulate your body temperature through dry heat loss alone. That essentially means you can stay comfy
just by losing heat to your environment—like, the heat that radiates from your skin. Some studies investigating the human TNZ place
it somewhere between 28 and 32 degrees Celcius, but it varies a lot from person to person and place to place. And there are a lot of reasons for that variation. Like, if that range seemed hot to you, that’s
because it’s for naked people. And your TNZ is affected by the clothing you
wear because that changes the amount of insulation you have.It’s affected by the clothing you
wear, for example, because that changes the amount of insulation you have. But there are features inherent to your body
that affect it, too. Like, your metabolism—the cellular activity
that keeps you alive. People with higher metabolisms produce more
heat. So, all other things being equal, they’d
have lower TNZs. Of course, all other things are never equal. Like, since fat is great insulator, people
who have thicker layers of subcutaneous fat are more likely to have a lower TNZ. Body shape also plays a role—theoretically,
since a lot of heat loss occurs via your skin, the more skin you have, the more heat you
can lose. But, the more tissue you have overall, the
more heat you produce in the first place. So researchers generally talk about body surface
area to mass ratios. The larger the ratio, the harder it is to
maintain heat. And this may partly explain why women tend
to feel colder than men at lower ambient temperatures. There are always exceptions to this, but on
average, men tend to be larger than women—they’re typically taller, wider, and heavier. That means they have more skin, but also more
tissue overall, so their surface area to mass ratios tend to be smaller than those of women. That could shift their TNZs downwards. And since women have larger surface area to
mass ratios on average, they probably don’t retain heat as well, so their TNZs are shifted
upwards. But let’s remember, this isn’t just a
gender thing. This is a body size and shape thing. Like, there’s no way Hafþór Björnsson,
Kit Harrington, and Peter Dinklage all have the same thermalneutral zone. Body shape and composition can also help explain
age differences in TNZ. Newborn babies are essentially adorable bags
of fat, which you might think would keep them warm. But all the fat in those chunky wittle thigh
rolls is simply not enough to compensate for the heat they are losing through their skin. The surface area to mass ratios of infants
are, on average, twice those of adults. And accordingly, their TNZs are much higher,
just like on the other end of the age spectrum. In the elderly, the thermalneutral zone seems
to be higher and narrower. That’s partly because people tend to lose
some of their heat-generating muscles and insulating fat as they age. Some scientists believe the elderly also have
a harder time regulating temperature in general, thanks to age-related changes in their blood
vessels. And really, there’s all kinds of stuff going
on in our bodies and brains that can impact how we perceive our environment. Like, having low thyroid hormone levels, or
hypothyroidism, can lead to an increased sensitivity to cooler temperatures. The condition slows your metabolism down,
so you produce less body heat—and that can leave you feeling really cold even though
everyone else around you is cozy as can be. And then there’s Raynaud’s Phenomenon,
a condition that causes blood vessels in the fingers and toes to constrict when a person
gets cold or stressed out. When this happens, warm blood can’t get
to the skin as well, so a person’s digits feel especially cold. If you feel cold all the time and you’re
concerned about it, you should definitely talk to a trusted healthcare professional. It never hurts to get things checked out. But the good news is nobody can catch “feeling
cold” from you. Or… can they? There is actually a real phenomenon known
as Temperature Contagion, where just looking at someone who appears cold or hot can make
you feel colder or hotter, too! For example,in a 2014 study, when healthy
volunteers watched videos of people putting their hands in visibly cold water, their hand
temperatures actually decreased. And remember, your sensing of the ambient
temperature around you starts in your skin—so if your skin temperature changes, so does
your evaluation of your environment. So whether it’s a trick of the mind, the
result of a medical condition, or simply the sum of body shape and composition, different
people experience a room’s temperature differently. Now, this might not seem like a big deal—but
it can be, because being outside your TNZ messes with your head a little. For example, a 2019 study actually found that
women scored significantly better on verbal and math tests in environments that were just
a few degrees warmer than the standard settings for air-conditioning. And the shift didn’t significantly harm
the men’s scores. That’s likely because feeling cold impedes
some cognitive processes—basically, you can’t think as clearly if your body has
to devote a lot of energy to keeping you warm. So it might be worth considering upping the
thermostat a few degrees if it means the overall performance of the office will improve. Of course, the thermostat wars probably won’t
be ended so easily, since there are just so many factors that affect how different people
feel at a given temperature. But hey, it’s a start. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! And a special thanks to all of you who support
what we do, including our channel members and Patreon patrons. If you want to learn more about
how humans regulate temperature, you might like our episode on why body-temperature air
feels hot. {♫Outro♫}

100 thoughts on “Why People are Always Fighting Over the Thermostat”

  1. Old joke: The furnace quit, so the guy calls a repairman. When the repair man shows up, he says "Let's start by checking the thermostat" and pops the cover off. The guy interjects, "No, that one is just for the wife to play with, the real thermostat is in the closet over here".

  2. Literally just turned on the AC cause my roommates turned it off :') But I can't sleep if it's too warm so….71 degrees F it is. (It said it was ~73 degrees, which is too stuffy for me :'D)

  3. Logically the solution is to keep the temperature lower than some people want it. They can put on more clothes, I cant take more clothes off.

  4. I don’t really start sweating until it’s like 38 degrees C, and sometimes I don’t sweat there either, I just start feeling faint. I’m always cold, but I need at least 23 degrees C to feel fine.

    But I live in the northern part of Sweden soo we don’t reach my comfortable tempature that often lol

  5. The ideal temperature occurs when the number of people that are too hot is equal to the number who are too cold.

  6. My parents don't even understand how a thermostat works… Hey it's cold here lets just put the damn thing really high, 45 minutes later it's to warm now. Rinse and repeat a couple of days, and lets not even get into the car thermostat……..

  7. Comments: if you are cold too bad. I am more important than you. Wear coats and blankets, still can’t feel your toes, tough.

    I am so happy I work from home and can control the thermostat

  8. Wait I'm comphy nude at like 68° nude laying out spread eagle but my BMI is low and I'm pretty small
    But my resting metabolism is only like 1500 calories a day

  9. 0:26 Even I experience different temperatures differently. Sometimes 15°C feels hot and some other time 22°C feels cold.

  10. I wear the same clothes during summer and winter at work. You can't take off any more clothes than the bare basics! I just tell my work colleagues, when they complain that they are too cold, that they're not working hard enough!

  11. IS THIS WHY I DID BETTER IN SECONDARY SCHOOL WHEN THERE WAS NO AIR CONDITIONING

    Friggin air con killing the earth and my grades

  12. I start feeling very uncomfortably hot at 74 degrees fahrenheit. When I start feeling cold is very inconsistent but also I need to warm up before I feel cold because cold hurts my joints badly…

  13. I seem to be surrounded by people who are freezing all the time! Any attempt to turn down the AC is met with "NO-O-O-O-O-O!" Meanwhile, I'm really sweaty and have to endure people tell me I stink! What am I supposed to do?

  14. When i was in high school they kept the testing rooms very cold for everyone because they said it was proven to increase brain activity though…why did they think that?

  15. When the ambient air temperature is higher than the body's temperature (Ex: A 105 F day), does the body's temperature rise to the surrounding ambient temperature, or is there some weird physics where sweating can actually lower the body's temperature below the surrounding ambient temperature?

  16. Why does temperature affect driving alertness And effectiveness?

    when I drive-in a ice Box I can be more focused and stay awake longer.

    When I drive-in And oven I get really. tired?

  17. We don't have thermostats here in Ireland. We have heating, which is basically turning on the radiators. It never gets so hot that we need air conditioning. Except in this one restaurant and it was the middle of winter and it was a garden restaurant so it had open doors but it was so hot they had the air conditioning on and it was right above me and so I asked if they could turn it off cuz I was cold and it was blowing right on me but then it got too hot even with Winter breezes blowing in so when we do have controlled temperature we're terrible at controlling it!

  18. This got suggested to me right after I changed the thermostat.
    My grandma had it set at 76 F. As soon as she went upstairs, I dropped it to 72 F.

  19. I have the opposite. I get sweaty all the time even in chilly temperatures while talking, eating or in general if I feel someone is watching me. Guess how that goes in work environments.

  20. The hotter the better if it was 82 degrees I would be ok with it.
    If it's 72 I turn up the temp
    If it's 76 I'm not gonna go far from the heat source…

  21. In Australian summer, you set your residential aircon as low as it goes, because it likely won't even be able to manage that. 48C heat is no joke.

  22. I like it to be more than 25°C, depending on the time of day. At night I like it cold. But I do really like the low thirties. Australian.

  23. Actually I find my productivity, patience and overall well-being drop rock bottom when it gets a tad too warm. And unfortunately, there are limits to how many layers of clothes I can peel off.

  24. What if I just feel good or like temperatures where it’s to cold for most people?
    Also I really really hate summers. It’s just so hot and uncomfortable

  25. Apparently genes associated with red hair also result in increased temperature sensitivity. Makes absolute sense after enduring my mother’s themostat settings my whole childhood

  26. (2:40-45)
    “[T]his isn’t a ‘gender’ thing”
    – No, no, it is not. You mean ‘sex’, as “gender” implies the mental workings of someone’s mind.
    Not cool man.

  27. When I was younger I preferred 90°F

    Now even when naked 80° is too hot. In part because I weight like 70 lbs more than when I was a teen but also because I have a tic disorder that constantly generates heat

  28. Temperature contagion is a real thing?!?!?!?! I thought it was a lie intended to make people take their coats off indoors even if they’re legitimately cold…

  29. Tell this to all the highschools across the country that think 66 degrees is a good temperature to take tests in.

  30. Those parameters may be valid on average, but they certainly shift a lot on an individual level. I feel comfortable more or les between 10 and 25 C (and I'm definitely not fat), and anyway I prefer colder than warmer than that range, cause I can cover myself, but not peel my skin off when it's too hot.

  31. So by that logic my two decently insulated male roommates who wear pants should have a similar comfort zone as me being a woman with a fast metabolism who typically doesn't but at least one of theirs seems to be a bit higher than mine so I guess metabolism makes a huge difference

  32. Ugh. Everyday at work someone complains it's too hot or too cold. After so many disputes over the temperature, engineering disabled the thermostat in the office. Now the hot folks bring a fan and the cold folks bring a sweater as it should be. 🤷🏾‍♀️

  33. My husband and I compensate. I am home during the day, so the AC is off and the heat turns on once it is below 70 F outside (during the day). When he comes home he can turn on the AC or turn down the heat as long as I can steal all the blankets! I have some lovely fluffy blankets and now have a very nice heated throw for this winter. I don't think a heated throw would be approved in an office though.

  34. The surface-to-mass ratio is also the reason that over all animals evolve to to be bigger. Being bigger doesn't only mean your stronger – you're also more energy efficient. The cold blooded dinosaurs know all about it.

  35. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to discuss acclimation to seasonal temperature changes and the fact that people who use too much air conditioning never allow their bodies to actually experience summer. My body, for one, does not appreciate suddenly walking out of a beautiful 80-degree-Farenheit day into someone's 65-degree-Farenheit Winter Wonderland.

  36. Story time.
    I was visiting my grandparents in Florida during the winter, and my frosty ass was still sweating in a tshirt and jeans. Up comes their neighbor telling me that I'm just being macho and pretending to be warm, because he read once that the human body cannot adjust to temperatures. If he's cold, then I must be too. His arguement was that if you took an African* out of the desert the man would still be warm at a hundred degrees even if it was colder than what he was used too. Not the least problem with his rant was that he didn't use the word African*. Anyways, I just smiled and nodded, because there's really no convincing cranky old racists, and went about my green Christmas.
    I don't like Florida.

  37. Can the TNZ change with the seasons?

    Because I prefer thermostat at 76°F in the summer, and at 68°F in the winter

  38. My best friend loves heat and can’t tolerate the cold but my body reacts really badly to heat. They get muscle spasms in the cold, and I’m prone to heat exhaustion. We just kinda… exist in discomfort to make sure the other doesn’t die lol

  39. Somehow, I don't think people watching Frozen Planet will be comforted much during a heatwave, and vice versa. It is fun to think about penguins, though.

  40. While I feel more comfortable in a warmer environment than a colder one, I will always have a blanket over me when I sleep, even if it's a thin blanket in the middle of a heatwave. But, I don't like having to bundle up extra clothing and coats – that makes me feel encumbered.

  41. Can't we all just agree that we should go with a lower temperature? After all, there's no limit to how many layers you can put on, but there is a limit to how many layers you can take off. 67°F

  42. When I play instruments I get warmer. Of course if it's too cold I can't play instruments because my fingers get sluggish, and/or my diaphragm is shivering.

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