Using personally controlled air movement to improve comfort after simulated summer commute

Zhai, Y.C., Miao, F., Yang, L., Zhao, S., Zhang, H., Arens, E , Building and Environment ,165 (2019)

People often feel uncomfortably warm and sweaty in their workspace after commuting there by walking or cycling in summer. This is because body heat stored during the commute takes a substantial time to dissipate. People complaining about this uncomfortable transition may cause operators to lower the thermostat setpoint, causing long-term overcooling and wasting energy. In addition, space cooling is slow, requiring minutes to take effect. This study addresses how to improve comfort in the transition by increasing the availability of convective cooling, where the response time is in seconds. Thirty-five subjects (17 men and 18 women) dressed in 0.6 clo entered a test room after exercising at 4.4 met for 15 min in 30 °C. The exercise emulates the commute activity in summer. The test room was controlled to 24, 26, and 28 °C, with and without the option of cooling using fan-produced horizontal airflow. Subjects were sedentary for 60 min, during which subjective thermal responses and physiological responses were measured. The enhanced convective and evaporative heat loss caused by fans significantly shortened the time needed to reach thermal comfort after the exercise-induced thermal stress and improved the final comfort level. Compared to a typical indoor condition of 24 °C and still air, 26 and 28 °C with fans provided equal or better comfort more quickly, and inherently required much less energy to do so. Our study suggests that personally controlled air movement should be available in spaces where thermal and metabolic down-steps take place.

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