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How Worker Gender Could Affect Your Company's Utility Bill

September 22, 2015 / by Eric Graf

Business and facility managers concerned about budget, take note that clues about how to cut operating costs are right in front of you and will lead you to your thermostat.

When the weather is warm outside, make some observations regarding the activities of the female workers in your office. They may be showing you a potential for energy savings just in their daily activities. They are your first indicator that you have the A/C in your facility too high. These activities include:

  • Women wrapped in shawls, bulky sweaters or even blankets;
  • Fingerless mittens while typing at keyboards; and
  • Space heaters tucked under desks.

These activities should be the first indication that your company is spending more than it should on air conditioning that is obviously making people uncomfortable. Additionally, the distraction the environment is causing is likely keeping them from being as productive as possible. Turning down the temperature, a notch may significantly decrease your company's utility bill as well as increasing employee morale and productivity.

What about the men?

So, why aren't the men in the office shivering the same way the women are?

Experts say that a number of physical characteristics add up to women feeling colder than men in air-conditioned rooms. First, men generally have greater muscle mass, which produces more heat than fat. Women tend to have more fat insulating their core organs, which may be one reason why their core body temperature is slightly higher than that of men.

Second, we all tend to feel cold all over when our hands and feet are cold. Exposure to cold causes our bodies to redirect heat to our core organs for protection. USA Today notes that in addition to higher core temperature, women are better at transferring heat from their extremities to their core. Consequently, female hands are about 3 degrees colder than those of males.

In an article at Body+Soul, Australian health sciences professor Nigel Taylor says it's the thicker, more even layer of fat below their skin that helps women conserve heat deep down but causes them to experience feelings of cold faster than men.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the matter of women getting cold faster than men when engaged in seatwork. This leads us to some research from the cold, damp Netherlands.

Arctic Conspiracy

As a recent article in The New York Times notes, the journal Nature Climate Change published a study by male scientists proposing an end to what the Times called "the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy."

In their study, Energy Consumption in Buildings and Female Thermal Demand, scientists Boris Kingma and Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University say the chill in offices is caused by an outdated temperature standard. They report that energy consumption in the workplace may be reduced significantly if office temperatures are adjusted for female workers

Kingma and Lichtenbelt say that the current "thermal comfort model" was established in 1960, and was based on an estimate of the resting metabolic rate for a 40-year-old man weighing about 154lbs.

This formula may underestimate the "resting heat production" of women by 35%. The researchers say the standard also fails to consider the decreasing metabolic rate of male and female workers as they age.

Also, getting back to the issue of fat as an insulator, Kingma and Lichtenbelt note that both overweight men and women may be more affected by air conditioning because the temperature sensors in their skin are less moderated by their bodies' core heat.

If office temperatures aren't balanced for the comfort of all workers, the researchers say, workers may "optimize personal comfort" and "nullify the effects" of business attempts at saving energy by making adaptations in their environment.

This, of course, leads us back to space heaters. If you are seeing a lot of them in your offices, it's time to utilize the resources of an energy platform like Correlate.

10 Costs Hidden in Your Energy Bill

Topics: energy costs, energy consumers

Eric Graf

Written by Eric Graf


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