We can’t imagine our lives without air conditioners anymore.
Not only in our homes, but it’s also in the supermarkets, bowling alleys, bars, banks and everywhere we go, except outside. Maybe soon that will be air-conditioned as well [a terrible idea considering the effects of global warming] but a lot of bad decisions have been made throughout time.
Our questions only arise when we come to a place without an air conditioner. After all, it’s not the ’60s; air conditioners should be ubiquitous!
It’s made for our comfort and ease of living. But knowing what is comfortable and what’s not is not as straightforward as we’d like to think. So, what’s the science behind the right temperature settings? What’s the science behind comfort?
Let’s jump into that.
What is the Best AC Temperature For Sleeping?
The Science Behind Comfort
Heat and humidity are two parameters with which you can judge the comfort level of a room. Our skin relies on evaporation of sweat to keep us comfortable.
The faster the sweat evaporates from our skin, the colder and more comfortable we feel. Sweat uses our body heat to turn into air. And that loss of heat causes our skin nerve endings to feel colder.
Because of that, it matters what the temperature of your ambiance is and how much water content it has.
Average human body temperature is 98.6ºF. And at this ambient temperature, our skin perspires to keep the body cold.
Sitting near a fan or under a ceiling fan, displaces the air molecules around us repeatedly to help with the evaporation of sweat. If the air around us is stagnant, then at one point it’ll get saturated with water molecules, and our sweat will not evaporate anymore, putting us at discomfort.
Hence, fans keep steadily displacing that air to keep the sweat turning into thin air. With this science, you can understand that fans don’t affect the temperature of the room at all. Fans help cool people, not the room itself.
Humidity is one thing you shouldn’t forget
Humidity plays a significant role in comfort. The more humid the room is, the more water content it already has, and the tougher it’ll be for sweat to evaporate. Hence you’ll feel more uncomfortable in a humid room.
The index which helps measure this is called heat index, where the sum-total effect of heat and humidity are taken into account. At 96ºF with 65% humidity you’ll feel as if it’s 121ºF while even at a higher temperature, say 104ºF, and relatively less moisture, say 40%, you’ll feel as if the temperature is only around 119ºF.
So, humidity matters. Fans can help a little to ease that by displacing the air around you. But it won’t be of great use.
One thing that helps is air conditioners with “dry” settings enabled. Air conditioners filter air from outside according to your specifications. Therefore, it’s not a difficult task for an air conditioner to reduce humidity by simply replacing the air in the room.
Since air conditioners work by filtering the air inside the room and pushing out new air, they affect the ambient temperature. Unlike fans, Air Cons can change the temperature of the room to keep you comfortable.
You might be thinking that air conditioners do a lot of work to maintain the room temperature. And you’re right, they do. As expected, that doesn’t come cheap either.
Anyone who has paid electricity bills knows how much a single air conditioner costs to run. So, it’s a legit doubt to have about the most energy efficient temperature for the AC.
The thermodynamics is straightforward. The more the temperature difference, the more the energy. If elaborated, your air conditioner has to put in more work to maintain more significant temperature gaps.
Some people who did the calculations recommend keeping the AC temp at 75ºF during summers for cooling and around 65ºF during winters for heating.
Of course, that’s an average use case calculation. Your mileage may vary depending on what kind of place you live. It’s not absolute.
If you like to keep the thermostat on while your family is away, then set it at a higher temperature like 80ºF and program it to drop the temperature about an hour before you come back to a comfortable temperature.
But being energy efficient has more to do with how long you keep the AC unit working. So a wise thing to do will be to turn it off when you don’t feel like you need it and put it on energy saving more from time to time.
These days, air conditioners are intelligent enough to do all the hard work of assessment for us. Modern air conditioners have temperature units and CPUs that can calculate the ambient temperature and put out air that it thinks is the most comfortable for you.
What’s the right temperature when everyone’s dozing off?
Getting the right temperature is crucial for a good night’s sleep and keeping you and your family healthy.
When an average human snoozes off before sleeping, the body temperature goes lower. Therefore, it helps to relax better with colder temperatures. Having the AC set at around 65ºF helps to start a deep sleep sequence. Hence, most scientists recommend this setting.
That’s why scientists also recommend not exercising or eating heavy meals before you go off to doze. It raises your body temperature.
Now, setting the temperature too low and higher than this will affect the quality of REM (rapid eye movement) – that is when you start dreaming. Uncomfortable temperatures will cause restlessness and generally disrupt slumber.
For a baby or a toddler, a slight increase in the ambient temperature helps. Around 70ºF, ensures that they get healthy sleep. But make sure to keep the crib or bed away from the direct flow of air. A direct flow will get them to catch a cold during the night when their body temperature usually rises.
One good way to know the right temperature for people in your family is by doing a small experiment on them. When everyone is present, try raising the temperature by a degree or two to see how people in your house react to it. Vary it every day just by a little bit over the week.
The chances are that your family will not even notice and in general the closer you are to outside temperature, the easier it is on your AC. It’s better for your family as well, and they will have a lesser chance of getting cold.
With this experiment, you should get to know the right temperature for your family members.
A word from National Institute of Health [NIH]
NIH believes that the right temperature for slumber is around a point called “thermoneutrality.”
It’s when the body is in equilibrium with the environment temperature and empirically, it’s been found to be around 86ºF when naked and about 62ºF when wearing clothes and covered by sheets.
Hence, it’s the official recommended temperature for slumber!
So, there’s that. All you need to know about your comfort and the right temperature is laid down here in a handy-dandy format.
Remember, that every individual has a different need and a proper adjustment experiment, to know what’s the right one for you, won’t hurt.
Scientifically, you should sleep at about 65ºF which helps to get a good deep sleep. Just make sure to keep your head away from the direction of air flow. Otherwise, you may catch a cold.
Here’s a link on how to get a good temperature controller in your home.
With that, I hope this guide brought some new light to you and helped you sleep better at night!