What is thermal comfort?

Thermal comfort is when you feel neither too hot nor too cold, especially indoors. Our health, wellbeing and productivity are all affected by thermal comfort.

While we naturally regulate our body temperature, thermal comfort depends on several environmental factors including air temperature, humidity, air speed, the type of clothing worn, the level of physical movement and the building structure. For most people the recommended temperature to achieve thermal comfort varies from 20 ºC to 26 ºC.

Physical impacts

Having poor thermal comfort can result in discomfort, fatigue, headaches and musculoskeletal problems.

If the poor thermal comfort is ongoing (for example in a home with ineffective heating), these effects could be more pronounced.

Adapting your environment to achieve better thermal comfort also mitigates the effects of heat and cold stress which can lead to serious health concerns and can be life threatening.

Health impacts

Extreme hot weather can have significant health impacts on older people, with studies showing an increase in cardiovascular conditions and heat-related morbidity such as headaches and shortness of breath.

Likewise, living in cold conditions increases the chance of experiencing illnesses such as arthritis, influenza, pneumonia and asthma, as well as blood pressure changes, cardiac conditions and strokes.

Social and wellbeing impacts

Thermal comfort affects your wellbeing too. Being too hot or cold limits physical activity and your ability to maintain your home. We can all relate to a day so hot that you can only sit in front of a fan, or so cold that you are unable to move from under a blanket. When people are too hot they'll often feel tired, while they might be restless and distracted when it's too cold.

If you live alone, thermal comfort can also increase your social isolation. People are less likely to receive and entertain guests if their homes are too hot or cold.

For families, secure thermal comfort also gives children more time to study in the evening. It can also lower the presence of mould, which may cause health issues if inhaled by vulnerable people.

How to manage your thermal comfort

While clothing and physical movement are easy factors for most people to manage, other factors for attaining thermal comfort are more difficult to address and may require upgrades.

In terms of heating systems, upgrading to a reverse-cycle air conditioner is the most energy efficient way to improve year-round thermal comfort in your home, along with adequate insulation.

Using a reverse-cycle air conditioner to improve thermal comfort

Many modern reverse-cycle air conditioning units come with thermostats and advanced inverter technology. This means they're able to adapt to the temperature and condition of the room to reach an optimal temperature and further improve your thermal comfort, regardless of the season. Read more about reverse-cycle air conditioners in our buyers guide.

The Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades program is no longer accepting applications.


Stay informed

Sign up to our householder newsletter and get the latest renewable energy news, insights and energy-saving tips delivered to your inbox once a month.