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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comfort, perceived air quality, and work performance in a low-power task-ambient conditioning system


Zhang’s thermal comfort model [1] predicts that the local comfort of feet, hands, and face predominate in determining a person’s overall comfort in warm and cool conditions. We took advantage of this in designing a task-ambient conditioning (TAC) system that heats only the feet and hands, and cools only the hands and face, to provide comfort in a wide range of ambient environments. Per workstation, the TAC system uses less than 41W for cooling and 59W for heating. We tested the TAC system on 18 subjects in our environmental chamber, at temperatures representing a wide range of practical winter and summer conditions (18-30ºC). A total of 90 tests were done. We measured subjects’ skin and core temperatures, obtained their subjective responses about thermal comfort, perceived air quality, and air movement preference. The subjects performed three different types of tasks to evaluate their productivity during the testing. The TAC system maintains good comfort levels across the entire temperature range tested. TAC did not significantly affect the task performance of the occupants compared to a neutral ambient condition. Whenever air motion was provided, perceived air quality was significantly improved, even if the air movement was re-circulated room air. In our tests, subjects found thermal environments acceptable even if they were judged slightly uncomfortable (-0.5). By reducing the amount of control normally needed in the overall building, the TAC system saves energy. Simulated annual heating and cooling energy savings with the TAC system is as much as 40%.

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