Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Thermal Comfort and Environment

What Is the Relationship Between Thermal Comfort and Environment?

By Beth Rush


Thermal comfort involves feeling just right in your environment — not too warm, not too cold. It plays a huge role in sustainability, as understanding the environmental factors that affect your comfort can help you reduce energy use.

For example, you may be used to adjusting the air conditioner to stay comfortable during the summer and bumping up the heat to keep warm during the winter. However, these heating and cooling solutions can impact your energy efficiency.

There are many ways to keep your utility bills low and protect the planet. Diving into the factors influencing thermal comfort is a strategic move toward a more sustainable and comfortable lifestyle.

What Are the Environmental Factors Affecting Thermal Comfort?


Thermal comfort directly affects productivity, health and well-being. Do you find it difficult to focus when it’s too hot or too cold? Do sudden temperature changes cause you to experience asthma attacks, sweating or shivering?

Staying comfortable with the thermal environment is essential — especially as the world warms — and understanding the factors that affect thermal comfort is a good place to start. Staying informed and adaptive helps you maintain comfort sustainably and ensures you feel good while caring for the environment.

Natural Light

Natural light does more than brighten your space — it can enhance your thermal comfort and mood. By allowing sunlight to stream into your home or workspace, you warm up your environment naturally during cooler months and can save on artificial lighting. Position furniture near windows and choose light, reflective colors for your interiors to make the most of natural light.

In addition, consider installing skylights or oversized windows in areas where you spend most of your time. This way, you can enjoy a warmer, brighter space, reduce energy consumption and boost your sustainability efforts.


Air temperature is crucial in thermal comfort because it surrounds your body. Our body temperatures typically hover somewhere around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit on average, and the “sweet spot” for room temperature falls between 64 degrees F and 73 degrees F. Staying within this range keeps you comfortable without reaching for the thermostat.

When you stick to these temperatures, you can use less energy to drastically heat or cool your space, which means lower bills for you and less strain on the planet.


Humidity is among the environmental factors affecting thermal comfort. High humidity can make a warm day feel hotter as your body struggles to cool down through sweating. Conversely, low humidity might make a cool day feel chillier by speeding up moisture evaporation from your skin.

Consider using dehumidifiers in damp conditions and humidifiers when the air feels too dry to manage humidity in an eco-friendly way. Remember to choose energy-efficient models. You can also use natural ventilation solutions to help regulate indoor humidity. Opening windows can balance indoor and outdoor humidity levels to enhance comfort without extra energy costs.

Radiant Heat

Radiant heat from sunlight or other sources affects your comfort levels. The most intense solar rays — hitting between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — can heat your space quickly, sometimes too much. Consider solar gain management techniques — like thermal drapes or blinds — to block out heat during these peak hours.

Alternatively, strategically opening windows and using reflective surfaces can direct this warmth where needed and reduce artificial heating. These simple adjustments help you leverage the power of radiant heat to enhance comfort while cutting down on energy use. This approach makes your living or working space more sustainable and pleasant.

Metabolic Heat

Your body naturally generates heat through metabolism, which is among the environmental factors affecting thermal comfort. Everyday activities — like walking, cooking or performing household chores — can increase your metabolic rate, warming you up.

Engage in regular, moderate exercise to boost your metabolism and keep yourself warm without relying solely on your heating system. During the wintertime, try layering up and staying active indoors or outdoors. This method keeps you comfortable and reduces reliance on energy-intensive heating systems. It aligns your daily habits with a more sustainable lifestyle.


Airflow maintains comfort by facilitating natural cooling and fresh air exchange in your environment. One study shows that natural ventilation can reduce discomfort hours by 58% and lower the operative temperature by up to 41.5 degrees F. Incorporate cross-ventilation by opening windows across each other to create a breeze that can cool the space and enhance air circulation in your home or workplace.

Additionally, ceiling or standing fans can increase air movement without the high energy costs associated with air conditioning. Implementing these strategies helps you stay relaxed and comfortable while significantly reducing energy use.


Your thermal comfort perception can adapt as you acclimate to different environmental conditions. This adaptability means you can gradually become comfortable with broader temperature ranges — both hotter and cooler temperatures. Slowly adjusting your thermostat settings closer to outdoor temperatures reduces your reliance on energy-intensive heating and cooling systems.

Such adaptive strategies lower your environmental footprint and promote resilience in climate variations. Embrace these changes incrementally, and you’ll find yourself contributing positively to your well-being and the planet’s health.


Your choice of clothing influences thermal comfort, acting as a personal environmental factor that can keep you warm or cool. Dark colors like black absorb more wavelengths of light, which may make you feel warmer when you go outside in the sun compared to lighter shades.

Choose clothing made from sustainable fabrics that enhance thermal regulations — such as organic cotton, bamboo or moisture-wicking materials — to optimize your comfort and support sustainability. These fabrics help you comfortably maintain an ideal body temperature and reduce environmental impact.

Understanding Thermal Comfort for a Sustainable Future


Understanding the environmental factors affecting thermal comfort is vital to pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. By making informed choices about temperature settings, clothing and home design, you can enhance your comfort while reducing energy use. Embrace these changes and empower yourself to live a greener, more comfortable life, knowing every minor adjustment contributes to a healthier planet.

About the Author: Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind. She has more than five years of experience writing and editing articles covering topics like sustainable transit and the importance of green spaces in urban planning. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.

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