Identifying a suitable method for studying thermal comfort in people’s homes

In the UK, domestic buildings are responsible for a significant amount of overall carbon emissions from buildings. Together with improving the energy efficiency of the existing domestic stock, an in-depth understanding of thermal comfort in homes is necessary to ensure that acceptable levels of thermal comfort are maintained whilst energy use is being reduced. Currently, there is limited knowledge on domestic thermal comfort in the UK as, compared to non-domestic buildings, conducting thermal comfort studies in homes is challenging. Detailed thermal comfort studies are usually considered to be intrusive in domestic environments. Is it therefore possible to conduct thermal comfort studies that are less intrusive and yet scientifically rigorous? With a view to address this question, the study presented in this paper undertook a comparison of two data collection methods. Data collected using a less-intrusive method, referred to as the ‘Silver standard’ was compared with the data collected using the ASHRAE/ISO recommended method (referred to as the ‘Gold standard’). A strong correlation was observed between PMV values obtained using the Silver Standard method and those obtained using the Gold Standard method. The findings suggest that the less-intrusive method devised and tested in this study provides reliable data for thermal comfort evaluations in homes. The findings also suggest that further work is necessary, particularly in winter conditions to comprehensively validate this non-intrusive method.