Open Phones: That Blasted Air Conditioning

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do over-chilled office buildings, frigid subway cars, and gushing a/c from open storefronts drive you crazy?
Comment below!

Comments [61]

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We've removed a few comments that were not on topic. Please keep in mind WNYC's comment posting guidelines, and keep the conversation civil.

Aug. 21 2008 02:39 PM
Pam from Tallahassee, FL

Warm workers work better, an ergonomics study at Cornell University finds.

Chilly workers not only make more errors but cooler temperatures could increase a worker's hourly labor cost by 10 percent, estimates Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis and director of Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory.

When the office temperature in a month-long study increased from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, typing errors fell by 44 percent and typing output jumped 150 percent. Hedge's study was exploring the link between changes in the physical environment and work performance.

"The results of our study also suggest raising the temperature to a more comfortable thermal zone saves employers about $2 per worker, per hour," says Hedge, who presented his findings this summer at the 2004 Eastern Ergonomics Conference and Exposition in New York City.

In the study, which was conducted at Insurance Office of America's headquarters in Orlando, Fla., each of nine workstations was equipped with a miniature personal environment-sensor for sampling air temperature every 15 minutes.

"At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate," Hedge says. "Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance."

An abbreviated Power Point version of Hedge's study is available at

Aug. 09 2008 11:50 PM
jevon from portland, oregon

thanks for having this discussion
i was in NYC last summer and man! i hated going from the hottest muggy mess outside to the cold crisp iceboxes that everyone inside insists on living in. Wearing shorts on the subway being all sticky and cold was a very horrible experience. to make matters worse i got sick halfway into my trip and the hot/cold world that is new york made for some painful moments. turn down the A/C!!

Aug. 01 2008 01:07 AM
Phyllis from Ney York City

I carry a HOODED fleece jacket wherever I go in the summer. The hood is for my head. I have also sometimes carried a scarf - for my vulnerable neck area. I cannot wear skirts or shorts because my legs would be cold, I cannot wear ankle socks because the exposed strip of my leg between my socks and the hem of my pants would be cold. I thought I was anemic and went for a blood test. No I am not. Thank you very much. My problem is that I am a warm-blooded animal.

Who are the i----- in charge of A/C?

Jul. 31 2008 04:20 PM
JR from norwalk, ct

My office is so cold that I use a space heater, plus a sweater- what a waste of energy. Design of Mech system is does not take into account solar heat gain, so half of the office is too hot while the other half is cool. The AC is set for the warmer side. I think that the contrast between hot and cold makes it more difficult for people to deal with the heat...

Jul. 31 2008 12:03 PM
Roy from East Village

I love A/C. If a store, restaurant or movie theater is too hot, I'll walk right out and find one that has a better cooling system.

The problem in offices is that men are forced to wear suits/sportcoats and long-sleeved shirts/ties, while the women I have worked with wear tank tops, shorts and sleeveless dresses with sandals. Let's face it, office dress codes in summer favor women, but the downside is that they complain about the a/c. Just wear a jacket!

Jul. 31 2008 12:01 PM
cpp from New York NY

It's so cold at the CUMC library, that I felt nauseated and had to leave. Complaints haven't helped.

Jul. 31 2008 11:56 AM
Leshka from UES

#49 - I have allergies, and I'm usually miserable underneath my vent. I attribute it more to whatever patrticulates are falling in my vicinity.

I asked a maintenence guy at my company why the A/C is too cold on our floor, and he said that the A/C is set for the entire building. Some places are too hot, some are too cold, a few are just right. And sitting in the middle of the floor with no windows just makes it worse.

Jul. 31 2008 11:47 AM
lillym from NJ

Long time ago I wrote a short story "How A/C killed the summer dress". I wear summer clothing in my office during the winter and turtlenecks in summer. In my native country we survived for a long time with shutters closed and fans on, and it felt great to go out in a tiny dress and sandals without carrying a huge bag with a sweater (and sometimes socks for movie theathers), like I do here. Why are the shutters on private homes just decorative in US? You would be amazed to see what a difference they make. Let's open the windows on office buildings and get rid off the multi-year-stale-air!

Jul. 31 2008 11:46 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

AC is better for some allergies, certain germs and bacteria cannot live in the cold air. However, you may die from pneumonia still!

Jul. 31 2008 11:44 AM
Lori from brooklyn

Dress warmer if you get cold! For those of us who feel sick and brain-fog from stuffy heat, it's really horrible not to have AC! And it's worse for middle aged women ! Menopause makes you feel 10 degrees hotter! I think younger women need to learn to dress warmer -- wear stockings, & shoes not bare legs & sandles at work!

Jul. 31 2008 11:41 AM

When you're too hot, there's a limit to how much you can take off. When you're cold, you can add a layer. This is year round. Many places are overheated in the winter.

Jul. 31 2008 11:39 AM
ab from nyc


The AC seems to actually help my allergies I've noticed...maybe it's because it allows for some air flow where otherwise the air is stagnant and whatever I'm allergic to I guess just "sits" there...that's my theory anyway

Jul. 31 2008 11:38 AM
johnjohn from New York

Why don't buildings in America use ceiling fans that would help cut down on the Air-coditioning needs? All the hot places I have travelled use this technique.

Jul. 31 2008 11:37 AM
Robert from NYC

I wrote previously (#2) that I love it and I do but I didn't mean when it is freezing and even I shiver. I just don't understand why it is either too high or too low. There must be some way to find the happy medium. But to have NO AC is just not an option in this heat and humidity there has to be some kind of midway point to remove the humidity and get some cool relief.

Jul. 31 2008 11:37 AM

I was in a restaurant where it was the AC was on high. I asked probably around 3 times to have it turned down. I finally went the manager and asked, and it was finally turned down. However, they turned it back on to freezing about 1/2 hour later. I ate my meal as quickly as possible and left. Don't think I'll being going back there.

Jul. 31 2008 11:36 AM
Stephen from Brooklyn

How does the A/C temperature affect people with allergies?

Jul. 31 2008 11:35 AM
Franzo from Brooklyn, NY

I believe the overuse of air conditioning is the reason why many native New Yorkers don't wear shorts.

Jul. 31 2008 11:34 AM
Steve from DC

I ride my bicycle to/from work, and open the window and turn on a fan when I get there. Unless it gets up in the nineties, or really humid, I am usually comfortable. It is often warmer in my office than out in the hallway in my building (frog in a pot of boiling water?). Co-workers who come over to my office, and comment on how warm/cold it is in my office (I pretty much do the same in the winter, unless it gets down in the twenties). With the office somewhat close to the outside temp, the ride home in the evening does not seem so hot. I guess in spite of the office job, I am just used to being outside. Probably wouldn't work for most folks...

Jul. 31 2008 11:34 AM
HarlemLady from Harlem New York

No air - we wait all winter to warm up and then we turn up the air so we're back to winter temps. I have asked and they have turned it down but it usually is turned right back up. the buses have 2 settings on/off what a waste

Jul. 31 2008 11:34 AM
Ahmad Raza

I think it's scientifically proven that optimal operating temperature for humans is about 70 degrees. That's why I don't understand when companies and facilities turn the AC on high. Especially since most facilities and companies have climate control AC, please save electricity and set it to 70. I promise there'll be no more complaints.

Jul. 31 2008 11:33 AM
tara from Brooklyn

I think this is a gender thing. All the women in the office bundle up and the men are stripped down .

Jul. 31 2008 11:33 AM

And then there's the confusion about whether turning "down" the AC means turning down the strength, or turning down the temperature.

Jul. 31 2008 11:33 AM
Erin from Manhattan

If you think stores waste energy by leaving doors open here, go to the southwest where restaurants spew cold AC like water sprinklers on their outdoor patios all day so their customers can sit outside. Seriously, you can see the vapor in the air!

Jul. 31 2008 11:33 AM
jeff from Manhattan

In Japan they're not as ga-ga over A/C. Subway cars are marked for strong or light a/c, stores have mild A/C (takes longer to stop sweating from outside, but less shock when going back outside)

Jul. 31 2008 11:33 AM
ac from harlem

for the last caller, it's called an articulated bus

Jul. 31 2008 11:32 AM
ab from nyc

The AC is the only thing that makes NYC summers tolerable
Bring a sweater, put it on
I hate when the "I'm so cold" folks spoil it for the majority
I'd rather be a little chilly than be drenched in sweat

Jul. 31 2008 11:32 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

We open windows and wear sweaters at work. Its been so bad that staff has added scarves and gloves. Last year some of the staff took pictures of themselves in coats and hats and sent out an email for a "blanket drive". There has to be a middle ground here. We don't want to work in heat, but when staff goes down the sinus infections in mass...that should tell you something.

Jul. 31 2008 11:30 AM
Ken from Soho

The air conditioning is NOT set too high! You'll never please all of the people temperature-wise. Some people may have to put sweaters on; if they turn the AC down, what are the rest of us supposed to do - strip???

Jul. 31 2008 11:30 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

OH yes and it's the MEN!!

Jul. 31 2008 11:30 AM

According to the building engineers in my old office building in midtown manhattan, the winter environmental control system was extremely inefficient. The building controls the heat and pumps it up very high during the winter while at the same time, the individual tenants control the A/C and keep it on during the winter to counteract the building's heating system to maintain room temperature. Talk about an unnecessary waste of energy

Jul. 31 2008 11:29 AM

I used to waitress at the TGIFridays in Times Square. I got at least 2 or 3 complaints about the air conditioning per shift. When I first started waitressing, they actually told me that I should respond to complaints by going away for a couple minutes and then coming back and telling the table that I had talked to the manager about it and he turned the air conditioning down!

So if you complain to an hourly worker, you're barking up the wrong tree! Ask to speak to the manager directly.

Jul. 31 2008 11:29 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

Oh, God, I'm sitting in my office wearing a pashmina scarf, and my feet in a feet warmer!
It is a constant nightmare. The problem is that all the guys sitting around me are very happy with very cold temperatures. I have the same problem with my husband at home. we just got back from Canada, and what a joy it was in terms of temperature control! We can save so much money just by making it a bit warmer on the subway, buses, and the offices!

Jul. 31 2008 11:29 AM
Andrea Sandvig from NYC

I have been told that the cold blast from open doors of stores is a barrier to hot air getting in. Can anyone in the industry confirm? I used to think it was a come on to get me into stores until a show a few years ago on NPR . Someone called in with the above explanation.

My office is blessedly a comfortable temp.

Jul. 31 2008 11:29 AM
lex from Bergenfield, nj

This past summer, i've found that i've been comfortable to warm in stores, movie theatres, and broadway theatres. I think places really are turning down the AC to save $$. I kinda miss the coolness, but have not had to bring a sweater anywhere.

Jul. 31 2008 11:29 AM
CED from Tampa, FL

Why can't we agree on the terminology for adjusting the a/c?

Does "Turn it down" mean to lower the temperature? Or reduce the fan speed? If you wanted it warmer, would that mean turning up the air? or Turning down the air and up the heat?

I'm in Tampa, FL and generally speaking, we never turn the a/c warmer. But on the rare occasion that I'm cold, I ask for the air to be turned up.

Jul. 31 2008 11:28 AM
Bianca from Florida

I keep a heater under my desk because it's so cold in this building, and I'm not the only one. Several people with their own office have a space heater on regularly.

As for businesses, I've never been inside a warm Waffle House.

Jul. 31 2008 11:28 AM

It drives me CRAZY. Thank you for bringing this up.

Not only do I wear a sweater/jacket in my office (where we take up three floors in a major Midtown building), but I need a space heater as well. My co-worker has the right idea - she brings her winter coat and puffy snow boots.

Jul. 31 2008 11:28 AM
sarah from Williamsburg

It's the MEN!!

So many time I've been in offices where all the women are dresses appropriately for the summer months and the men are wearing full suits, they refuse to take off their jackets and instead just crank the air conditioning. One office I worked in was in the low 60's ALL SUMMER....SO ANNOYING!

Jul. 31 2008 11:28 AM
CK from NYC

Yeah, it's ridiculous! We turned off the A/C yesterday and I'm getting ready to today. I'm always cold so I put up with it more than others. I always have a jacket of some sort on hand.

And yes, when I was in FL, it was above stupid how cold it is indoors there.

Jul. 31 2008 11:27 AM
Eric from midtown

Its almost like people havent heard about the energy crisis we are facing. When I walk through midtown I'll close doors that are blasting AC onto the sidewalk. If anyone says anything, I point out that this is the reason that Queens winds up in a blackout every summer.

Jul. 31 2008 11:27 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

I have my space heater on now and everyday at work.

Jul. 31 2008 11:27 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

and deter bacteria.

Jul. 31 2008 11:27 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

It is to kill germs!!

Jul. 31 2008 11:27 AM
Naseem from Brooklyn

Why? Because men set the thermostats, and they are always warmer than women. Thus, women freeze indoors.

Jul. 31 2008 11:26 AM

Yes we have complained and no one has done anything!

Jul. 31 2008 11:26 AM
Sarah from Manhattan

I have been carrying a sweater with me in the summer time since Ronald Reagan was elected president. Jimmy Carter said 78 degrees inside during the summer. Remember, this is not the first energy crisis. I grew up in the South, lived in Boston, and now New York. Always freezing in the summer.

I recently wrote to the MTA about the NYC buses, which are colder than movie theaters. MTA did not even understand my complaint. Their response told me how to report a bus that was broken. In the subway, you need to stand near an end of the car because there are no A/C vents there. I complain to theater managers (movies and live theater) and usually bring a sweater and shawl.

Offices are bad culprits as well. In my memory, the original reason for casual attire a work was the summer heat. Remember, "business casual" began as just a summer thing. If we are dressed for the outside heat, why does it need to be 70 degrees inside?

Restaurants and stores who keep their windows and doors open with the A/C blasting should be shut down.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Thanks for this topic!

Jul. 31 2008 11:25 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

Albert, you're right. Miami is hellish. I had a sore throat for my entire vacation there.

Jul. 31 2008 11:18 AM

My office is freeeezing. All the people who do data entry are surrounded by walls, no windows, like the inside of a box. A nice is twist is that those in higher positions have nice offices with windows and complain because there rooms are too hot. So, nothing will be ever be done about our freezer room.

Jul. 31 2008 11:17 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

If you think its bad here you should visit Miami sometime.

Jul. 31 2008 11:16 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

As someone who LOATHES chilled office environments -- even our fridge is set to something antarctic -- there are challenges in New York's architecture that make over-AC'ing almost inevitable. Especially given the variability of preferences among office workers.

But yes, hate it.

Jul. 31 2008 11:16 AM
Anne from Manhattan

Just got back from Paris and they don't use A/C on the subways. They just keep the windows open. When you're moving along the track, the air coming in the windows cools you off.

Jul. 31 2008 11:10 AM
Leshka from UES

Robert [#2]: Short answer: YES!

Longer answer: it doesn't need to be off or frigid, I would just like it warmer than 68 degrees.

Jul. 31 2008 11:07 AM
J.C. from Minneapolis

Yes! When I lived in Europe where they are stingy with the air conditioning, I realized your body does adjust to the heat (though 95 degrees still seems to be my squeal point). If you need A/C, just set it for 80. You'll survive.

I now can't get over the fact that Americans (well, those who live in the north) complain about the January cold and then when summer comes around, they don't want to sit in the nice weather outside, they insist on sitting inside in the cold. It's summertime. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Jul. 31 2008 11:03 AM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

I >HATE< air-conditioning. There have been times when I have gotten off a freezing bus ride here in New York and have literally started to cry. I freeze at work, on the subways, on the buses, in restaurants, in movie-theaters. As far as I'm concerned, you New Yorkers are a bunch of mutants. Being from Philadelphia I have never seen such a love affair with the cold as I have seen here.

Jul. 31 2008 11:01 AM
MMN from MidTown

It is my understanding that Japan has instituted a low to no air conditioning policy. It requires a cultural shift which they, apparently, are willing to do. No one said it was easy.

We have lost our ability to cope, to the degree (no pun intended) that we expect to be warm when it's cold outside and cold when it's warm outside. Why can't we be warm when it's warm and cold when it's cold?

Things are changing folks - learn to adjust.

And I'm writing this wrapped in a shawl, shivering from the over air conditioned office I must work in. I hate this. Give me half the amount of cool air and a fan to keep things moving and I would be fine. I freeze every summer.

Jul. 31 2008 10:58 AM
hjs from 11211

i won't buy from a store which air conditioning the world, by leaving their doors open.

Jul. 31 2008 10:52 AM
antonia from midtown NYC

This Frigid office environment spoils me, as a result my electricity bill is $400.00 because I'm trying to recreate that wonderful Central airconditioning environment!

Jul. 31 2008 10:47 AM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

It's like driving a super stretch doublewide escalade when gas is $4/gal, completely eco-reckless.

Jul. 31 2008 10:42 AM
Robert from NYC

I LOVE IT. Even if I'm too cold think of the what it would be like otherwise. Would you rather sit in a stuffy, hot office all day sweating and so uncomfortable that you can't concentrate and possibly pass out if totally ovewhelmed? Yes, the AC ought to be regulated better but if it can't be don't turn it off, it's not healthy and you will regret it. So put on the sweater and so what!

Jul. 31 2008 10:41 AM
Leshka from UES

There's something wrong when my whole company wears sweaters inside in the middle of summer.

Businesses (and the MTA) complain that they're losing money, but one of the easiest ways to save a bit is to turn down the A/C! It's good for the environment, it's good for your pocket, what's so difficult about this choice?

Jul. 31 2008 10:32 AM

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