Neutral thermal sensation or dynamic thermal comfort? Numerical and field test analysis of a thermal chair

Shahzad, Sally and Calautit, John Kaiser and Aquino, Angelo I. and Nasir, Diana SNM and Hughes, Ben Richard (2017) Neutral thermal sensation or dynamic thermal comfort? Numerical and field test analysis of a thermal chair. Energy Procedia, 142. pp. 2189-2194. ISSN 1876-6102

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    Neutral thermal sensation is considered as the measure of thermal comfort in research, as when participants report feeling neutral regarding the thermal environment, they are considered as thermally comfortable. This is taken for granted, and although a few researchers have criticised the matter, still researchers use thermal sensation and the neutral point to assess the thermal conditions in their studies. This study questions the application of thermal neutrality and consequently poses a question on the findings of all the studies that only rely on it. Field studies of thermal comfort were applied in an open plan office in the UK in the winter of 2014. Participants were provided with a thermal chair and before and after using the chair, their views of comfort were recorded, including the ASHRAE seven point scale of thermal sensation, thermal preference, comfort, and satisfaction. The thermal environment was measured and compared against the ASHRAE Standard 55-2013. In addition, numerical modelling was also conducted to investigated the airflow and thermal distribution around the proposed thermal chair with a seated occupant. The results indicated that overall, 72% of the respondents, who did not feel neutral (thermal sensation) before or after using the thermal chair reported to feel comfortable and 65% reported to be satisfied. The results indicated that a neutral thermal sensation does not guarantee thermal comfort of the occupants and that thermal comfort is dynamic and other thermal sensations need to be considered. This study recommends the use of multiple methods (e.g. thermal, preference, decision, comfort, and satisfaction) to assess thermal comfort more accurately. Also, it questions the findings of any research that solely relies on thermal sensation and particularly on the neutral thermal sensation to assess thermal comfort of the occupants. The results also emphasised the importance of the application of numerical modelling in evaluating the thermal performance of the chair.