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7 Ways to Fix Office Temperature Fluctuations Once and For All

Last Updated on 

Last Updated on June 25, 2015


May can be an unpredictable month: one day it’s 80 degrees and the next day (sometimes even the next hour!) it’s 50 degrees. It’s a challenge to dress appropriately for the weather. What’s worse, the temperature can be just as unpredictable in your office.

It’s a tough time of year for your HVAC system as well. When outdoor temperatures change so drastically throughout the day, keeping up with the changing conditions and keeping your building comfortable may be more than your air conditioning system can handle, especially if it hasn’t been regularly maintained. Then you end up with the office temperature fluctuations that put everybody in a bad mood.

Consequences of office temperature fluctuations

As unpleasant as it is do deal with those cubicle wars and bad tempers when workers are uncomfortable, the consequences of office temperature fluctuations can be much more costly.

Decline in worker productivity.

According to the International Facility Management Association, complaints about office temperature fluctuations are the #1 grievance expressed by office workers. When people are uncomfortable, they are distracted from their duties, leading to increased mistakes and declines in productivity.

A Men’s Health article, citing the results of a Northumbria University study, reports that office temperatures below 68 degrees increase employee errors by 44 percent. In addition, the body’s temperature naturally drops in the afternoon, and when that dip is heightened by low office temps, it leads to sleepiness and a lack of focus that can interrupt workflow.

Poor air quality leading to illness outbreaks.

Since office temperature fluctuations are so noticeable, you may not realize that the problem is frequently accompanied by humidity issues. When the air in your office is too humid, it can lead to dangerous mold growth and the spread of airborne contaminants like bacteria, viruses and other nasty microorganisms that cause illness.

Combine that with the high levels of pollen, dust and allergens in the air this time of year, and before you know it half the office will be out sick.

Related Article: HVAC System Maintenance: Humidity and Your Poor Indoor Air Quality.

Lost customers and lost revenue.

If your business relies on repeat customers, such as a restaurant or retail establishment, the comfort level of your space can make or break your business. Nobody wants to sit and relax with friends in a sweltering cafe, or try on clothing in an icy boutique. And when those disappointed customers share their experience on social media, your reputation and your profits will suffer.

The work-around makes the problem worse

When your employees have had it up to here with office temperature fluctuations that are not being addressed, eventually they will take matters into their own hands. Some of those DIY approaches include portable heaters and personal fans, blocking the air conditioning registers, and even rearranging the furniture.

Unfortunately, these measures may help one person’s comfort, but they compound the problem by creating air flow changes that can impede the air conditioning system. Personal heaters are also a fire hazard, and can cause small power outages requiring maintenance staff to continually reset breakers.

Related Article: Crippling Air Conditioning Problems Caused by Poor Air Flow.

7 ways to fix office temperature fluctuations once and for all

1. Check your building automation system.

A simple review of the system controls may reveal adjustments that will help your equipment run more efficiently, preventing those hot and cold spots.

2. Block the sun.

The hot afternoon sun can undo all your air conditioner’s hard work in west-facing offices. Install blinds or window film that block some of that heat.

3. Check ducts and vents.

Office temperature fluctuations are frequently caused by air flow issues that arise when your ventilation system is impeded. You may have cracks or holes in the ducts as a result of a faulty installation, or even the presence of rodents. An accumulation of dust and debris in the ducts can also be the culprit. Have them inspected by an HVAC professional.

4. Update your lighting.

Some types of lighting can generate a surprising amount of heat, which can throw off the thermostat readings and cause office temperature fluctuations. Update your lighting to cooler options, such as LED lighting. Also, make sure any thermostats are not located close to lights or windows.

5. Add more zones and more controls.

Sometimes the problem can be caused by not enough zones to control the temperature in areas with different heating requirements. For example, the perimeter of a large floor near the windows will need more cooling than the interior.

6. Update your HVAC system to accommodate office changes.

Have you changed the office layout without updating the ventilation? Or changed the usage of the space? If so, have an HVAC expert evaluate your system to see if ducts need to be relocated or additional air handlers added.

7. Don’t forget AC maintenance.

One of the most common causes of office temperature fluctuations is neglected HVAC maintenance. Having your system periodically inspected and tuned up makes it run more efficiently and provide more consistent comfort. BONUS: Regular AC maintenance also saves you money on your energy bills.

Related Article: 8 Ways AC Preventive Maintenance Keeps the Repairman Away.

If office temperature fluctuations are causing you to get hot under the collar, grab a copy of our free guide for more details: Improving an Imperfect World: Mitigating Office Temperature Extremes.
Find out how to win the battle for optimal office temperature