Scientific studies have revealed how room temperature can affect our learning potential. Research shows that studying in a room that is either too hot or too cold can reduce our ability to soak up information.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggested the temperature set for the air conditioning or central heating system in the classroom could affect student performance. Consequently, experiments were conducted that included studying pupils in various climate-controlled environments.

The study concluded students in both the warmer and cooler rooms had poor test results, compared with the students in a controlled room where the temperature was maintained at around 21°C.

Why is room temperature important?

A separate study carried out at Cornell University came up with the same results, concluding the optimum temperature for studying was between 21°C and 25°C.
Scientists attempted to explain why the room’s temperature played such an important role, suggesting that maybe discomfort in the indoor environment affected people’s memory and learning capabilities, as the brain became increasingly focused on maintaining the body’s temperature. This detracts from our concentration.
In addition, a warm room can make the occupants feel tired and sleepy. While a cold room will keep you awake, your body is having to use its energy to keep warm, thus reducing the ability to concentrate.
We all have different preferences when it comes to room temperature, with some people liking it warmer than others. However, for optimum productivity, it’s important not to have a temperature going to either extreme.

What is thermal comfort?

The phrase used to describe this phenomenon is “thermal comfort”, referring to a person’s state of mind and whether they feel too cold, or too hot.
The Health and Safety Executive emphasises the number of different things that can influence thermal comfort, taking into account other environmental factors such as humidity, combined with personal factors such as a person’s clothing, or their activity level. This applies to people of all ages and genders and no one group is particularly affected. The main part of the equation is the room temperature, says the HSE.
The health and safety watchdog says managing thermal comfort can improve productivity and morale. People working in uncomfortably cold or hot environments are more likely to underperform and make poor decisions. Scientific research going back to the 1950s supports this theory, as a number of studies have found uncomfortable temperatures have a negative effect on student achievements.
Kansas State University’s studies in the 1960s put students in different rooms, with temperatures ranging from 16°C to 33°C. The students worked fastest at a temperature of 20°C. This study, together with further research throughout the late 20th century, concluded any temperature higher than 26°C started to slow people down.
All studies, from the 1950s to the present day, have reinforced the results that high and low classroom temperatures can affect our ability to learn and function. This is why many educational establishments today choose to have a chiller installed to heat and cool the building – keeping the temperature at a stable and comfortable level.

How does a chiller work?

A chiller consists of four basic components, comprising the evaporator, compressor, condenser and expansion unit. The chiller system contains a refrigerant and the process begins when the low-pressure refrigerant enters the evaporator. The refrigerant heats up inside the evaporator and changes into a gas.
In gas form, the refrigerant enters the compressor, which increases its pressure. The high-pressure refrigerant then passes into the condenser. This uses cooling water from the surroundings, or from a cooling tower to condense the heated gas into a high-pressure liquid.
The refrigerant passes into the expansion unit, where there is a valve that limits the flow of refrigerant in the system. As a result, the pressure of the refrigerant is lowered and it starts the cooling process again. This whole process is called the “refrigeration cycle”.

Case studies

Klima-Therm has implemented a hybrid chiller solution at Kingston College in London to keep a steady internal temperature. This was the first UK installation of Klima-Therm’s Rhoss EXP hybrid cooling and heating technology. The work was completed at the college’s new Creative Industries Centre – a state-of-the-art three-storey facility that provides excellent energy efficiency.
We have also installed a hybrid chiller at Northbrook College’s West Durington campus, using a new type of hybrid heat pump chiller to supply highly efficient, low carbon cooling and heating for their refurbishment project.
While most people are unable to attend learning establishments at the moment, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, this could be a good time to look into enhancing the environment of schools, colleges and universities, in readiness for when the pandemic abates and students begin returning to the classroom.
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