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Who controls the HVAC at work?

Displaying poll results.
Don't know/don't care, everyone's comfortable
  2261 votes / 15%
Immutable powers, who keep it too cold
  1522 votes / 10%
Immutable powers, who keep it too warm
  1422 votes / 9%
Laws of physics and bad engineering
  4415 votes / 30%
Everyone with open access to the thermostat
  2396 votes / 16%
Middle management, to no one's satisfaction
  998 votes / 6%
It's always cool, here in the basement
  1524 votes / 10%
14538 total votes.
[ Voting Booth | Other Polls | Back Home ]
  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Who controls the HVAC at work?

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  • Nature (Score:5, Funny)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:47AM (#46990137)

    I work outdoors you insensitive clod.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rgmoore (133276)

      I think that would classify as "immutable powers" or possibly "laws of physics and bad engineering".

    • by xaxa (988988)

      I work outdoors you insensitive clod.

      I work in England, so our "HVAC" is more accurately called "the window". The person who sits nearest controls it, we generally have consensus on how much it should be opened.

      During winter we have heating. I think it's "on" or "off", it's rarely a problem.

      (Current outside temperature: 18C.)

      • by Alioth (221270)

        I live in the Isle of Man. Our office shouldn't need air conditioning - even in high summer the temperature outside rarely exceeds 20C - but the building design is terrible. There are these vents in the ceiling but al they do is recirculate air from the vent 8 feet away. It gets to about 28C in the summer and the air is stagnant and moist. The best I can do is open a window that opens into another part of the building that happens to be a little bit cooler.

        It could have been worse - for a while our departme

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Outdoors? I've heard of such place, from my mother, who goes out every day to hunt food in the savage wilds and brings it to the basement door where I collect it from.

  • Right now, Sol has more influence on my AC than anything. We can turn on the air full blast, but that doesn't get the temperature to where it's supposed to be. It's a big hassle when the set temperature is needed for temperature sensitive equipment rather than human comfort.

    • by bughunter (10093)

      I have the opposite problem. I work in a building that has won awards for its energy efficiency - I guess all it takes to get an award is a roof painted white and some Solatubes [], because some idiot put the thermostat on a wall that gets full sun from 1pm-sunset. This ironic arrangement makes the whole room an icebox... a 100x300 foot electronics manufacturing area with 30 foot ceilings.

      Plus, I sit in a cubicle walled off from the rest of the production floor. The AC blows against the wall above me and th

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:06PM (#46990347)

    They spent a bunch of money to "fix" the HVAC in our office. It was so cold I would wear two shirts to work and sometimes a jacket (i sit right below the vent), and fingerless gloves while typing just so my hands wouldn't go numb.

    So what did our overly-controlling, micro-managing asshat of a business manager do? she had the thermometer for the new system installed in the heart of the office (hers), along with the control, so no one can ever get at it except her. I wear smartwool and a base layer to work now, as well as a dress shirt, plus a jacket sometimes. In southern california summer.

    The girl down the hall even has a space heater now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by war4peace (1628283)

      My pet peeve is a different one (and sorry for using Celsius, we Europeans are weird).
      HVAC works well, if left alone. But where I work people fiddle with it all the time. The general problem I have seen is that people set the air conditioning too low during summer and too high during winter.

      I consider 24 degrees (76F) to be the standard indoors temperature. My home AC is forever set at this temperature, be it winter or summer. However, I am seeing people insisting on setting the AC to as low as 18C (65F) du

      • Too many people misunderstand what a thermostat is for or how it works. Most treat it like the AC controls in their car.

        • by Russ1642 (1087959)

          I worked with someone who had zero clue about this kind of thing. She had her window open and claimed that cold air would run down into the furnace vent, back to the furnace, and then it would detect the cold air and turn on. She used to be a paramedic. Scary.

        • Many people I know basically think of heat/AC as on or off - they turn it up to 85 because that means "heat on". Then they would turn it down the 65 to turn "off" the heat...

          • Actually, that's what the thermostat in the last apartment I lived in was like. You couldn't turn it up or down a couple degrees to make either the AC or heat come on or go off. You had to move the lever at least half way up or down its path to get its attention.

            Maybe it was just old and worn out. But that's what we had to use.

      • When people come inside from a 35C day, they want to cool off as quickly as possible, so cold air, high fan speed. When they come in from a wet, dreary 12C day (I'm assuming a Med climate, like my own city (southern Oz), no "real" winters) they want to warm up quickly, as if standing by a roaring fire. On top of all that, you have the psychological "chill" of seeing it grey and cold and windy outside.

        Then throw in that most HVACs are garbage, with no zoning, so you inevitably have the offices on the... err,

        • In my office there are two zones, but the thermostats are right next to each other. So that half the office is freezing and the other half is a sauna. Have to set the hot side a few degrees lower to get any kind of comfort.

      • by kyrsjo (2420192)

        Actually, to me it always made more sense that the indoors temperature should to a certain degree follow the outdoor temp - during the winter I have more clothes on, so I preffer a bit colder. During the summer I work in a t-shirt and shorts, so make it warmer please!

        In the end, we end up only running the AC a few months in the middle of the summer + running the heat (waterborne radiator under the desk, perfect to rest my feet on when they're cold :) ) through the winter. We do have AC in this corridor (top

      • That's because people think that if you set the thermostat to either extreme, it will magically cool or heat faster. It doesn't. It cools/heats until the desired temperature is reached; that's it! The time it takes to reach said temperature is based on the delta T. If you want to improve the time it takes, you have to physically reengineer the HVAC system with new equipment (compressor, heater, blower, etc).

        • by msauve (701917)
          There are 2 stage systems where a greater differential will cause faster heating/cooling.
        • I work in a small office (8 employees) and the thermostat is actually in my office so I have full control! Of course people keep coming in to try and fiddle with it, but as soon as they leave I just reset it back t what it was. I just don't understand, we leave it at 23-24 in the winter and 25-27 in the summer. THe problem is that the building and HVAC system is extremely old so the offices at the end of the run are never at good temperatures. in the winter they way to cold and summer way to hot. IN the wi

      • by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @08:34AM (#46998075) Journal

        It's not illogical when you consider that a big portion of what you experience with regards to a temperatures bearability is based on humidity. In a very dry climate, 40C won't feel bad. In a very humid climate, you can start sweating at 16C.

        What you're observing is compensation for the amount of humidity in the air. People turn up the AC in summer because it tends to be more humid, and up the heat in winter because it tends to be much drier.

        You can observe this first hand if you go to a good spa, the finnish sauna (which is bone dry) will be set to 120C, while the steam room (which is very wet) will be set at 40C. They'll both feel hot but the finnish sauna won't feel 3x as hot as the steam room. That's because a bone dry sauna of 40C won't feel warm, while a steam room of 120C would cook you like a lobster.

        • by hankwang (413283)

          "a big portion of what you experience with regards to a temperatures bearability is based on humidity. In a very dry climate, 40C won't feel bad. In a very humid climate, you can start sweating at 16C."

          In addition to that, the temperature is only sampled at one point. There can be quite a difference between temperature of supply and exhaust. I think a normal office should be ventilated at 100 m3/h

          A human, with computer and lighting (250 W) can generate 8 C temperature increase. If you're unlucky with the ai

        • by Alioth (221270)

          40C in a dry climate feels terrible to me. In fact dry climates I find pretty awful. I end up with horribly chapped lips (someone once told me that this is because you're not drinking enough water, well, I was drinking so much water that I had to go to the toilet every 15 minutes and the urine was colourless).

          When I was living in Houston (which is hot and humid in the summer) I visited some friends in Utah, and after 3 days I had had enough of the bone dry climate. It felt so great to walk out the airport i

      • I keep the heat set at 20c(68f) and the air conditioning at 21c(70f) except for in the spring and fall when it's about 17-20c outside then I turn it off and open the windows.

        At work I've had times when things worked great and other times {like after a terrible storm took out a unit} when I couldn't keep the MDF cool. (I could have made a pizza in the server rack)

      • Seems backward to me. I set it to 70F in the summer and we let it drop to 64F in the winter. It's a balance of comfort and costs, I'd prefer it just below 70F year round but already at 70F in Texas we have quite the bill.

    • by ichthus (72442)
      Drill a small hole on the other side of the wall -- opposite the thermostat. Get a can of Freez-it [], and periodically spray some through the hole to cool the thermometer. (An upside-down can of canned air will also work, and you might even be able to get the company to pay for it.)
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Alternatively, politely ask maintenance to cover the vent for you (or do it yourself when no one is around).

        • by TWX (665546)
          That's SOP around here. Loftgreens even sells the necessary kits that go up above the grate to make the throttling less obvious too.

          The downside is that if too many people throttle theirs, then some poor schmuck is stuck receiving all of the surplus, or the performance of the machine suffers elsewhere. The best choice is to install multiple sensors that report to the controller, and to lightly calibrate dampening over a few weeks based on reports from the sensors, but that requires time, effort, and mo
      • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @08:11AM (#46997947)
        The thermostat is an on/off switch for your heating and cooling demands.

        Most air conditioning control systems are 24 volt, color-coded 24 to 28 gauge wiring bundles. The red wire (r terminal) typically brings 24v to the thermostat. When the thermostat closes the switch on a call for cooling the (typically) yellow wire is energized at the y terminal inside the thermostat, and when the t-stat closes on a call for heating the (typically) white wire is energized at the w terminal.

        Any nerd competent enough to take the front off the thermostat to look at the wiring color scheme at the terminals can easily install a remote switch above a drop ceiling in an office to override "no call" from the t-stat or to break the 24v to the control.

        Cautionary tale: never energize your auxiliary control in heat if the primary t-stat is in cooling mode, or vice-versa, as this will allow the magic smoke in the blower motor to escape. Most systems run on two different airflow speeds for heating and cooling.

        • Releasing the magic smoke into a system meant to spread air through buildings is probably an especially bad idea...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Mid 1980s I worked for a University, at one of the labs, and they installed non-resettable thermostats - they used little plug-in modules set for a certain temperature, and put them inside a tamper-resistant enclosure, because they just knew we would not leave things as they were. Of course, it was always too hot in summer, and too cold in winter. No problem. In the summer, when it was too hot in the office, we just aimed a small heater at it, until the temperature in the office was to our satisfaction. In

      • I read a post in a magazine a couple decades ago with a similar fix for a thermostat locked in a clear vented box, inside someone's apartment.The heat wasn't warm enough in the winter, and they were freezing, so they taped a bag of ice cubes over the thermostat's box. Worked like a charm.

  • There is nothing worse than an open thermostat in a small office. We have people here setting the cool setting to 76 and heat settings to 80. When I tell them that it's completely unreasonable, let's at least shoot for 74 degrees I have to endure hate crimes for being dressed in something other than the thinnest material above and below the waistline.
  • by Tim the Gecko (745081) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:11PM (#46990405)
    A few summers ago I was in the cube where the air conditioning sent in the cold air. Unfortunately the cube with the temperature sensor was occupied by a guy with a space heater. As the aircon pumped in more and more cold air I ended up taking warmth breaks standing outside in the summer sun. Finally, after a long negotiation between my neighbor and the HVAC guy, sanity was restored.
  • The silicon likes it cool, so it is cool.
  • At my last job, I had a bunch of vents in my office ceiling. It was like a scene from Brazil. Two were AC. I could control one but not the other. Heat came out of other vents and I had no control over the heat. But I could turn on my AC while the heat was on. Another vent pumped out air all the time that was neither heated nor chilled. Because I had a thermostat on my wall, people assumed I had [ET]Ultimate Power[/ET] over the temperature. Didn't matter how many times I told them, "I can only make i

    • I think I saw an office building like that. One Wall had 10 thermostats, that controlled every section of the building, except the room that contained them. No idea where that was. I'd have to guess it was behind a wall or something after one of the many renovations the old office building had been through over its 70 year history.

  • A Candle (Score:5, Funny)

    by richtopia (924742) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:39PM (#46990713)
    A nice shield prevents people from touching the thermostat in my old office. So a candle was placed directly below the thermostat in the summer to coax on the air conditioning.
    • Then you have a giant smoke streak on the wall. Don't ask how I know. (If you melt one side of the candle, it can stick to the wall, too)
  • Seriously, I can't tell what drunk intern programmed this system.

  • by tduff (904905) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @01:45PM (#46991481)
    until I set the building on fire.
  • Ostensibly, the temperature in my (University staff, large, single-person) office is controlled by the thermostat in the classroom next door. (Problem #1, obviously.) This means that there have been a number of times where someone in that room (no idea whether it was a student or professor; don't really care) has cranked the temperature one way or the other. Usually down.

    However, the aforementioned thermostat is also a bit wonky. I frequently go in there, feeling a little cold, to turn it up, and find that while it's set to about 70, it's reading a temperature of 65 and blowing cold air. Turning it up to 72 will cause it to cheerfully start blowing hot air for a while. (I have also gone in to lower it, and found that while it's set to 72, it's reading 76 or so. Go figure.)

    None of this can hold a candle to what I experienced when a teenager teaching myself programming one summer on a computer in my father's lab at the college he teaches at. One of the several heater units in that room was on, and I asked if we could turn it off. Apparently, not only could we not turn it off, but the HVAC for that building was, at that time, managed by a company in a city an hour's drive away. OK, so, call the company, let them know that the heater is on in 80 degree weather.

    Nope. "Our computer system shows that heater as off." "Well, I'm right next to it, and I can tell you it's on. It's blowing hot air. The one next to it isn't." "No, sir; our system shows it as off, therefore, it is off."

    And that was pretty much the end of it.

    (Fortunately, that section of the building was demolished a decade later, and replaced with one that wasn't a) designed in the '70s, and b) intended to be temporary.)

    Dan Aris.

    • That's just idiotic. I've heard of these remote control companies, but their operator should have been trained in the basic failure modes of HVAC equipment. Most heaters have a failsafe mechanism. If for some reason the heating element shorts to ground (or the burner kicks on) the circulation fan will blow to prevent the thing from catching on fire. Happened at my office one summer. A single phase of the 480V element had shorted, and the vent fan kicked on. None of us could figure figure it out until we cra
      • Where I work, the hvac systems are from about 1955. An air compressor powers the pneumatically controlled system. Some of it has been disconnected or replaced over the years (the boiler is from the 80s or 90s, but I must say this old engineering is amazingly robust and we already have parts failing on our 8 year old building additions.
  • So I checked "everyone with open access". That open access is restricted to me and my wife.

  • We just need to swap our physical location.
  • I work from home, you insensitive clod.

  • In the middle of summer where your shoes melt to the asphalt on the way to the entrance, the inside is frigid. EVERYONE there keeps a coat on their chair, some even wear mittens because its cold enough to cramp/give your fingers arthritis. The theory is that by constantly pumping in arctic air, the building owners can charge for more electricity.
  • The set points for winter and summer seem to be the same. That means in winter when the heat runs it is about 2C over the set point. Then in summer it is about 2C under the set point. Stupid waste of energy.

    Also it means inside it is shorts weather when outside it is gloves and hat. Then inside it is sweater weather when outside it is skin weather.

  • Much of our building is converted warehouse space, so the HVAC is rather patchwork. On any given day, regardless of the season, one part of the building will be too hot, one will be too cold, and one will be just right. You won't know what the conditions will be in your part of the building, however, until you get to the office.
  • HVAC? What HVAC?

  • It's on the wall, for all to see. Inscrutable display, mysterious controls, the works. When the weather changes it tends to lag a day. So the first warm day we cook with the heat on. The first cold day we freeze with the heat off.

    I prefer opening the door out on to the balcony. Fresh air is so much nicer than anything the HVAC can do.

    At home I leave my bedroom window open - even if only a crack - all year.


  • Last place I was at, it was so cold I (and several others) kept a heater under the desk for when we got too cold. This place I'm a little warm.

    So on average, I'm fine!
  • The HVAC systems never seem to be set up correctly, and filter too much air into one room at the expense of others. So parts of the building will always be cold and parts will be hot. We just moved to a completely new building in a completely new office park, and exact same problem.
  • You insensitive clod.

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:32PM (#46995813)

    Our thermostat lives on an intranet page, and keeps a public log of everyone who's fiddled with it. The older buildings have a handful of climate zones per floor, but the newer ones have independent thermostats in every office.

  • It's an open battle (Score:4, Informative)

    by edibobb (113989) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:33PM (#46995817) Homepage
    It's a battle with paperclips through the plastic thermostat shield. Once when the AC was too cold, I won the battle by going outside and flipping the master breaker on the compressor.
  • ...who must be a woman in menopause. It's either Hell or Antarctica, and spends little time in between.
    • by Xaedalus (1192463)
      I noticed there's not too many comments about the formidable powers of women and their ability to completely change, alter, or dictate how thermostats should be set.
  • "Immutable power who seems to agree with me. Everybody else finds it too cold."

  • Some years ago I worked in a very large firm which had corporate temperature policies. Thermostats in our work area had actual key locks on them to prevent us from changing the temperature.

    The fellow in the cube next to me brought in his own thermostat and ran wires to it, and kept it hidden in his desk. For weeks the building maintenance guys kept coming by and resetting the thermostat...

  • The thermostat runs the heater based exclusively on the outside temperature. This is laughably called "weather controlled heating". The basic idea is that the building loses heat to the environment based on the temperature difference. So if you know the outside temperature and the rate of heat loss, you should be able to get a constant temperature inside, no?
    Of course there are big problems with this:
    - The placement of the temperature sensor (yes, just one) is critical. If it's in the shade, it'll miss the

  • I have had an office in three different buildings on campus of my university. The first office was fine. I had a situation in the second building where the noise was in violation of Eurpoean Union standards for noise (I had the level measured with a SPL meter) but a couple of dB too low for OSHA. It was maddening; for months I begged facilities to address the issue. The office suite I was in had been converted from a lecture hall and there was this major HVAC hub above my desk, and it turned out they had th

  • The discussion hasn't touched much on home offices. I have full power, but I also pay the bills. My problem is that I work in the basement and do not have dual zone heat. If I want the basement warm, I have to heat the whole house.

    So, I am kind of in the same boat as office minions but for different reasons. The solution is the same - space heater under the desk.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      There's a poll option for that though.
      • by tedgyz (515156)

        Yes, I chose the basement option. However, it was a bit ambiguous as to whether it was the home office or the subterranean level of a corporate building (think Office Space).

  • The guy with the screwdriver who managed to open his un-openable window.
  • Reasonably large office (80 people a floor), one side gets the morning sun and is usually too hot, the other side seems to be where the thermostat is so they are at room temperature all year round, my side too hot in the summer and in the winter too hot in the morning followed by a bit cool in the afternoon. They do supply desk fans though so it is a fun balance of pushing air at each other depending on who is hot/cold at the moment.

  • Since there is no thermostat on the wall, things can only be adjusted by the HVAC guy or a the one maintenance guy who knows how, getting on a ladder and doing something in the ceiling...

    Whoever is friends with the HVAC guy. Management doesn't care, because their offices are on a different system.
  • ...we have electric radiant heat.

    In the ceiling.

    In Vermont.

    All is well and dandy when the first-floor tenants are open for business, but one of the first-floor shops is a hair salon that isn't open on Mondays...and in the winter, it's noticeably cooler on Mondays.

  • HVAC doesn't need controls. It needs proper measurement. Once it knows the temperature, it just needs to maintain it at 21ÂC. That's comfortable for everyone.
  • My primary peeve is people who get cold and turn the air conditioning off and I start sweating. You can rug up, I can't take my last layer of clothing off (even then, it probably wouldn't be enough)!
  • I do know, but nobody's complaining. I only know because one time, when a guy changed desks, he complained that it was too cold at his new location, and the building maintenance guy came up and tweaked his vent, which fixed the problem, and since then, nobody else has complained.

    Which doesn't really leave me with anything to chose on this poll, but oh well. Par for the course. :)

  • We have a placebostat on the wall. You can spin the dial and watch the little LCD numbers change, but it doesn't seem to have any real effect on the HVAC. If I get too uncomfortable I walk into the server room. There I can get any temperature I want just by picking which rack I stand next to.
  • by keytoe (91531)

    I ended up voting 'Open Access For Everyone', but that's a bit misleading as 'Everyone' is exclusively 'Me'. Or sometimes my wife if she is home sick or on an odd schedule.

    After reading all of these HVAC related horror stories, I'm glad for it too! I'll take arguing with a sick wife once in a while over any of that.

  • by PPH (736903)

    I used to work in an older building at Boeing. Flat roof, no insulation, cinder block walls. It was kept at about 80 to 82F all year round. Summer, I understand. But during the winter? I figured it was due to higher occupancy than allowed for in the original design plus employees now having more heat generating devices in the form of PCs. According to management, the order was given to turn the t'stats up to 80F to save on air conditioning.

    And then the Nisqually earthquake [] hit. When we returned to work (b

  • Yes, in fact I scan the HVAC frequency and hear all the gossip. Overall they do a fairly good job considering number of buildings. Occasionally there are problems with our building (if boiler goes down, requires unique part that takes a few days to receive and then a couple days to install and power up.).

    Years ago I attended a ASHRAE meeting and topic was "Sick Buildings" and mentioned how HVAC systems were installed way back when such that, "what were they thinking?" i.e. intake ducts in parking lots so

  • In the building I work in, the temperature is set to 21 degrees Celsius. There are thermostats all over the place but most are dummy boxes connected to nothing. There have been arguments between a few colleagues as to what temperature one of the fake controls should be set to. I thought it was funnier to see them bicker over it than let them know the controls are useless.
  • I do. I work at home.

  • Often the problem is that the theremostat is not placed anywhere that makes sense.

    One place I used to work, I discovered, through trial and error, that the temperature in one room was controlled by a thermostat in a totally disconnected workspace. Since the people in the workspace always wanted it warmer, the temperature in the disconnected room (which was basically sealed off behind a big thick locked door) would run away to 85 or 90, which would cause the temperature in the refrigerator in that room to go

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long


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