Winter thermal comfort and health in the elderly

Caroline Hughes, Sukumar Natarajan, Chunde Liu, Woong Chung, Manuel Herrera

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There is said to be a strong relationship between low winter fuel consumption and in- creased cold-related morbidities and mortalities in the elderly. However, no study has so far investigated baseline domestic thermal conditions, energy and health in this de- mographic - a crucial gap given an ageing population. Hence we examine, for the first time, the validity of current thermal comfort standards and World Health Organisation minimum temperature thresholds in the 65+ demographic, through a longitudinal study of thermal conditions in homes of the elderly. We cover two typical winters using repeated monthly surveys and continuous temperature monitoring in living and bed rooms. Results demonstrate that the widely used ISO7730 model significantly underpredicts comfort in this demographic. We use our data to create a new model for the elderly, with a 40% lower error rate. Using calibrated computer models, we demonstrate that our model predicts a 44% reduction in winter heating demand, compared to the current model. Finally, our data provides little evidence for an association between low indoor temperature and healthcare visits for a variety of morbidities. These results question current assumptions around thermal comfort and health in the elderly, with potential implications for health and energy policy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110954
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy Policy
Early online date4 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2019


  • Ageing population
  • Health
  • Temperature standards
  • Thermal comfort
  • Winter heating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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