TECHNOLOGY BASICS: What are Personal Comfort Systems?

Technology Overview
Devices that allow individual building occupants to achieve thermal comfort

Personal comfort systems (PCS) are defined as thermal systems that heat and cool individuals without affecting the environments of surrounding occupants, and that are under the individual’s control. They tend to be devices positioned on, or incorporated into, workstation furniture such as chairs, desktops, or near the feet and legs. Some are readily available (such as small USB-powered desk fans), while some are just entering the market (heated and cooled chairs; efficient footwarmers).

PCS devices enable occupants to achieve comfort over a wider range of room temperatures. They accommodate variations in thermal requirements that occur between individuals and even for one individual based on their metabolism and other factors. The heating and cooling effectiveness of different devices has been quantified in terms of ‘corrective power’ and are now classified in ASHRAE Standard 55-2020 [“Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy”] for use in environmental quality rating schemes. Making such devices available to occupants provides the building a higher environmental quality rating in green and wellness standards, including LEED and WELL.

The simplest personal comfort systems are fans that help keep you cool.  Fans are inexpensive and they can be very energy efficient, especially compared to air conditioning systems. Although ceiling fans are an excellent choice for many buildings, we have not included them in this category because they are not typically under the control of an individual in the same manner as a desk fan.