Several Important Reasons We Fight Over the Thermostat

“Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” was the title of a best-selling book from 1993. It may explain why men and women in so many households do battle over thermostat settings. In general, women tend to feel cold more than men. That might be expected if they came from Venus, warmer and much closer to the sun than Mars, but here on Earth a different explanation is in order.

A large body of research supports that women are physiologically more prone to getting cold than men. On average, women have a higher percentage of body fat than men and their body fat is more evenly distributed just below the skin than it is for men. When humans get cold the body conserves heat by reducing blood flow to the skin. With women, the blood flow gets trapped under a thicker layer of fat below the skin, which is why women often complain of cold hands and feet. This could help explains why many women want a higher thermostat setting than men.

Keep in mind that I am referring to “average” men and women throughout a population. Some people may not match up with gender stereotypes and the same can be said with human physiology. The women in your home might well be more apt to turn the thermostat down than up, but in most homes they will opt for more heat.

Workplace temperatures also tend to reflect this distinction. If you work in an office building you might notice quite a few females wearing sweaters when the air conditioning is cranked up on a hot summer day. Men working in the same environment are inclined to shed outer wear. Some engineering chauvinism could be to blame for this.

Most building thermostats are based on comfort models geared to men, who comprised a vast majority of the work force until the last few decades. In office buildings many men dress in suits, long-sleeve shirts and ties, while women often wear low-cut blouses or dresses and shoes without socks. It’s not hard to understand why a frigid blast from an air conditioner that feels good to the men might get women’s teeth chattering.

I don’t think there’s any all-encompassing solution to this battle. A well-zoned home will help to some extent by enabling Mom and Dad to enjoy certain temperatures in different rooms where they spend most of their time. Smart thermostats can even sense who’s around and adjust accordingly. Inevitably, however, their paths will cross. So my recommendation is to let the lady of the house have her way. This is based on the simple fact that it is easier and more comfortable for a male to shed clothing around his own home than it is for a woman to add layers.