People have been complaining all winter long about the temperature, and several instances of thermostat tampering have compounded the problem. Worse, many people are bringing in personal space heaters and powering them from daisy chains of surge strips and extension cords. Breaker trips are driving everyone batty.

The HR manager told you this whole situation is becoming a real headache and has asked you to do something about it. What are some steps you should take?

The dreaded thermostat wars vex many a maintenance department every winter. Usually the problem is mostly one of perception, and to solve it you must address the drivers of perception.

Before addressing those, look for obvious problems. For example, walk the perimeter of the building at night and look for light leaking through gaps in the building envelope. Then, use a thermal imaging tool to identify less visible leakage points. Typically, a good caulking will solve envelope leaks However, in some cases you may need to:

  1. Do remedial work on a wall.
  2. Replace windows or doors.
  3. Address behavioral issues (e.g., doors being propped open).
The average temperature may be fine, but people feel chilly due to "cold spots" — this is that perception problem. Low airflow resulting from blower motor problems degrades air circulation, causing cold spots. Test at each blower motor for proper operation. Clean blower parts and replace air filters as necessary.

Examine the distribution of heating mediums such as blown air and piped water. Is heat being delivered to where people are located, or do workspaces warm slowly due to mislocated outlets?

If you have an air-based system, check return air ducts to ensure a proper airflow path. Ensure you have closeable ducts at floor level and ceiling level, and adjust them for the season. Otherwise, you return heated air rather than cold.

Makeup air is essential, but vane positions that are correct in moderate temperatures are simply wrong in winter. If you have automated dampers, check the motors and the controls to ensure proper operation.

Look on system drawings for any in-duct electric heaters. Test, and replace as necessary.