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What is Ambient Temperature?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Ambient temperature is a term which refers to the temperature in a room, or the temperature which surrounds an object under discussion. Ambient temperatures play a major role in personal comfort, as well as the function of many types of machines and equipment, and various methods can be used to control ambient temperature. Usually, control methods are designed to keep the temperature stable, as temperature fluctuations can cause discomfort.

In the sense of a temperature of a room, ambient temperature is influenced by a number of factors, including the weather outside, the quality of the insulation in the room, what or who is inside the room, and the use of heating and cooling systems. For example, a room with a lot of computers will be warm, because of the heat generated by the computers, and a room full of humans or other mammals will also have a warm ambient temperature as a result of body heat. Ambient temperature can also be affected by humidity, with humid conditions feeling warmer to most people.

In many settings, people aim to achieve “room temperature,” a fairly neutral range of temperatures at which most people feel comfortable. Depending on where in the world one is, normal room temperatures can vary from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 25 degrees Celsius). Homes and businesses are often kept at room temperature, and in climate controlled storage facilities, warehouses, and similar structures, the climate control system may also maintain the ambient temperature within this range to ensure comfort and prevent objects in storage from becoming damaged.

In facilities where maintaining a stable ambient temperature is important, temperature sensors may be used to allow people to keep track of temperatures, ensuring that they do not stray beyond the desired range. These sensors can also be linked to alarms which send alerts when temperatures fluctuate. Security alarms can also utilize ambient temperature in their operations, looking for variations in the ambient temperature which indicate the presence of a person where one is not supposed to be.

People can also refer to “ambient temperature” when discussing the temperature of the air which surrounds a specific object. The temperature in a room and the temperature around objects in that room can vary significantly, making this distinction important for temperature-sensitive objects. In these cases, additional heating or cooling measures may be needed to protect a particular object from damage as a result of temperature extremes.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon353022 — On Oct 27, 2013

@Leiani: Ambient is the surrounding temperature, it's not an average or an idea. The ambient temperature of a given space could be 30 degrees or 200 degrees. To say, "Humans function so much better when the temperature is ambient" could mislead some people. You could have said, "... when the temperature is comfortable" or something like that.

By Glasshouse — On Jun 22, 2010

Structures can use the earth’s ambient temperature to maintain comfortable indoor air temperatures. Air can also act as insulation to maintain a higher ambient temperature.

Geothermal HVAC systems use the constant temperature of the earth, and sometimes water, to heat and cool the air in homes. Geothermal HVAC systems pump air through pipes in the ground or underwater to cool or heat it.

Using air as insulation can raise or lower ambient temperature. For example, hanging a sheet of clear plastic between a campfire and lean-too can provide a cozy sleeping arrangement, even when temperatures are below freezing. In home building, an air gap between the concrete slab and the ground help to cool a home during the day and heat the house at night.

By parmnparsley — On Jun 22, 2010

@ Leilani- I agree that a combination of hot temperatures and humidity can makes for a lazy afternoon. People can adjust to different climates, although I doubt I could ever adjust to the hot and humid south. One person’s perception of a comfortable ambient temperature can differ from that of another.

I am not sure what the physiological causes of climate adjustment are, but I think it has something to do with the release of certain hormones from brown adipose fat in the body.

I moved from a cold, humid climate in the Northeast to the desert climate of the Southwest. I thought I would die of heat stroke when I first arrived, but after two years 109 degree heat rarely bothers me. I notice that I find 75 degrees to be a comfortable ambient temperature, whereas before 75 degrees would have been considered warm.

By leilani — On Feb 22, 2010

Humans can function so much better when the temperature is ambient. It is difficult to work for instance when the temperatures are too high. Now if you add humidity to that the most you can do is sit, sip a cool drink and hope for a cool breeze.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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