Achieving Thermal Comfort: Understanding PMV, PPD, WBGT, and Humidex

Thermal comfort plays a crucial role in our daily lives, influencing our productivity, health, and overall well-being. As humans, our thermoregulatory system is adept at modifying our body temperature through involuntary responses such as sweating in high temperatures or shivering in cold conditions. These responses help us stay thermally balanced and avoid local discomfort. However, there are limits to our adaptability, and when these limits are surpassed, the body’s reactions are perceived as uncomfortable.

In the pursuit of optimal thermal comfort, various indices and measurements have been developed to assess the impact of environmental conditions on individuals. This blog post will explore four key indices: Predicted Mean Vote (PMV), Percentage of People Dissatisfied (PPD), Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT), and Humidex. We will also delve into the instrumentation used to measure these indices and understand how they contribute to our comprehension of thermal comfort.

Fanger’s Theory and Climate Chamber Experiments:

The foundation for understanding thermal comfort can be traced back to the pioneering work of Professor P.O. Fanger. Through extensive climate chamber experiments, Fanger’s theory evolved to assert that thermal comfort could be determined by evaluating three key factors: metabolic rate, clothing insulation, and environmental conditions.

  1. Predicted Mean Vote (PMV):
    The PMV index quantifies the mean value of individual votes on a seven-point thermal sensation scale, ranging from cold to hot. It considers factors like air temperature, radiant temperature, air speed, humidity, and clothing insulation. A value close to zero indicates optimal thermal comfort, while positive or negative values suggest discomfort. Instrumentation: Measurements for PMV involve specialized instruments such as globe thermometers, anemometers for air speed, and devices for assessing radiant temperature.
  2. Percentage of People Dissatisfied (PPD):
    PPD complements PMV by expressing the percentage of individuals likely to feel dissatisfied with the thermal environment. A lower PPD value indicates better thermal comfort. Fanger proposed that a PPD of 10% or less represents an acceptable comfort level. Instrumentation: PPD is indirectly measured through the PMV, using the same instruments for environmental conditions and personal factors.
  3. Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT):
    WBGT is particularly important in assessing thermal stress in occupational and outdoor settings. It combines measurements of dry bulb temperature, wet bulb temperature, and globe temperature, giving a comprehensive evaluation of the heat stress experienced by individuals. Instrumentation: WBGT is measured using specialized instruments such as a natural wet-bulb thermometer, a dry-bulb thermometer, and a black globe thermometer.
  4. Humidex:
    Humidex reflects the combined impact of temperature and humidity on perceived comfort. It provides a more intuitive measure for the general public, considering both the actual air temperature and the dew point. Instrumentation: The Humidex is calculated based on measurements of air temperature and dew point, usually obtained using standard meteorological instruments.


Achieving thermal comfort involves a delicate balance between the human body’s thermoregulatory responses and the environmental conditions in which we find ourselves. The indices PMV, PPD, WBGT, and Humidex serve as valuable tools in quantifying and assessing these conditions. Through the use of specialized instrumentation, researchers and professionals can gain insights into the complex interplay of factors influencing thermal comfort. RunRite Electronics has over 40 years experience working with heat stress in the South African environment and is able to assist with instrumentation and advice on safe work procedures.

Thermal Comfort Meter 3 probe setup for WBGT measurement