Why Cold For Some Means Complications For All

Winter is coming—and if it’s as frigid as the last one, New Yorkers are in for a debilitating few months. Fortunately, New York City tenants have a legal right to heat from October to May. Unfortunately, this right is difficult to enforce, as evidenced by the over 200,000 cold-related complaints the city receives every year. The fact that many citizens—particularly those who live in underprivileged neighborhoods, have young children or are elderly—are forced to endure Northeast winters without adequate heat is a disconcerting public health crisis that ought not to be an issue in the Greatest City on Earth.

Although not everyone suffers from a lack of adequate heat, everyone can empathize with those who do. More than that, however, there are a myriad of social complications that arise from cold living conditions that affect everyone, especially because we live and work in such close proximity. In fact, research has shown that physically cold temperatures can produce emotionally cold behavior—something New York certainly doesn’t need any more of. Other studies have suggested that warm temperatures are important for stimulating memory and creativity, which can impact success at work and at school. Cold temperatures also negatively impact your sleep cycle, and the temperature of many underserviced New York apartments can drop far below the optimal sleeping temperature (around 68 degrees). Sleep deprivation, of course, has profound effects on productivity and mood. Because a bad mood can be transferred as easily as a bad germ, the emotional cost that a cold apartment has on one person can be detrimental to us all. Cold temperatures can also weaken immune system response, especially among disadvantaged populations, leading to additional—and unnecessary—stress on our healthcare system.

Living in an unbearably cold apartment is an inhumane reality, one that has subtle but far-reaching social and economic ramifications. A cripplingly cold apartment is not just an individual concern. It’s a societal concern. Not only because we have a responsibility to look out for those around us, but because their well-being affects our well-being too. Yes, Heat Seek’s sensors will directly benefit those living in cold conditions, but they will also have benefits that extend far beyond one apartment or one person.


Remington Tonar is a senior strategy consultant at Siegelvision, a organizational identity firm that helps nonprofits define their purpose, articulate their value, and build their brands. His clients include major hospital systems, top universities, and international NGOs. Follow him on Twitter at @remtonar.