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Indoor Temperatures in the 2018 Heat Wave in Quebec, Canada: Exploratory Study Using Ecobee Smart Thermostats

Published: 12 May 2022

Abstract: Background: Climate change, driven by human activity, is rapidly changing our environment and posing an increased risk to human health. Local governments must adapt their cities and prepare for increased periods of extreme heat and ensure that marginalized populations do not suffer detrimental health outcomes. Heat warnings traditionally rely on outdoor temperature data which may not reflect indoor temperatures experienced by individuals. Smart thermostats could be a novel and highly scalable data source for heat wave monitoring. Objective: The objective of this study was to explore whether smart thermostats can be used to measure indoor temperature during a heat wave and identify houses experiencing indoor temperatures above 26°C. Methods: We used secondary data—indoor temperature data recorded by ecobee smart thermostats during the Quebec heat waves of 2018 that claimed 66 lives, outdoor temperature data from Environment Canada weather stations, and indoor temperature data from 768 Quebec households. We performed descriptive statistical analyses to compare indoor temperatures differences between air conditioned and non–air conditioned houses in Montreal, Gatineau, and surrounding areas from June 1 to August 31, 2018. Results: There were significant differences in indoor temperature between houses with and without air conditioning on both heat wave and non–heat wave days (P<.001). Households without air conditioning consistently recorded daily temperatures above common indoor temperature standards. High indoor temperatures persisted for an average of 4 hours per day in non–air conditioned houses. Conclusions: Our findings were consistent with current literature on building warming and heat retention during heat waves, which contribute to increased risk of heat-related illnesses. Indoor temperatures can be captured continuously using smart thermostats across a large population. When integrated with local heat health action plans, these data could be used to strengthen existing heat alert response systems and enhance emergency medical service responses.
Keywords: increased risk / heat wave / indoor temperature / ecobee smart thermostats
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