Definition

ambient temperature

Contributor(s): Sarah Lewis

Ambient temperature is the air temperature of any object or environment where equipment is stored. The adjective ambient means "relating to the immediate surroundings." Also sometimes referred to as the ordinary temperature or the baseline temperature, this value is important for system design and thermal analysis.

In a computing context, maintaining an appropriate ambient temperature is crucial to the proper functioning and longevity of computer equipment. In general, a safe range is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, although the cooler end of that range is better. Ambient temperatures above those ranges make it difficult for a computer's cooling system to keep it at a safe operating temperature.

Measuring ambient temperature

Measuring a room or component’s ambient temperature is accomplished by using a thermometer or sensor. In order to make sure the reading is the most accurate, the measuring device should be kept in the shade, in the middle height of the room and in a well-ventilated space that allows the air to circulate freely. When measuring ambient temperature indoors, it is important to monitor the temperature values over the length of a day to pinpoint the maximum ambient temperature and the minimum. When determining the ambient temperature of an outdoor environment, it can be useful to look at historical temperature averages.

One thing that is important to note is that there are factors that may affect how the ambient temperature feels, but not the temperature reading. Some of these factors include humidity, wind chill and insulation.

Importance of ambient temperature

Ambient temperature measurements are a crucial component in maximizing the longevity of devices, preventing malfunctions and avoiding damages. A few applications of knowing the ambient temperature of an item includes:

  • Validating that a device’s internal cooling system is working sufficiently, such as a laptop fan.
  • Ensuring that materials, such as food or chemicals, are stored safely.
  • Determining the energy efficiency of a heating or cooling system.
  • Analyzing components to make sure maximum and minimum temperatures do not affect functionality or use.
  • Controlling the temperature of an environment within an acceptable range.
  • Limiting the power dissipation, or power current, to a safer value.

Ambient vs room temperature

While ambient temperature is the actual air temperature of an environment, room temperature refers to the range of temperatures that most people feel comfortable in. Ambient temperature is measured with a thermometer while room temperature is based more on feeling. The ambient temperature of an environment may vary greatly from its accepted room temperature, such as when an air conditioner or heater malfunctions.

This was last updated in September 2019

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