Sign up ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

How much energy in form of heat does a human body emit at rest level?

share|cite|improve this question

4 Answers 4

That's easy. The energy requirement of an average man is 2,500 Calories per day, and one Calorie is 4184J. Therefore he emits about 10.5MJ/day or about 120W.

An average woman requires 2,000 Calories per day, so she emits about 97W.

share|cite|improve this answer
Does the human body emit as heat, all the energy it got from food? If yes, in typing this answer, you spent some energy - what is its energy source? – The Dark Side Jun 5 '14 at 10:09
@New_new_newbie: assuming your weight stays the same you are emitting all the energy from your food as heat. If you're getting fatter it means you're retaining some of the energy and converting it to chemical energy (i.e. fat). Conversely if you're getting thinner it means you're converting chemical energy in fat to heat, so you're emitting more heat than you get from your food. I got the energy to type this from my body reacting glucose with oxygen to produce water, carbon dioxide and energy. – John Rennie Jun 5 '14 at 10:14
Wrong. Energy gets stored in human body as ATPs ( The chemical energy stored as a P-O bond gets released. Of course, some part of that will be lost as heat, but if picking up a 400g stone to 1m height required 4J of work, that 4J does come from the food you have consumed. Otherwise energy conservation would stand violated, if your ``input = output as heat'' conjecture was true. So, again, what is the energy source of typing this post if all the energy you got from food got EMITTED out as heat? – The Dark Side Jun 5 '14 at 10:32
@New_new_newbie: the article you link has in its second paragraph: ATP is therefore continuously recycled in organisms. ATP is not used for long term storage. Medium term storage is as glycogen and long term storage is as fat. – John Rennie Jun 5 '14 at 10:38
1. Why just potential energy? Energy for doing all the work you do comes from food. \\ 2. I never said we permanently gain energy and store it in some form. It is all dynamic, of course. But if everything that went into us, went out ``as heat'', we physicists would have a lot of trouble justifying energy conservation. – The Dark Side Jun 5 '14 at 10:49

John Rennie's answer is correct +/- 1% or so.

Sure, you can lift something up, doing work instead of emitting heat. But you equally often lift something down, converting its potential energy to heat that your body emits. Besides, most of the loads you lift are small compared to the energy "cost" of running the chemical factory that is your body.

Or say you climb up the stairs in a 20-story building. Assuming 1 floor = 10', that's 200 ft-lb. of work, or around 270J. Let's say that takes you 2 minutes, during which your body emits 120*100 = 12,000J of heat. So the work you did amounts to only about 2% of the total energy you consumed during that stair climb. And a modern human doesn't do physical work for very much of the day, so the conversion to work amounts to less than 1% error.

Besides, you (usually) climb down about as much as you climb up -- again converting your potential energy to heat -- so that pretty much cancels out.

Just assume that it takes around 100W to run your body at idle, more if you have to do "work" (running, etc.)

share|cite|improve this answer

I hesitate to contradict John, but: it's simplistic to assume caloric input equals caloric output, or that caloric output is purely heat, as opposed to moving from one place to another, lifting boxes, etc. A far better model IMHO is to set up the human body as a black-body source with $\epsilon = 0.98 $ (emissivity), temperature = 310K, and some reasonable estimate as to total body area. Then you compare the absorption of heat from, say an ambient environment of 294K to see the net outflow of heat.

That does ignore conductive and convective heat flow :-) .

See, for example, the excellent calculator at hyperphysics

share|cite|improve this answer
Yes, I recall that the result using Stefan-Boltzmann's law is close to that of John Rennie. In space, the power output is close to $1 kW$, quite impressive! – auxsvr Jun 5 '14 at 12:26
I expect that black body radiation losses are small compared to other heat losses of the human body in most ordinary circumstances. I haven't done the numbers, but I betcha the heat loss from inhaling gas at ambient temperature and exhaling it at body temperature is much greater than black body radiation when sitting behind a desk in a typical office. Add to that evaporative cooling since exhaled breath usually contains more moisture. – Olin Lathrop Jun 5 '14 at 12:47
Unless you're building a ziggurat or otherwise storing lots of gravitational potential, don't you think all of that mechanical energy also ends up as heat? – rob Jun 5 '14 at 12:55
@rob, yeah, most of it does. But just think of the stored entropy that comes from learning a bunch of stuff (highly ordered :-) neuron structures). – Carl Witthoft Jun 5 '14 at 13:35
@Carl Well, if I commit a terabyte of information to memory (seems unreasonably large), the minimum entropy change is $S=k\ln2^{40}\approx 1200\,\mathrm{K/eV}$. At my body temperature the minimum energy release is only about 1/4 eV. Even if the ratio of physical to information entropy is a billion to one I still have much less than a joule of heat associated with learning. I don't think it's a big correction. – rob Jun 5 '14 at 13:51

As a rough planning figure for building design etc, 1 human = 100 watt.

share|cite|improve this answer

protected by Qmechanic Nov 11 at 15:24

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.