When the weather outside is frightful (or frightfully hot), it can be difficult to regulate an even temperature in a multi-story home. It is well understood that hot air rises and cool air sinks, so making basements comfortable in the winter is difficult to manage, and cooling upper floors in July and August can feel nigh on impossible. If you need to more evenly heat multiple stories of your home, try these suggestions.
Seal Any Leaks
Keeping a home comfortable and the utility bills manageable is difficult enough without trying to maintain the temperature outside too. If you want to evenly heat multiple stories on your property, the first step is to find and fix any flaws in your HVAC system.
Your ducts serve as the roadway by which your HVAC system transfers hot or cold air from the central heating system to the rooms in your home. In order to evenly heat multiple stories, ductwork must be in good working order and in sufficient supply. If your ducts leak, they cannot pack the same kind of punch as they would if intact.
On the other hand, if you do not have enough ductwork for the size of your home, your central unit will struggle and even fall short on pushing temperature-controlled air to higher floors. A professional HVAC contractor can determine whether or not your ductwork can support your home and discover if it has any leaks. They can also repair any leaks.
Even if your ductwork is up to the task of properly heating your home, it will have a hard time doing so if your vents are obstructed. Make sure that the vents in your home are not covered by furniture, rugs, drapes, or anything else. By doing so, you can ensure that air flows freely through your home.
While not technically part of your HVAC system, leaky windows can undo its work with ease. If cool or warm air escapes through improperly sealed windows, it doesn’t really matter how great your HVAC system is. Inspect your windows for correct sealing, or have a professional do so. There are two primary ways to correct window leaks.
Caulk is a flexible, waterproof sealer that is relatively easy to apply. Applied with a nozzle, the putty-like substance is good for filling any gaps between window sashes and frames. Weatherstripping is another good measure for patching leaks. It is best used on window sashes if the seal isn’t ideal or the insulation isn’t up to the task of keeping temperature-regulated air in the house.
Weather stripping comes in many forms, including compression, foam, and V-type (strips). Each has its pros and cons, but none of them are too expensive or difficult to install. Foam tape is a good substitute if true weatherstripping cannot be found.
As an extra measure to help evenly heat multiple stories, you can add window dressings to regulate room temperature. Curtains, drapes, and even blinds help to block external temperatures while updating a room’s design.
Insulation in the Attic
Insufficient attic insulation is a great way to let heat escape through the top of your home. A good rule of thumb is if you can see your attic’s floor joists, you need more insulation. While you inspect your insulation, also check out any soffit vents, which are designed to let in air at the lowest point of the roof. Make sure these are not blocked by insulation or debris.
Keep Air Moving
Fans are not designed to regulate temperature; instead they circulate air already in a space, regardless of temperature. That being said, while fans don’t evenly heat multiple stories per se, they can keep temperatures balanced between floors. For such an effect, make sure your thermostat is set to fan on when the furnace or air conditioner is running. If you choose to run the fan when the system is off, know that it will help keep temperatures even but will also run up your electric bill.
Update Your Furnace
Moving into the more drastic steps you can take to evenly heat multiple stories, upgrading your furnace to a more powerful or more efficient model can certainly help. If your furnace really struggles to maintain comfortable temperatures on higher floors, consider replacing it or even installing a different type of furnace.
Consider a Zoning System
An HVAC zoning system may be the best way to evenly heat multiple stories, but you do pay for the privilege. Zoning systems section off different areas of a building and equip them with their own thermostat. This allows homeowners to precisely adjust temperatures in each zone. If you make each floor a zone, you can set the thermostats on higher floors several degrees lower and let the natural properties of warm air do the rest.
Zoning systems are not cheap to install, but they can help homeowners save significant utility money in the long run because they have the option to only regulate temperatures in the parts of the home where people are active. They also let homeowners take advantage of heat’s tendency to rise, making it work for them instead of against them.
A Functional Facsimile
If installing a zoning system is not in the cards right now, you can simulate the effect using only your vents. For example, when the winter chill is at its worst, close most of the vents on higher floors. This forces the HVAC system to direct more air downstairs. In the summer, do the opposite.