Let’s face it, an HVAC system represents a significant investment in your home comfort. So, when it doesn’t seem to perform reliably or there are energy efficiency problems, it can be a frustrating experience. This is especially true if you’re experiencing uneven heating and cooling issues in your two-story home. In this article, we will look at this topic in more detail to help you make an informed decision to fix the problem.

The Disparity Between Floors

If you climb the stairs in summer and it feels 10º warmer than the downstairs rooms, you have a problem. Some people attempt to compensate for this problem by adjusting the thermostat to a cooler temperature. But, the downstairs rooms are freezing cold and it never seems possible to get even cooling performance. When you experience these problems, it’s virtually impossible to make the home comfortable for everyone.

2 Ways to Approach and Fix Uneven Heating and Cooling Problems

When you live in a two-story home, dealing with an uneven heating and cooling problem can be a daily challenge. But, you don’t have to suffer indefinitely and there are things that you can do to fix the problem. Let’s take a look at two ways to approach the problem, the first is broad in nature and the second is more specific. They are:

1.   Identify and Fix the Underlying Causes

There are a number of reasons why you may have a temperature variance between floors in a two-story home. They are:

Blocked Supply and Return Vents

When the supply and return vents are covered or blocked it can affect the performance of your air conditioning system. Many people try to “save money” by closing vents in rooms that are not in regular use. This is a bad idea because the air needs to circulate for the system to work at optimal efficiency. Blocking vents downstairs to cut down the cool air there to boost cool air in upper rooms will not work. It’s a good idea to go around your home and move any items that may be blocking the supply or return vents. Some prime examples, including tall furniture, drapes, rugs, and wall coverings. If the vents are closed, they should be at least partially open or fully open to maximize performance and energy efficiency. If you want control over the treated air in your home you may want to consider dampers in your ductwork to create HVAC zoning (more on this later).

Blocked Soffit Vents

The soffit vents draw outside air into the attic and this is placed at the lowest point of the roofline. The HVAC system relies on a steady supply of fresh air to work efficiently and if the soffit vents are blocked it can lead to uneven cooling issues. The most common cause of this problem is roof insulation or stored materials that have fallen to cover the soffit vent areas. These should be moved and secured and this may fix the problem.

Turn “On” the Fan

The default setting of the AC system fan is “Auto” and most people never change this to any other setting. The “Auto” setting will turn the fan on when the heating or cooling system is operating. But, for the rest of the time, the fan will be off and not turning at all. When the fan is turned “On” it will circulate the air continuously throughout your home. This may consume a little more energy, but it will even out the temperatures and it may prevent hot and cold spots. The fan settings can be accessed on the thermostat.

A Lack of Attic Insulation

If you take a look in your attic and you can see the floor joists, you have insufficient levels of insulation in that location. Attic insulation is important, it increases the comfort levels in the home and improves the energy efficiency. Even better, this is a passive technology, you can improve every aspect of your HVAC system without spending any money beyond the cost of the materials. If you are not comfortable working in an attic, contact your local heating and cooling specialist for expert help and advice.

Seal Leaking Air Ducts

The air ducts that connect your HVAC system to the second floor of your home may be leaking treated air. This will cause temperature variances between the two-story and it wastes money at the same time. A leaky air duct system would typically lose 20-30% of the treated air through gaps, cracks, and misaligned ductwork. This is not easy to identify without the help of a heating and cooling technician using specialized tools. If you can identify one or more air leaks, it’s tempting to carry out a DIY repair with duct tape. But, this should be regarded as a temporary measure and a professional repair is needed. If the ductwork is in very bad shape, it’s often less expensive to install a new system.

2.   Install a Zone Heating and Cooling System

Solving the aforementioned heating and cooling problems is a great start. But, many HVAC contractors will recommend a zoned system to heat and cool your home. Installing and using a zoned system will divide your home into two or more distinct heating and cooling zones. Because we are talking about two-story homes in this article this would be an upstairs and downstairs zones. This will allow you to heat and cool the two floors at different temperatures as required.

There are two components that make this system work. They are:

  1. Multiple Thermostats: Each zone has a dedicated thermostat to control the electronic dampers that are installed in the air duct system.
  2. Electronic Dampers: These are dampers that are installed in the ductwork system and they can be opened and closed remotely to direct the treated air throughout the home.

There is an alternate zoned HVAC system that uses ductless mini-split models with a dedicated thermostat to heat or cool specific zones. It’s possible to install up to four of these units for every outdoor heat pump you may have.

If you want to learn more about dealing with temperature variances in your home, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.