The Inspector Newsletter
August 2015: Heating and Cooling
Ask The Inspector

Ask the inspector

Q. The second story of my house is much warmer in the summer months than the lower level. Why is this, and what can I do to reduce the temperature difference between the upstairs and downstairs?

A. Cooling the upstairs of a home can be difficult — especially if the HVAC air handler system is in the basement, or if no basement is present, on the first floor. Typically, hot air rises and cold air falls, so in some aspects the air handler has to work harder to pump cold air up through the ductwork systems in order to keep the upstairs of a two-story house as comfortable as the downstairs.

There certainly are alternatives available to help keep air temperatures in balance. One simple solution is to close off some of the dampers (registers) on the first floor, which will force more air upstairs and create a stronger flow of air on the second story. The first floor may not be as cool as before, but this could produce a more balanced temperature difference between the two floors.

The other alternative would be to install a secondary cooling system in the attic, if there is room, resulting in more comfortable air. The downside of this would be more of an expense for installing and maintaining two systems. Also, one system could be installed in the attic and you could install a zoning system in the ductwork. A zoned system is controlled by electronic motors on dampers within the ductwork system, which can be controlled to distribute more air to certain parts of the house depending on your comfort needs.

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