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Heating & Air News

Why Is the 3rd Floor So Hot and the Basement So Cold in Big Houses?

Posted by Howell's Heating & Air on July 14, 2017

You love your home! It’s big. It’s spacious. You worked hard for it. It may or may not be new, but it’s beautiful inside and out. However, like all owners of big homes there’s one issue: Why, oh why, is the 3rd floor so hot and the basement so cold?

This is the problem with a majority of big houses: The 3rd floor is sweltering, and the basement is frigid. It doesn’t matter if the house is old or new, more than likely, it’ll suffer from the same problem - drastically inconsistent heating and cooling. Let’s look at why this is so and, then, whether it can be fixed. (Quick answer: Yes, it can!) 

Why Do Homes Have Air Temperature Disparities?

howells_hot_fan.jpgHeat rises. Cold air sinks. Cold air is heavier than hot air. Cold air sinks downward until it has worked its way to the lowest floor of the home. Heat naturally rises to the uppermost floors of a house. Unless your HVAC system is installed with the intention to mitigate this problem, every floor probably won’t feel entirely comfortable.

Another reason this can happen may be due to the ductwork and insulation. Faulty, poorly installed ductwork or leaking, old ducts are primary suspects. The heating and cooling system may have been installed without enough ductwork reaching the third floor. Poor insulation can also be a cause.

Your roof can cause additional issues. If your roof isn’t protected and/or doesn't deflect the sun’s rays and heat, it'll most certainly absorb them. This heat energy easily transfers into the attic and, then, radiates down to your uppermost floors.

What are Some Solutions to These Heating and Cooling Problems?

Use Ceiling Fans

One economical fix that may not be very effective is to install ceiling fans in the upper-floor rooms. Ceiling fans push down the warm air and pull up the cooler air. But let’s be honest, the rooms on those upper floors can get mighty hot. A ceiling fan may stir up the heat a little and redistribute it, though not as much as you’d like.

Keep the Air Conditioning System Fan On

Another fix is to leave the HVAC system fan always "on." In this setting, it'll force cool air up and warm air down. Return air ducts on the lower floors will suck cool air in and send it to the warmer, upper floors, and the upper-level return ducts will pull in warm air and send it to the cooler, lower floors.

Redirect Airflow

You can redirect airflow to the third floor by halfway, or completely, closing the duct dampers that lead to the first floor. If you can’t find the dampers, you can partially or entirely close the first floor vents. This will force more air to go to the upper floors.

These are possible fixes that are tempting to try to do yourself. With such complex, interconnected systems, your best bet is to call an HVAC expert like Howell's Heating and Air to help you. You may find that after trying these fixes your home is still not heating and/or cooling evenly. WEll, there's a better option.

Setting Up Multiple Heating and Cooling Zones

An Economical, Efficient and Effective Solution

An HVAC technician can set up multiple zones in your home. This solution is often the most economical because it causes your system to function with precision in terms of heating and cooling. For example:

  • In the summer, you won’t cool your entire home based on a room that is overly warm, thus turning the rest of your house into an icebox.
  • In the winter, you won’t turn your entire home into a sauna in an attempt to heat up your frigid basement.

Each of the zone areas will get the exact amount of cooled/heated air needed to maintain a comfortable environment without affecting the other rooms.

How Do Multiple Zones Work?

bigstock-Modern-Electronic-Thermostat-25433129.jpgEach of the zones has its own preprogrammed, auto-regulated thermostat setting. Depending upon the time of year and the particular characteristics of a room or area, the thermostat causes the HVAC system to run more or less cooled/heated air to keep that particular room or area comfortable.

These zones can easily be managed with a programmable or "smart" thermostat. Smart home thermostats allow users to control the zones and the temperature of their home with a mobile device!

Varying Temperatures Can be Fixed

Most owners of large homes struggle with extreme temperature differences in their homes. There are several fixes for this. One of the most efficient and economical options is to have an HVAC technician set up multiple zones to manage the variable temperatures.

Contact Howell's Heating & Air for help installing preprogrammable thermostats, setting up HVAC zones, or integrating smart home thermostat features. We can help you solve this common problem in an energy efficient and economical way!
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Topics: Air Conditioning

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