balance temp in 2-story house

How to Balance the Temperature in a Two-Story House

Do you ever go upstairs in the summertime and feel like you've walked into the Mediterranean?

Do you turn your thermostat down, but it just makes downstairs feel like the arctic?

If you have family living on both stories of your home, then you're probably fighting over the thermostat. Only some of you will get a pleasant night's sleep. The rest will be either too hot or too cold.

So how do you sort out this frozen downstairs or sweltering upstairs dilemma? And what causes temperature imbalances like this in the first place?

Let's take a closer look so you can find the solution for your temperature problem in your two-story home.

What causes temperature imbalances in the home?

Here are four causes of imbalanced temperature in your home.

1. Improperly sized ductwork or HVAC

If your ductwork or your HVAC system is too small for your home, then you won't end up with sufficient airflow.

This situation will impact the balance of the heating and cooling in your home, and it could potentially cause damage to your system.

During the colder months, inadequate airflow can cause your system's evaporator coils to freeze up. During the warmer months, the opposite can happen, which causes your system to overheat and fail.

2. Poor insulation

Poor insulation is more of an issue in older homes, but if you've got poor insulation or thin walls, this can negatively impact your home's overall temperature.

If your home doesn't retain heat or cool air, then you'll end up wasting a whole lot of energy, and the temperature won't be balanced.

Even if this only happened in specific rooms, you'd still have to run your system a lot longer than necessary to get it to the right temperature.

3. Thermostats regulate the temperature in their room

Thermostats work best when regulating the temperature of the room they're located.

For example, if your thermostat is installed in your living room, it will shut off when that room reaches the preset temperature.

The point of a thermostat is to not overheat or over cool the room it’s located in, so this happens regardless of whether or not the rest of your home is at the same temperature.

4. Rooms are far away from your HVAC unit

If you've got a room that's close to your furnace or your cooling unit, then those rooms are going to be either hotter or colder than the rest of your home.

The rooms that are further away or at the end of the ductwork will get less airflow and might not be heated or cooled as much as the others.

How to balance the temperature in a two-story house

Use a zoned system

A zoned system can divide your home into a minimum of two heating or cooling zones, for example, the upstairs and the downstairs. This way, you can control the temperature of these rooms separately.

This system works in two parts:

1. Electronically controlled dampers

These dampers are in your ductwork, and they work like valves. They open and close to control the flow of your warm or cool air. 

2. Multiple thermostats

If you've got a thermostat in each zone, then you'll be able to control the electronic dampers in your air ducts with ease.

Now there's no more fighting over the thermostat!

Use a ductless mini-split unit

You can also use a type of zoned HVAC system that uses a ductless mini-split unit that has multiple indoor air handlers throughout your home.

Each of these handlers has its own thermostat, and you can install up to four of these units for each outdoor heat pump you have.

You've probably seen these types of machines inside hotel rooms. They're small, sleek, and the air is discharged into your room without the need for any ducts.

Fix underlying problems to help balance heat in your two-story house

Zoned systems can be the solution to all your heat balancing problems, but there might be other reasons your second story isn't cooling right.

You should definitely address any underlying problems first before you consider using a zoned system.

Here are five underlying issues that might be happening in your home:

1. Blocked soffit vents

The vents that allow air to enter your attic are called soffit vents. If insulation or other materials have blocked these vents, then you won't be getting as much air into the top half of your house. It's a good idea to clear any blocked vents so you can get maximum airflow into your home.

2. Obstructed supply and return vents

You should check to ensure that nothing is obstructing your supply and return vents. They should always be unobstructed. You might think it's a good idea to cut the amount of cool air it brings in, especially during the winter, but it's not.

If you're looking to redirect air to a different area of your home, then talk to your HVAC technician about installing some dampers in your ductwork like the zoned system we talked about. 

3. Turn your fan ON 

Most times, your fan will be set to ‘Auto,' which means the fan will be turned on whenever your system is on and running. When you turn it ‘on,' the fan will continuously circulate air throughout the home and help even out your two-story home's temperature.

It's important to remember, though, that a running fan will raise your electricity bill, but in the long run, it won't be by too much and will be worth it for air to be circulated continually. 

4. Leaking air ducts

If your ducts are leaking out cold air upstairs, then it makes complete sense that your second floor is freezing.

Unfortunately, air duct systems lose a lot of conditioned air to cracks and gaps in the ductwork.

You should test your air ducts for leaks and organize to get them sealed by a professional if they're leaking. 

5. Not enough insulation in your attic

If you don't have enough insulation in your attic, you could be losing heat when your heating is on and bringing in cold air. There's no wonder your second floor is freezing!

Make sure to call a professional in to get your attic insulation in perfect condition.

At Nichols and Phipps, we want to make sure you stay cool in the summer and toasty in the winter. We have specialists who know everything about HVAC systems and will make sure that your unit is evenly distributing air around your two-story home. 
We offer all kinds of tune-ups and services for your HVAC systems and can provide you with a professional service.
If you think your HVAC system isn't working up to standard, give us a call at (703) 670-8519 to schedule your appointment today.