Upstairs always cooler than downstairs - forced air

kichanOctober 15, 2007

I live in a 2-level towhouse that has forced air. The bedrooms upstairs are always cooler than downstairs, and I have had to purchase space heaters to warm the rooms during the winter. Does anyone have any suggestions (besides the space heaters) on how to get warmer air upstairs? I'm thinking that I might have to add another zone (someone told me that I only have one), but it sounds expensive.

Thanks in advance.

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"The bedrooms upstairs are always cooler than downstairs,.."

- This statement violates the laws of physics. Heat rises and cold air sinks. The upper floor should always be warmer than the lower floor in all seasons.

Cold, outside air leaking into the second floor would cause the problem that you have (winter only, not summer). Do you have cracks/openings in your windows (or are they poorly insulated or broken) on the second floor? A bad skylight? A hole or opening in a wall on the second floor? Second floor receptacles not insulated? Second floor walls not insulated? Poor/no attic insulation? Attic access door not insulated? Vent openings between the attic and second floor?

If not, this house is located somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

Since this is a town house, do your neighbors on either side of you have the same problem?

You do not have this problem in the summer, do you?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 3:32PM
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Excellent questions from garyg. please post responses.

Also, does this occur when the bedroom doors are open or closed?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 3:54PM
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Garyg -

It's definitely not the case for me in terms of the lower level being cooler - you can feel the difference when going from one level to the next, although it's not to the point that it feels like Antarctica upstairs. You are correct about the summertime, though - you can feel the heat upstairs, although since there is a tree in front of my unit, I rarely have to turn on the A/C (there are ceiling fans in the bedrooms). The unit was built in '83, and I had all windows replace 3 years ago. There is an attic, which is insulated (including the door), and I don't feel any cold air leaking from it. Haven't checked the receptacles for insulation, but will.

Brewbeer - I leave all bedroom doors open at all times - I was told that it would help with circulating the air - is that correct? To me, it didn't make a difference whether the doors were closed or open.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 6:28PM
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Where are you located and how is your attic insulated and how thick is it? Do any of the rooms upstairs have kneewalls or slanted ceilings? Dormers? Any cathedral ceilings? Any rooms over a garage or something like that? Where is your HVAC system located? Any ducts in the attic or uninsulated spaces?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 7:33PM
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I'm not a professional, so can't even guess at how much insulation is in the attic, but it looks quite thick. None of the rooms upstairs have kneewalls or slanted ceilings (they're just regular flat ceilings) - no cathedral ceilings, or any over a garage. HVAC system is located downstairs in the utility closet...

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 8:17PM
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Measure the thickness of the insulation. If you describe what it looks like, we can figure out what it is and estimate the r-value.

Also, where are you located? That will help us with how much you should have up there.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 9:22PM
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Got it - the insulation is layered 8 1/2" thick fiberglass (R-32) according to my prospectus.I live in upstate NY (Orange County). For the heating, it states that it is a central forced air gas fired furnace, the heat is metal ducted to each individual room, terminates at each register, and is regulated by a thermostat (I switched out the original to a programmable thermostat). The furnace itself is a General Electric GE-LUO 80C-36 (80,000 BTU).

Does that help?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 10:02PM
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Well you definitely need more insulation. In your area its supposed to be R49 i believe. Where there any obvious gaps in the fiberglass over the attic floor? I would eventually blow in about 6 inches of cellulose over all that to achieve the R49. More immediately are you getting equal air flow from all your vents compared to the downstairs? If its not try to use your dampers (if you have them) to balance it out. Also how many returns and supply vents do you have upstairs? Make sure no returns are covered up by furniture.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 10:31PM
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Upstate NY is considered to be in heating zone 1, and R-49 is recommended for attics.

8.5 inches of fiberglass batts is prolly more along the lines of R-25, maybe lower, depending on the joist structure and the thermal bridging that occurs in it.

Did you measure 8.5 inches in the attic or is that what the prospectus sez?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 8:28AM
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Brewbeer - 8.5" is based on the prospectus. I spoke with my bro-in-law, and he said that it wouldn't be difficult to add another 19" to what I already have.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 11:24AM
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"Since this is a town house, do your neighbors on either side of you have the same problem?"


    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 12:48PM
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I would also check to see the duct work that feeds the upstairs is insulated or in an insulated space. I have seen cases where they have run the duct work in uninsulated chase (i.e through the garage or ext wall)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 12:57PM
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Funny, in the summer my upstairs is a bit warmer then down...not much different June-Sept when the AC runs regularly but in the fall and spring it is much warmer up than down. In fact to cool it up there, it needs to be a little too cold downstairs.

Defying physics or not, our upstairs in the winter is the same temp or cooler than down. We appear decently insulated but I am having someone come and check.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 3:51PM
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