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How do I heat my home uniformly?
December 13, 2005 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Homeheatingfilter: How do I heat the first floor of my house without sweltering upstairs?

Just bought our first new house last month in central Ohio. Winter has hit and I'm finding that the second floor heats up nicely, but the first floor can be somewhat chilly. This is a two-year old, two-story dwelling on a slab with gas heat. I have the therm set at 69 (for, um... numerology sake. yeah.)
Do I just close the floor vents upstairs somewhat? I'd really like to be able to have more consistent heating throughout the house. I am aware that heat rises, by the way.
Kind of a secondary, but related question, does the thermostat also contain the thermometer? Or is there typically more than one thermometer in a house? Like one upstairs and one downstairs for an average temp?
posted by UnclePlayground to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Close the vents upstairs. The thermostat and the thermometer are one and the same.
posted by fixedgear at 8:29 AM on December 13, 2005


One thing that will help even out the temp across the house (it works in my 2 story house) is to keep the fan running all the time (set the fan to 'On' instead of 'Auto').
posted by internal at 8:31 AM on December 13, 2005


Our new gas-heated house, with the furnace fan set to "Auto", seemed to have a temperature differential between floors, with the second floor bathroom feeling exceptionally chilly. But I bought a $10 thermometer and moved it around various parts of the house and found a .1 degree Celsius difference from the thermostat in the living room. So confirm for yourself that there really is a difference.

In addition to either keeping the fan on at all times or partially closing the vents upstairs (choose one!), try passive heating. If you're at home during the day, open the blinds for the windows downstairs. This works best with south facing windows. See Elaine Supkis' passive solar house design for a few more ideas (short of building a new house, of course).

If you can't get temperatures evened out, you may find that strategic layered dressing works. Your body should also adapt to the cooler temperatures soon. I literally was wearing gloves at the computer for a few days as my body got used to daytime temperatures of 18-19 Celsius (64-66 degrees F) and I was shivering at night at 17 Celsius (62 degrees F) despite a flannel nightgown and an extra blanket. But I now find myself flinging open the upstairs windows while I work if the temperature gets above 19/66 during the day and I've packed away the flannel at night.
posted by maudlin at 8:57 AM on December 13, 2005


One more thing: your main floor may be colder because of an obstruction in the ducts. Has your house ever had the ducts cleaned?
posted by maudlin at 9:06 AM on December 13, 2005


Twice a year my roommate and I make the rounds through the house fiddling with the vents when we make the switch between AC and heat. In a fairly open-plan house there's not much to do about it.

In my idle fantasies I scheme of a product I will create that monitors temp in each room and turns a small fan on or off in different vents to improve home equilibrium. Sometimes there's fans in the return ducts too, sometimes not. Even put an HVAC book on my Amazon wish list some time ago thinking I might get somewhere with the idea.

I'll add you to my email list for when hell freezes over I finally implement it.
posted by phearlez at 9:59 AM on December 13, 2005


Very few single family houses have multi-zone HVAC systems. It's much more expensive.

You might try to contact the builder, if the home is only two years old. I'm sure there's still a warranty. Ask them what they think about it.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2005


Has your house ever had the ducts cleaned?

Good idea, but the OP sez it's a two year old house, so not likely. I doubt that it's a warranty issue, more like this is one of the limitations of gas forced air heating systems. A ceiling fan might help.
posted by fixedgear at 2:07 PM on December 13, 2005


A ceiling fan in or above the stairwell will help keep the heat downstairs (heat rising and all that). Be careful closing too many vents as you can slow flow down in the system, over heat the Fau and increase the power draw of the blower as it tries to work against the closed dampers. Also make sure the Fau filter is clean.
Also be on the lookout for upstairs bathroom fart fans that leak out (when off) all the topmost heated air, thus drawing in cool air downstairs. Same goes for the attic door/stairs if you have them, weatherstrip them.
posted by blink_left at 2:48 PM on December 13, 2005


fixedgear, I know some people get their ducts cleaned ASAP after moving in depending on their environment. Our large townhouse development still has a lot of construction going on, and we found that our furnace filters (rated for three months) were absolutely filthy after a couple of weeks. Our neighbours got their ducts cleaned as soon as they moved in and got pounds of gunk taken out. If this house is two years old and part of a large development, all kinds of crap could be still stuck in the duct system. A solo house or a small development, of course, would make this scenario less likely.
posted by maudlin at 3:46 PM on December 13, 2005


you could always purchase a space heater. i have a Vornado like this and it heats the room quickly.
posted by radioamy at 7:40 PM on December 13, 2005


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