Options to fix your HVAC issues

It's a frequent scenario for many owners of multistory homes and it's an uncomfortable one: Uneven heating and cooling between floors often leaves the upstairs more difficult to cool during the summer and the downstairs harder to heat during the winter.

"Most two story homes have a pretty good temperature difference between the second floor and the first floor. The main reason for that is your thermostat in your house. Your thermostat is typically located on the first floor of your house; so that is what is reading all the temperatures. So, when it gets cool enough or warm enough in there; that's what shuts the unit off; so it doesn't really pay attention to what the temperature is upstairs," explained Dave Mejean, an HVAC contractor.

Common reasons for temperature variances between floors:

  • Restricted air flow from the furnace to the registers.
  • Inadequate or improperly sized and sealed duct work.
  • A heating and cooling system that's not sufficient for the size of the home.

Angie's List asked highly heating and cooling companies about the options that are available today.

  • Run the furnace blower continuously: Heating and cooling professionals recommend homeowners switch their thermostat fan to the ‘On' position to allow the blower on the furnace to run continuously, which better circulates air throughout the house. First, though, make sure your air filter is clean. Adjusting the vents can also help redirect the forced air to the places it's needed.
  • Add a second system: Certainly the most expensive fix – a second system could run upwards of $7,000, but is the best option for two-story homes with one furnace. Adding a second system allows the homeowner to better control the temperature on each floor.
  • Add a zoning system: Zoning systems are a less-expensive alternative than adding another system. Zoning systems allow a homeowner to control the temperature independently from a thermostat placed on each floor. Zoning systems are easiest to install in new construction, however existing homes can sometimes be retrofitted to accommodate the system. Most zoning systems cost $3,000 and up.
  • Add a ductless split: Essentially an air conditioner without the duct work, these small room-based units pass cold air through small air handlers mounted on the wall. The homeowner can control the temperature independently in each room the air handler is installed. Cost for ductless air conditioners typically starts at about $1,500 per unit.
  • Have duct work inspected: Improperly sized and leaky ducts are often the culprits. Ultimately, homeowners with temperature variance issues should consult a reputable heating and cooling contractor to diagnose the issue and determine possible solutions. Doing so could not only make their home feel more comfortable, it can help ensure they are using their heating and cooling energy as efficiently as possible.

"One of the most important things on a consumer's to-do-list in the fall is have your furnace checked. Having it serviced once a year to make sure it's running properly will make it more energy efficient throughout the winter and help prevent unexpected breakdowns," advised Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

"If you find yourself having problems with temperature on different levels of your house, talk to a reputable heating and cooling company because they can give you suggestions for how to best manage for that. Whether it be settings on your existing system or whether you need to add additional equipment," she said.

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