Cooling Upstairs and Downstairs in a Two-Story Home

 In Keeping Cool, New Construction

If you own a two-story home, you’ve probably experienced this common scenario: Upstairs, it feels stuffy and hot, so you crank the AC higher and higher, but everyone downstairs is wearing a jacket in the middle of summer.  

There are two main reasons why room temperatures are often uneven in homes with multiple floors:  

  1. Heat rises, meaning that warm air will rise toward the second floor unless you have two separate units.  
  1. When there is uneven airflow in your home, the warm air gets trapped in certain rooms without circulating properly.   

If you want to keep every room feeling cool and comfortable, here are four easy tips for cooling upstairs and downstairs evenly. 

Maximize Airflow 

Air circulation is an important part of comfort in any home, but especially in two-story house where the difference between rooms can feel drastic. While ceiling fans don’t change the temperature of a room, they can help evenly distribute airflow throughout your home and make rooms feel more comfortable. Ceiling fans are multidirectional – they can either spin clockwise or counterclockwise. Most have a small switch on the side that allows you to control the spin direction.  

When a ceiling fan is set to turn clockwise, the air is pushed upward toward the ceiling. This is called an updraft and allows you to feel the warm air that’s trapped around the ceiling (remember – heat rises). This is a useful feature in the winter when you want a little extra warmth, especially downstairs.  

During warmer months, you’ll want your ceiling fan to turn counterclockwise. This will create a downdraft which pushes a direct, cooling breeze downward. 

Schedule Regular Maintenance 

If you want a single  unit to do the heavy lifting of heating and cooling a two-story home, make sure it’s in good working condition with annual maintenance. 

While your unit may appear to be running flawlessly, dirt, dust and other debris can cause damage that you can’t see. Over time, everything from dead leaves to dryer lint could find its way into your outside unit, which causes several problems, including dirty condenser coils and clogged cooling fins. This diminishes your system’s ability to transfer heat effectively, leads to a less efficient heating and cooling system and drives up your monthly energy costs, especially during summer and winter. 

Install a Smart Thermostat   

If you aren’t looking to replace the entire HVAC system, installing a smart thermostat is a good alternative. Choose one with a wireless sensor for the best results, such as the brand Ecobee. 

Add a Second Unit Upstairs 

Adding another unit upstairs is the best way to ensure even cooling throughout your home but is a bigger financial investment – and will not work in all homes. If your home has enough room for a second unit, you can zone it with motorized dampers on one unit to individually control both floors. 

In some two-story homes, however, there isn’t enough room to add ductwork between the two floors after construction has already been completed. Each home is a little bit different depending on construction and design—so it’s a good idea to consult with an expert to determine the best option for your home. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Will closing vents in unused rooms help cool the rest of the house? Closing vents in unused rooms can disrupt the balance of your HVAC system. It’s better to invest in zoning solutions or consult with an HVAC technician to ensure your system is properly balanced for optimal cooling. 

How can I tell if my HVAC system isn’t cooling both floors adequately? Uneven cooling, hot spots in certain rooms or the HVAC system running constantly are signs of inadequate cooling upstairs. If you notice these issues, it’s best to have an HVAC professional assess your system. 

Find Comfort in Every Room 

Looking to buy a two-story home and want an expert opinion on the HVAC situation? Barineau Heating and Air Conditioning provides FREE inspections for potential homebuyers to help you make the right call.   

Even if you are not looking to buy a home, we provide helpful inspections and can advise on the best course of action for your home. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a home comfort expert.  

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