Ask Angie

Start with an energy audit for uneven heating and cooling

Q. I have lived in my 7-year-old house for three years. During the summer months, the master bedroom stays very warm. During the winter, it stays very cold. I don’t know why this is. We have a two-level home and the bedroom is on the top floor in the back of the house. I tried to fill in any areas that might let air in, but it doesn’t work. We have two heat vents in the room but we hardly feel any heat unless we turn it way up. Do you have any ideas on what the problem or solution could be?

Jake E., Dover, Del.

Uneven heating and cooling between the floors is actually a common problem for owners of multi-level homes. Unfortunately, the solution can vary, depending on what the problem is. Reasons for temperature variances between floors can range from restricted air flow, to inadequate or improperly sized and sealed ductwork, to a heating and cooling system that’s not sufficient for the size of the home.

I would start by having an energy audit done on your home. Many utility providers offer these assessments for free. However, those audits can be limited in scope. A reputable energy auditor can thoroughly assess your home for areas where you’re losing energy and offer advice on how to correct the problem.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had your heating and cooling equipment inspected, I definitely recommend you have that done as well. A qualified technician can determine if the equipment is working properly and operating at its peak efficiency.

If you have an attic that is under-insulated, you could be losing heat through the roof. So adding insulation could be all you need to solve the problem. An energy audit can help determine if the insulation levels are an issue.

You mentioned you have two vents in the bedroom but don’t feel much heat through the vents. I recommend you check to make sure those vents are opened all the way and reduce the amount the vents are opened in rooms that are receiving plenty of heat to help redirect that airflow into the bedroom. Don’t close the vents off entirely to those other rooms, though, or you could create other potential problems by restricting that airflow.

It also could be an issue with your ductwork leaking or not being sized properly to deliver balanced heating and cooling throughout your home. A professional inspection of your ductwork can let you know if that is the issue or not.

You could look into adding a zoning system to your home. This allows you to control the temperature independently from a thermostat placed on each floor. Zoning systems are easiest to install in new construction, however, they can often be retrofitted into existing homes. This can be a pricey solution, though, ranging from $2,500 to $3,500 on average, so it’s certainly something you want to research ahead of time and seek advice from a qualified and reputable heating and cooling professional.

Though it will likely cost you some money up front to address this issue, you can rest assured that it should save you even more money in the long run through improved efficiency. You won’t have to crank up the heat or the A/C to get the bedroom to the temperature you like and you’ll be comfortable year-round to boot.

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