When we moved into our newly purchased home five years ago, we found a host of problems which could not have been caught by our home inspection. Since we bought the house in October and our home inspection was the same month, and since we live in Virginia where October’s climate is mild and doesn’t require any heating or air conditioning, we were unprepared for the issue we faced with our second floor. Unfortunately for us, while the first floor responds wonderfully to the heating and air system, the upstairs is another story. Sweltering hot in the summer time and freezing cold in the summer, it definitely required a lot of work and trial and error before it was comfortable year round. Here are some methods you can use if you have the same problem, either on one floor or in your entire home.
Block the Light
Sun, particularly afternoon sun, can aggravate an already warm situation. Not only does the sunlight itself create heat, but sun hitting furniture can heat the furniture, which then casts heat around the room. A very easy and simple tip is to hang heavy curtains or even a sheet over the windows in a hot room, particularly those that face either south or west (which get the hottest afternoon sun). A white backing on the curtain will reflect the light or you can purchase special thermal backed curtain to do the job.
A large portion of the problem in a house that stays too hot despite an adequate and functioning HVAC system is typically lack of insulation. While most newer houses are appropriately insulated when built, insulation can break down due to a variety of factors. Reinsulating walls in a crawl space, attic storage area, unfinished basement, or under eaves area is not a difficult endeavor, but can be a bit messy. You’ll need to purchase bats of fiberglass insulation and perhaps, as added insurance, stiff, foil backed insulation boards as well. Cut and fit the fiberglass bats between the studs, then cover with the foil backed insulation. For attics which are not storage areas or other places, contact a contractor.
Add more vents
In our case, the issue with our upstairs and downstairs cooling disparity was primarily the number of vents downstairs versus the number upstairs. There were an average of four vents per room downstairs and one upstairs. This problem was solved when we cut a new vent per room in order to introduce more air. Part of the problem was that the old vents were in the ceiling, so we made sure to install the new ones low in the walls to balance them. We simply cut a hole in the old air duct and rerouted some of the air into a new duct connected to a newly cut vent in the wall.
With a little work, not much money, and a little time, you can solve a lot of your heating and cooling problems. Having a cool house in the summer and a warm house in the winter is really an important part of being comfortable in your home, after all. And finally, after making a few adjustments, our house is a comfortable, climate controlled place to live year round.