Why Is Upstairs Always Colder Than Downstairs In The Winter?

Why Is Upstairs Always Colder Than Downstairs In The Winter?Have you ever wondered why the bedrooms upstairs in your Main Line home are colder in the winter than downstairs? The factors involved range from fundamental physics to the limitations of conventional heating systems. But the good news is that you can fix the problem. 

In this article, we’ll go over three common causes for uneven heating in your home — when some rooms aren’t as warm as others. Then, we’ll look at some ways to fix the problem. In all, we’ll address: 

  1. Why Your Upstairs Rooms Are Cold In The Winter

  2. How To Get “Even Heating” Throughout Your Home

  3. Heating And Cooling In Haverford, PA 

Why Your Upstairs Rooms Are Cold In The Winter

The three common reasons your upstairs rooms are cold in the winter are: 

  1. Hot Air Rises

  2. Static Pressure

  3. Only One Thermostat

Hot Air Rises

We all know hot air rises. So, shouldn’t that make your top floor the warmest? It would — if it didn’t keep on rising after that. 

Here’s what happens: 

Hot air rises, and heat naturally moves toward cold spots. So, you have warmth moving from the first floor to the second (or third). But there’s a whole lot of cold air just above the roof. So, that warmth finds any way possible out of your home to the cold air outside. 

The result? A warm downstairs because there’s plenty of heat. And, there’s warmth just above it, near the floor of the next story. So, it builds up better. But there’s less heat upstairs because that’s where it escapes. 

Static Pressure

Static Pressure Can Cause Issues With Your Heating SystemThe next problem is a limitation of conventional ductwork. We’re talking about static pressure, which essentially is when the system loses pressure over distance. 

Imagine holding your hand an inch from your mouth and exhaling. You’ll feel the force of air moving. MOve your hand a foot away? Not so much. 

The same happens with your forced-air system: THe further from the source (the furnace), the less circulation you have. As a result, the second floor doesn’t get as much pressure as the first. A third or fourth floor gets even less. 

And, you run into more problems if your ductwork has lots of turns or is old with splits and leaks. We go into great detail about this in our static pressure article

Only One Thermostat

With everything stacked against heating your upstairs correctly, having only one thermostat makes it even worse. As we’ve seen, part of the problem is that your first floor is always warmer. But that’s where you find the thermostat. 

That means your heater turns on and off based on the temperature on the first floor. You know, where it’s warmer than the rest of your house. 

As a result, those top floors never get fully warm. Not only does your system not deliver as much heat up there when it’s running. But, it turns off when the first floor is warm enough. The system never stays on long enough for the second story to get the proper treatment.

How To Get “Even Heating” Throughout Your Home

You don’t have to deal with cold bedrooms all winter! Here are three ways to get “even heating,” or the same temperature in every room: 

  1. Supplemental Heat 

  2. Dual Furnaces 

  3. Mini Split 

Supplemental Heat 

One solution is to add zoned or supplemental heating. This is anything from a space heater (which isn’t a great idea) to baseboard heaters or mini splits (which we’ll get into later). 

The idea here is to add a separate, smaller heating source in the space that needs it the most. That way, you’re not overdoing the heat on the first floor while getting just enough upstairs. 

This works best when maybe one or two rooms are chilly. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself buying a lot of equipment. 

However, there’s often a drawback: Cost to use them. Baseboard heaters, for instance, are relatively inexpensive — maybe $100 or $200 per unit plus the cost to install.

But, they use a lot of electricity. So, you end up with a significant hike in your bills. 

Meanwhile, space heaters can heat a small area with no installation costs. But they use a ton of energy, and they’re unsafe to use unless you’re awake and near them. Since they’re considered a fire hazard, you shouldn’t leave them on when you’re sleeping. 

Dual Furnaces 

A more robust solution is a dual furnace setup. You see these much more often in homes that are more than 3,000 square feet. In this case, there’s a second furnace upstairs that treats the second floor and third if you have one. 

The advantages are twofold: First, you limit the static pressure: Now the airflow is coming from the same floor you’re treating. And, you have a second thermostat upstairs. 

The downside here is a considerable upfront cost: You’re paying for a whole new system, plus ductwork modification. And, you may have to replace both furnaces, so they match and work together. 

Mini Split 

Ductless Mini Splits Are A Great Way To Heat And CoolA ductless mini split is an excellent way to combine the customization of zoned heating with the power of a second furnace. These are easy to install: You run lines from a heat pump outside to wall-mounted air handlers in every room you want to treat. 

Every air handler has its own thermostat, so every room gets its own treatment. In our article here, you can read — and see — more about how they look in your home.

And, that treatment is super energy-efficient: It will barely make an impact at all on your electric bill. 

The downside here is a significant upfront cost. But, unlike the other solutions, you’ll save more money over time. 

We go into plenty of detail in these articles about how a ductless system looks in your home and the benefits of a mini split

Mini Split In Haverford, PA 

Are you ready for a heating and cooling upgrade? A mini split in a Haverford, PA home — or anywhere on the Main Line —can make a world of difference! John Cipollone, Inc has been making homes and businesses in our area more comfortable and energy-efficient for more than 65 years. Today, we specialize in high-performance and high-efficiency HVAC solutions. Click below or call us at (610) 446-7877 to book your free consultation.

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