Guides and Tips

How to Cool the Upstairs of a 2-Story Home 

November 4, 2023
How to Cool the Upstairs of a 2-Story Home

Living in a two-story home offers numerous advantages, from increased living space to a more efficient use of your property. However, it also brings about a common challenge: the upstairs tends to get uncomfortably hot. 

This issue is not only about discomfort but can also lead to increased energy costs and even health concerns. The good news is that there are practical solutions to maintain a comfortable and cool second floor. 

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind upstairs heat and share how to effectively cool the second floor of your two-story home.

Why does the second floor get hot?

Why does the second floor get hot

The upstairs of your two-story home can get really hot, and there are a few reasons why this happens:

  1. Hot Air: The main reason is pretty simple: hot air rises. 

If your air conditioner is on the first floor, it has to work extra hard to push the hot air out while trying to replace it with cool air upstairs. This extra effort makes the system run less efficiently.

Several factors affect how hard your air conditioner has to work:

  • The number of rooms in your house: More rooms mean more space to cool.
  • The condition of your air conditioner: If it’s outdated or poorly maintained, it may struggle to cool your home efficiently.
  • The size and power of your air conditioner: An appropriately sized and well-equipped system will perform more effectively.
  1. Hot Roof: During hot summer months, your roof can contribute to this problem. Unless your roof is somehow protected from the sun or designed to deflect its heat, it becomes a heat-absorbing surface. 

This heat then can travel into the second floor, making it a lot more challenging for your air conditioner to maintain a cooler temperature.

  1. Single Thermostat: In homes without modern cooling systems, there’s often only one thermostat controlling the entire house. 

Since this thermostat can only sense the temperature in one part of your home, it often leads to uneven temperatures. 

If your thermostat is on the first floor, it may not sense that the second floor is much warmer, which results in a cool downstairs and a hot upstairs.

  1. HVAC Unit on the First Floor: In two-story homes, central air conditioning units are typically located on the first floor. 

They need to work extra hard to push cool air upstairs, which can easily overload your air conditioning unit and lead to uneven cooling. 

  1. Inefficient Ducts: If you have an older central HVAC system, your ducts may be outdated and inefficient. They could have leaks or poor installation, and there might not even be enough ducts reaching the second floor.
  1. Overworked HVAC Unit: Another issue could be that your HVAC system is not compatible with your home. 

For example, it might only have the ability to cool a one-story, two-bedroom house. If you’ve added a second-story or more rooms recently, it might be working over capacity.

  1. Outdated HVAC Unit: If you’ve had the same HVAC system for a long time, it might be at the end of its useful life. Older units can struggle to cool the second floor, especially during hot summers.
  1. Incorrect Thermostat Settings: If you have a zoning system or multiple air conditioners installed, the second story of your house might be too hot because you haven’t set the correct temperature. 

Most people set the same temperature for the upper and lower floors. Since hot air rises, this leads to a warmer second floor. You can quickly fix this problem by lowering the temperature of your second floor by at least two degrees.

How to Cool the Second Floor 

Now that we’ve discussed why the second floor of your home gets so hot, let’s look at simple ways to make it cooler and comfy. 

Keep the doors open 

Keep the doors open

You might be familiar with the idea that closing doors to rooms you’re not using can help make your AC work better and keep your home cooler. However, this is not true.

Central air conditioning systems are designed to cool the entire house, not just a few rooms. When you close the doors to unused rooms, it can actually trap hot air inside, which can make your AC less effective. 

It’s better to leave those doors open so that the air can flow freely throughout your home.

Restrict first-floor airflow 

Restrict first-floor airflow

Restricting the airflow on the first floor can enhance the airflow on the second floor. Closing the air vents on the lower level just a little can help direct the cool air more effectively to the second floor where it’s needed.

Use window treatments and blinds 

Use window treatments and blinds

Make your second-floor rooms cooler by blocking out the sun’s heat. 

Keep your curtains closed to stop sunlight from warming up your rooms. For windows without curtains, consider using thermal curtains. 

These window treatments can help keep your home at a comfortable temperature throughout the year by creating a barrier that stops air from going in or out. This means cooler rooms in the summer and warmer ones in the winter. 

Insulate and ventilate the attic 

Insulate and ventilate the attic

Proper insulation in the attic reduces the heat that goes to the second floor. Ventilating this area also helps by getting rid of heat and moisture. 

An attic fan can help circulate the air, which means less hot air gets to the second floor. Also, make sure nothing is blocking the vents upstairs and that the air-return vents are open for better air circulation.

Put the fan in “on” mode

Put the fan in on mode

Setting your thermostat to “on” instead of “auto” will keep the air circulating throughout your home using the fan. This “on” setting helps maintain a cooler temperature in your entire house, even when the air conditioner is not running.

When your thermostat is set to “auto,” the fan of your HVAC system operates only when the system is actively cooling or heating the air. In this mode, the fan turns on and off in sync with your HVAC system. 

Once the desired temperature is achieved, the fan turns off and is not actively engaged, even if the indoor temperature changes and goes slightly higher than the desired setting.

Check air conditioner filters regularly

Check air conditioner filters regularly

Regularly inspecting and changing your air conditioner filters is a simple maintenance tip for your AC. It can save you money and make your home more comfortable, whether you’re on the first or second floor.

A clogged filter can get in the way of the efficient operation of your AC. For a horizontal AC unit, you’ll find the filter on the air return side, and for a vertical unit, it’s located either above or below it. 

Make it a habit to check your filters every month to ensure they stay clean and work well. It’s a good idea to keep a supply of new filters on hand so you can replace them when needed.

Seal leaks and gaps 

Seal leaks and gaps

It’s important to carefully examine your house for any openings or cracks where outdoor air can sneak in. 

When you seal these gaps and leaks, you are creating a barrier that prevents hot air from entering your home. This means that the cool air from your air conditioner can stay inside, making your second floor much cooler.

Plant shade trees 

Plant shade trees

Planting big shade trees outside your windows is a great way to naturally make your second-floor cooler, especially if those windows get lots of hot sun. The trees act like big umbrellas, blocking the sun’s heat and reducing the overall temperature indoors. 

Use heat-reflective roofing materials 

Use heat-reflective roofing materials

Reflective roofs are light-colored or white roofs that are designed to reflect the sun’s heat away. This will stop heat from getting into your house through the roof and attic, which means there will be less heat on the second floor of the house.

Opt for a smart thermostat 

Opt for a smart thermostat

If you have a programmable thermostat, consider upgrading to a budget-friendly smart thermostat to replace it. Smart thermostats allow you to set up a more advanced cooling plan with different temperature settings for each day of the week.

However, if your plans change, you can quickly change the cooling schedule. So, if you’re not going to be home for a few days, you can adjust the settings to use less air conditioning. 

And when you’re on your way back, you can set it to make your home comfortably cool again. This way, you can save energy and stay comfy.

Service your AC before summer

Service your AC before summer

You wouldn’t want your AC to stop working when it’s scorching outside, whether you’re upstairs or downstairs. So, make sure to have your air conditioner serviced before the summer heat hits. 

HVAC experts will inspect both the inside and outside parts of your unit, including the ducts, to make sure they’re clean and working well.

Too much dirt and dust can make the air inside your home less healthy, and leaky ducts can make your air conditioner less efficient. 

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