Plan Your Project to Fix Your Hot Upstairs (in Summer!)
For homes with much higher temperatures on the second floor, homeowners must minimize any heat gains. The following outline helps those making their home more comfortable in the summer. The steps offer possible solutions for improving the comfort of the upper floor of homes:
#1 - Air Seal the House
As a first step to reduce heat gains upstairs, homeowners should strive to eliminate air leakage through holes, gaps and penetrations wherever possible. Otherwise, the cool air in our homes escapes the house. SEAL THE HOUSE!
#2 - Insulate the House
After air sealing, insulate the house. For starters, add or increase insulation in the attic and exterior walls where possible. Since attic insulation is usually much more accessible than wall insulation, start with the attic insulation first before tackling the walls. The insulation should always be installed to be continuous and to the proper thickness. ADD INSULATION!
#3 - Reduce Heat Gain
Windows that allow excessive heat gain add to the heat gains on the upper floors of homes. This creates the uncomfortable upstairs. A window with a SHGC of less than .25 blocks more of the sun’s energy before it comes into your house reducing the amount of cooling needed from your air conditioner. REDUCE HEAT GAIN THROUGH WINDOWS!
#4 - Reduce Air Leakage Around Windows
The windows in your home should be tested for air leakage. Many widows allow excessive air leakage around the window unit (between the window itself and the rough opening of the house framing). This gap around windows is almost always very leaky. Plus, the gap remains a primary source for air to enter or exit the home. REDUCE AIR LEAKAGE AROUND WINDOWS!
#5 - Look Out for Other Home Features
Other features of homes that significantly impact the comfort of the second floor include:
- unsealed cantilevers (or overhangs)
- dropped soffits
- recessed can lights
Evaluate all of these common features and seal them up. These features require air tight sealing! LOOK FOR KEY FEATURES!
#6 - Use Technology With Caution
Radiant barriers, when installed properly, help reduce temperatures of attics and heat gains. Radiant barriers redirect the sun’s heat energy back out of the attic. These reduces the amount of heat entering your home. Similarly, shading devices such as operable awnings reduce heat gains when installed properly. Be wary of poorly installed radiant barriers or inferior shading devices, they usually provide little impact on improving the comfort conditions in your home. USE TECHNOLOGIES CAUTIOUSLY!
#7 - Improve Duct Effectiveness
It is possible, in some homes, to add additional cooling supply to the second floor. For supply ducts to be added, the new ducts will need the physical space in the floor system or attic to add them. In many existing homes, adding additional supply ducts is a very challenging task and best left up to an experienced contractor. At the same time, improving the return duct system often requires even more physical space in the second floor to install return ducts. Improving the return duct system will often improve heat flow throughout the home by eliminating air pressure imbalances. IMPROVE DUCT EFFECTIVENESS!
#8 - Add Efficient Cooling
Other options include adding a separate zone to the second floor (and a dedicated thermostat for the second floor) or installing a separate cooling system on the second floor such as a Ductless Split HVAC Unit (also with its own dedicated thermostat for the second floor). As an alternative, ENERGY Star rated window air conditioning units can also be used but are often considered to be too noisy by the occupants. ADD EFFICIENT COOLING WHEN NECESSARY!
As you can see, improving the comfort of homes with warm upper floors in the summer can be challenging. To help the homeowner determine the best solution for their home, GreenHomes recommends getting a quality energy audit for your home. When done properly, an energy audit will pinpoint the true sources of comfort problems and energy waste in your home such as excessive air leaks or insufficient insulation levels. The energy audit will be your roadmap or plan for creating a more comfortable, energy efficient home.
Common Questions about Energy Audits by Homeowners:
- Why is a quality energy audit a smart place to start?
- What does an energy audit include?
- What does an energy audit cost?
- Is a Free Energy Audit Worth doing?
- What are 10 questions I should ask an energy auditor before I hire them?
- How do I find a qualified energy auditor?
- What is my Role as the Homeowner during an Energy Audit?
- What information should I learn from my energy audit?
Remember, a high-quality Home Energy Audit will be a critical step for determining your project for creating a more comfortable home. However, the energy audit by itself doesn’t improve the conditions of the home at all. Only when actually install the prioritized recommendations will you lower your heating cooling costs and feel more comfortable in your home.