Every building, home, and room normalizes into hot and cold spots throughout the year. During the winter, you may find that some rooms are overheated while others remain much cooler than what’s general “comfortable.” There are a number of causes behind the uneven heating of a home, fortunately, there are a variety of solutions you can use to solve the problem as well!
Heat distribution is primarily affected by:
- The amount of heat available
- The size and shape of space being filled
- How heat is moving through a room
Amount of Available Heat
Furnaces and air conditioners can only generate a certain amount of heat. So, if your furnace is the wrong size for your home, it won’t be able to heat your home properly. This doesn’t just apply to an undersized furnace either. An oversized furnace is going to be inefficient too. These oversized go through excessive On/Off cycling (sometimes referred to as “short cycling”). Short cycling can lead to the furnace wearing out faster (meaning more expensive repairs down the road), higher energy bills, and uneven heating of the home due to the abrupt start/stop nature of its heating.
A simple BTU calculation can help verify if this is the cause of the issue, but a professional technician is recommended in order to test for other problems, such as flow rate or obstructions, that a simple BTU calculation can’t account for.
The Size and Shape of the Space
Home design is a major factor in how a given home is heated. Exterior facing rooms with large windows have less insulation and can become harder to heat or cool. Rooms that are farther from a forced air source will also, naturally, require a greater amount of effort to properly regulate their temperatures. Additionally, some rooms are specifically designed to efficiently retain heat, while others remain hotter because of the direction they face.
Though technically an option, remodeling your home is an expensive solution that probably isn’t worth the change of a few degrees’ in temperature. Similarly, redesigning the ventilation ducts in your home for better-forced air distribution is also fairly cost-prohibitive. The best solution may be to install zoned climate controls for your home. Another solution might be to install a ductless heating system in the coldest rooms that will allow you to directly control the temperature of those rooms without overheating other rooms. If nothing else, setting the thermostat to keep heavy-traffic rooms comfortable and using a space heater for spare rooms is also an effective, energy-efficient solution.
Heat Movement and Airflow
One of the most common, and most easily remedied, reasons for uneven heating and cooling is air flow. You may find that rooms in your home aren’t being properly heated or cooled because your forced air system can’t circulate air to those rooms. A similar problem could be that certain rooms are being negatively affected by air leaks promoting airflow back out of those rooms. More obviously, ventilation systems that are dirty, have old filters which need to be replaced or contain ductwork that is crushed or blocked will suffer from the reduced air flow. If hot air can’t reach a given room, your central heating unit’s ability to warm that room will be substantially reduced. In many cases, simply cleaning the ducts and replacing your air filters will restore your home’s ability to heat evenly.
In other cases, re-sealing ductwork, windows, and doors are required to restore airflow balance. A leak in any of these areas is certainly capable of reducing the effectiveness of your heating and cooling systems. External leaks, in particular, can allow substantial amounts of heat to seep in or out of your home depending on the season.
Proper air circulation is another important aspect of keeping room temperature equalized. Hot air rises; without regular circulation, the floor of your home will eventually cool while the ceiling remains warm. The forced air system of your furnace is usually enough to keep air circulating, but the on-cycle doesn’t always last long enough. Setting the fan to ON, rather than automatic, will keep the blower fan running and air circulating happily about the rooms of your home. Another alternative is to set your ceiling fans on reverse with a low speed, which can also help circulate air around the room and keep the temperature even.