Uneven cooling/heating is not an unusual problem. The most common complaint regarding imbalanced temps and HVAC units is that it cools the first floor, but not the second floor. Different temperatures on different floors of your home can signal an issue with how your air conditioning system works.
In some cases, it’s because the system is outdated. Units older than 10 years should be upgraded. However a brand new system isn’t always necessary when you have a skilled professional to help. Read on to find out what you can do if your floors’ temperatures aren’t balanced!
Why Your Air Conditioner Freezes One Floor and Leaves Others Too Warm
Many homes, especially older ones, run on a single air conditioning system that services the entire structure. One thermostat controls this system, and it is often placed in a common area or one where it is expected people might spend the most time. When this area heats up too much, the system kicks on, cooling until that area falls back into the desired temperature range.
Larger homes, and homes with multiple floors, often require more nuanced temperature grading. A single air conditioning system may not offer sufficient temperature detection for multiple floors, and may not be able to react to hot or cold spots in the home. There may also be an issue with the home’s insulation, with blocked vents, or with leaking air ducts.
Before calling in the professionals, check for these minor issues that you can easily fix on your own:
- Check the thermostat. We know, we know. This is just like when you call a technical support line and they ask if your computer is turned on. But sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple things, so make sure to check that your thermostat is set to the right setting (cool rather than heat, for example) and that it is set to a comfortable temperature.
- Check your air filters. Dirty air filters can clog the vent and prevent the constant flow of air. This limits the circulation and can cause potential problems for your HVAC unit. If you struggle to remember replacing your filter every one to three months, we highly recommend signing up for FilterTime – an air filter subscription service that takes the guesswork out of replacing filters. Pro tip: If you do sign up, use the code SNYDER for 10% off your first order.
- Check vents and control air flow with them. Check for blocked or dirty registers. If they’re blocked by furniture or have dust and debris in them, it can affect air flow. You can vacuum them with an attachment loosen and remove dirt. Closing some vents on the first floor can help you redirect air for better circulation on the second (and beyond) floor.
- Check the attic. Insulation helps make sure that hot air stays out and cool air stays in. Make sure that you have the appropriate amount and quality of insulation. Additionally, make sure that the attic has proper ventilation in order to keep heat and moisture out.
If these don’t solve the problem, it’s time to bring out the big guns.
If the aforementioned simple solutions didn’t fix the uneven temps between floors, there are four possible solutions that a professional HVAC technician will likely recommend depending on your needs and budget.
- A new HVAC system. If you have a system that is 10 years or older, you could consider an upgrade to a new system. Modern air conditioning units offer profound energy savings, greater control, and safer coolants that do not damage the environment. Not everyone wants or needs to replace their unit, however, and may prefer a solution such as a zoned system.
- A zoned system. Zoned systems split your home into multiple “zones” with separate controls for each area. Dampers in your ductwork electronically control the heating and cooling in your home, providing only the areas in need of cooling with air. Separate thermostats can even allow you to customize each zone for your comfort!
- Ductless mini-split systems. These utilize air handlers in different areas of your home instead of dampers in the vents. You might have seen them in hotel rooms or other places where each room needs to control its own temperature. Many people don’t realize these are available for their homes as well!
- A duct inspection and cleaning. Sometimes uneven temperatures mean your ducts are improperly sealed or that they have an air leak. Get a professional inspection for effective sealing and cleaning of air ducts to ensure that air is properly circulating through your home.
Find Your Comfort Zone with Snyder Heating & Air Conditioning!
While sometimes these issues can be solved at home, uneven heating and cooling is often indicative of larger problems. When you need to call in the pros, contact Snyder.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and was updated in July 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.