Hot summer nights can make falling asleep an uncomfortable experience. As we learned in science class, heat rises. Efforts to cool the upstairs of a two-story home are fighting against the pull of hot air to the upper levels of the house. Attic spaces, second and third floors, and lofts feel the heat in a way that the downstairs rooms do not. Blasting the air conditioner can help, but in some cases, it leaves the lower rooms too cold and the upper rooms barely tolerable. In understanding how to cool the upstairs of a two-story home, prevention, strategic thinking, and a little bit of science are the keys to a cool night’s rest.
Much of how to cool the upstairs of a two-story home depends on the home itself. Before the summer temps climb too high, take steps to ensure your home isn’t losing cool air through leaks, poor insulation, or air conditioner maintenance problems. Start by performing a DIY home energy audit (detailed audit tips and steps can be found at Know Your Home: Perform a DIY Home Energy Audit [INSERT INTERNAL LINK]). This involves changing the filters in air conditioning units, replacing the batteries in the thermostat, visually inspecting the cooling unit for tears, dirt streaks, and leaks in the ductwork, and making sure the outside unit is not blocked by leaves or debris. Are the air vents in the upstairs rooms blocked by curtains, furniture, or other obstacles? This could hinder the cool air flowing into the space. Are there any gaps, wear, or cracks in the attic insulation? Cool air could be rapidly leaking from the home. Can the attic door be shut tightly, and is it lined with insulated material to prevent cool air from escaping? This works both ways – your home may be too cold in the winter months if not properly insulated at every entrance. Older homes may need professional help with insulation. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a home insulation guide to assist in determining the right insulation for the age of the home. Once you’ve determined that there are no big problems limiting cooling the upstairs of the two-story home, smaller steps can be taken to prevent overheating.
One large step in how to cool the upstairs of a two-story home relies on the strategic use of fans to circulate air and create a wind chill effect. Fans can work in tandem with your air conditioning to move cool air through the home (and allowing you to save energy and money by setting the thermostat on a higher temp). As noted, heat rises while cooler air sinks closer to the floor. The second floor of the home will have cool air blowing in through the AC vents, but it will also have to compete with the heat from the first floor rising through the ceiling. Using fans or air circulators on both floors can help create an even circulation of air. By positioning your fan to move the cool air gathered at the floor up to the ceiling, it disperses the hot air gathered there. Using a pedestal fan like the 20″ Oscillating Remote Control Pedestal Fan or a tower fan like the Xtra Air Tower Fan with Remote Control in an upstairs hallway during the day can help ensure a cooler sleeping temperature at night. Choose a fan with a timer, like the Oscillating Tower Fan with Twin Grills or the 20″ Oscillating Remote Control Pedestal Fan, for automatic shut off in the late-night hours when everyone is asleep to conserve extra energy. Adding a fan in the bedroom can create a cross ventilation when using a fan in the hall. A box fan, like the Cool Colors 20″ Box Fan in Blue or the Weather-Shield® Select 20″ Box Fan with Thermostat, positioned on the floor in the bedroom serves multiple purposes. It can push cool air upwards, circulate the cold air being released from the AC vent, help move the air circulating in from a hall or adjoining room, and can cost as little as $0.02 per hour on average to operate. Sleeping with the bedroom door open and a fan blowing keeps the room from recycling the same air. Likewise, turning off the AC and sleeping with the window open or using a window fan at night when the temperatures are cooler can boost the movement of air flow in the room. A window fan is a smart option, as it can run in tandem with the AC while still pulling in fresh, cooler air from outside. A window fan like the Electrically Reversible Twin Window Fan with Remote Control performs double duty; it exhausts hot air from the room while simultaneously pulling fresh air in. During the day, make sure to keep windows covered when in direct sunlight. By shutting the blinds or shades immediately in the morning, you’ll reduce the heat coming into the room and trap the cooler air inside longer. Have these how to cool the upstairs of a two-story home tips in mind and keep your cool all summer long.