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Room Comfort: A Balancing Act

We have a problem keeping several rooms comfortable. These rooms are either chilly during the winter or hot in the summer. What are some simple, efficient methods to balance out the temperatures in our home?—Jan F.

Nearly every house has some problems keeping all the rooms evenly warmed or cooled. The heating, cooling, and ventilation system is one of the last design features considered when a house is built. In addition to keeping the house comfortable year-round, other considerations such as installation costs and utility bills are factors that must be evaluated.

There are many reasons various rooms do not stay warm or cool enough even though they have similar ducts.

Ductwork problems are a possible cause of uneven heating and cooling, and can be difficult to diagnose and solve. Ducts can come apart or be damaged in a number of ways, including wear and tear, damage from animals, or improper installation. For that reason, the best thing to do is contact an HVAC professional to analyze the problem.

Another common reason for uneven temperature is the number and orientation of windows.

East and west-facing windows can transmit much heat into a room, making it overheat during the summer. North-facing windows, especially old leaky ones, can make a room chilly during the winter. Both problems can be eased with new windows or insulating shades. Ducts’ metal walls may lose or gain heat as air travels from the furnace or central air conditioner to the rooms.

Problem may be in ducts
One way to check this is to hold a thermometer in the register outlet airflow in each room. If there is a significant difference in the temperature, there may not be enough airflow in the room to maintain the desired temperature during extreme warm and cold weather. This could be because the ducts are damaged or blocked.

Another simple way to check airflow is to hold your hand over room outlet registers to compare airflow rates. If a room is far from the indoor blower, the duct creates more airflow resistance. This problems is exacerbated by the fact that longer ducts lost more heat through their walls.

Check the damper plates in the ducts near the furnace to be sure the ones leading to the problem rooms are not partially closed and blocking airflow.

Most important, if you feel this is a serious enough problem, an HVAC contractor can repair, seal, and adjust airflow to bring your home into proper balance.


Finding temperature trouble
While contacting an HVAC professional to analyze temperature differences in your house is strongly recommended, there are a few fairly quick and easy possible problems you can look for yourself:

1. Make sure all the vent dampers are open.

2. Take the registers off and look into the ductwork to make sure nothing has gotten into the ducts to obstruct airflow.

3. When air is blowing, put your hand over each vent to see if the airflow from one is significantly hotter or colder than the others.

4. Add insulation above the room that’s too hot or too cold if possible.

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