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  1. #1

    Solution needed for poor upstairs airflow

    Here's my situation:
    I have a 100 year old, 2300 sq ft (roughly 1300 down 1000 up), two-story home with 10 foot ceilings on the first floor. Since we've lived here (about 2 years) the upstairs is relatively comfortable in the winter (due to heat rising) but is very warm in the summer.

    The house has an older 90-percent efficient Trane furnace in the cellar, and has a single 8x14" duct supplying air to five registers upstairs.
    There are two return airs in the entire house, both of which are in the floor on the first level (one below the thermostat, and the other about 15' away (albeit around a corner) near the stairs to the upstairs).

    I have a location where I could install a 12"x12" chase (maybe bigger, though it's hard to tell exactly) from the cellar to the second floor.

    I've had one HVAC company tell me I need to install an air-handler in my attic, and another suggest a zoned system. Money is tight, and this furnace will be failing soon. I can't afford a big change (the options the aforementioned HVAC companies gave were seemingly out of my budget), so I either need to find an inexpensive solution, or just learn to be content with a window air-conditioner in my second floor.

    It seems like my options are:
    A) A larger, or second, upstairs supply run
    B) An upstairs return air
    C) A more powerful furnace (though I've been told this one is rated for pretty good pressure)
    D) Booster fan(s) in conjunction with one of the above

    My question is, what is the best bang for my buck?

  2. #2
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    Adding a return would be what I would do first. Keep in mind cooling is the removal of heat, not the addition of cold air, so with that in mind, no matter how many supply vents you have, you need a return on that floor to remove all the heat that is rising up or trapped on the second floor.
    A larger/more powerful furnace would only make the issue worse. Air goes the path of least resistance, so if the furnace is more powerful the path of least resistance is probably the downstairs of the house, meaning with more airflow all your going to do is get more cool air to the main floor which will cool the main floor faster and shut the system down faster, if anything, probably going with a smaller furnace with less airflow would help, but that is just a guess and I would need to see your house to verify.
    The last option is that you could turn the "fan" setting on your thermostat to on during the summer so you can constantly cycle air from the upstairs to the downstairs to help keep the temperatures more consistant.

    Where is your house located?
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by SkyHeating View Post
    Where is your house located?
    My home is in the midwest... hot and humid summers, cold and dry winters...

    I had suspected the return air would be the best route, but all the HVAC people I had look at it seemed to disagree. I hate to say it, but I think they may have just been looking to get me to spend more.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThisOldFurnace View Post
    My home is in the midwest... hot and humid summers, cold and dry winters...

    I had suspected the return air would be the best route, but all the HVAC people I had look at it seemed to disagree. I hate to say it, but I think they may have just been looking to get me to spend more.
    No offense to Sky (King) heating, but a return air to the second floor will not help assuming the doors (on the 2nd floor) are always open and there is enough return air to the system now (of course).

    The 14x8 duct riser is good for (only) 600 cfm. I would have installed at least a 20x8 (900cfm) or equal. I like more air than not enough. I think this is a simple concept but contractors seem to have a problem with it. They'll put an 8 cylinder engine in their trucks to drive around town but not install enough ductwork to get the air where it needs to go.

    Five supplies, depending on the sizes, may not be enough either. Not enough information at this to say.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    No offense to Sky (King) heating, but a return air to the second floor will not help assuming the doors (on the 2nd floor) are always open and there is enough return air to the system now (of course).

    The 14x8 duct riser is good for (only) 600 cfm. I would have installed at least a 20x8 (900cfm) or equal. I like more air than not enough. I think this is a simple concept but contractors seem to have a problem with it. They'll put an 8 cylinder engine in their trucks to drive around town but not install enough ductwork to get the air where it needs to go.
    Fair enough. I guess we'll see what the consensus is...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post

    The 14x8 duct riser is good for (only) 600 cfm. I would have installed at least a 20x8 (900cfm) or equal. I like more air than not enough. I think this is a simple concept but contractors seem to have a problem with it.
    But 600 CFM is still enough air for 1.5 tons and I can't imagine them needing more than 1.5 tons of cooling upstairs for only 1,000 sq feet. The reason I would still put in a return vs more supply is that its very hard to pull the hot air from the upstairs back down to the main floor with the returns, regardless of how much air your put upstairs, you are going against the grain without a return upstairs since heat will naturally rise.

    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    No offense to Sky (King) heating,
    Why did you put (King) in the name? We are not associated with King anything. Maybe you are getting me confused with somebody else.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkyHeating View Post
    But 600 CFM is still enough air for 1.5 tons and I can't imagine them needing more than 1.5 tons of cooling upstairs for only 1,000 sq feet. The reason I would still put in a return vs more supply is that its very hard to pull the hot air from the upstairs back down to the main floor with the returns, regardless of how much air your put upstairs, you are going against the grain without a return upstairs since heat will naturally rise.


    Why did you put (King) in the name? We are not associated with King anything. Maybe you are getting me confused with somebody else.
    You must be to young to remember the "Sky King" show on TV. It was about a man flying around in his twin engine airplane. I don't remember much about the show otherwise. I thought since you had Sky in your company's name, I would add King. I thought it was sorta cool.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkyHeating View Post
    But 600 CFM is still enough air for 1.5 tons and I can't imagine them needing more than 1.5 tons of cooling upstairs for only 1,000 sq feet. The reason I would still put in a return vs more supply is that its very hard to pull the hot air from the upstairs back down to the main floor with the returns, regardless of how much air your put upstairs, you are going against the grain without a return upstairs since heat will naturally rise.


    Why did you put (King) in the name? We are not associated with King anything. Maybe you are getting me confused with somebody else.
    How do you highlight the sentences and put them in a box?

    Regarding the 600cfm to the second floor being enough, it must not be, he's hot.
    Although, it get worse, because he has only 5 supplies and who knows what size or how they are run. Plus, we just found out they are in the floor. That's the worst place to try and A/C a 2nd floor. I would like to see at least 2tons to that area.

    You can add return to the 2nd floor all day long and not make a difference if there is not enough supply. Again, assuming there is enough RA to the system now. And I would not take that bet.

  9. #9
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    In homes that were built before air conditioning became standard, I just assume (I know) that any duct system that was designed for heating only is going to be undersized for cooling, especially in a 2 story home with one system and in a climate with a fairly hot cooling season; am I wrong, and if so, why?
    An answer without a question is meaningless.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tipsrfine View Post
    In homes that were built before air conditioning became standard, I just assume (I know) that any duct system that was designed for heating only is going to be undersized for cooling, especially in a 2 story home with one system and in a climate with a fairly hot cooling season; am I wrong, and if so, why?
    Yes, I agree. Older homes built before, say, 1960 did not have ductwork for A/C. Heck, new homes built today quite often don't have the proper sized ductwork.

  11. #11
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    The only way to truly solve the problem is to install another unit for the upstairs, second best option is to install a zone system and return air upstairs, 3 rd option is to install a return and more supply runs up there and kill it with air, you could install a manual damper for the upstairs trunk to better regulate the amount of air going up there from season to season. Options from high price to low.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtrammel View Post
    The only way to truly solve the problem is to install another unit for the upstairs, second best option is to install a zone system and return air upstairs, 3 rd option is to install a return and more supply runs up there and kill it with air, you could install a manual damper for the upstairs trunk to better regulate the amount of air going up there from season to season. Options from high price to low.
    You suggest a new second floor system and (of course) a new first floor system will be in order, correct? The reason a new 1st floor system will be needed is because the existing 3ton (a guess) will be too large for the first floor (1,300 sq. ft.) alone?

    That would be a good idea if the old system is 20 years old and the home owner has money to burn.

    I like your second idea about zoning after the ductwork correction. That would be my #2 suggestion. My #1 suggestion would be correct the ductwork (supply). This is the least expensive, will probably do the job, and if it needs improvement, he can add zoning and then it'll be perfect for the least amount of money.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    You suggest a new second floor system and (of course) a new first floor system will be in order, correct? The reason a new 1st floor system will be needed is because the existing 3ton (a guess) will be too large for the first floor (1,300 sq. ft.) alone?

    That would be a good idea if the old system is 20 years old and the home owner has money to burn.

    I like your second idea about zoning after the ductwork correction. That would be my #2 suggestion. My #1 suggestion would be correct the ductwork (supply). This is the least expensive, will probably do the job, and if it needs improvement, he can add zoning and then it'll be perfect for the least amount of money.
    He said it was an older furnace in his first post and mentioned going up in size on his existing furnace so I'm thinking he's already on track to buy a unit for the first floor. Those were my options from highest price to lowest price also best comfort to least comfort respectively IMO.

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