Return problem on the second floor.
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    13

    Return problem on the second floor.

    After many visits by the HVAC company, I am still having issues on my second floor with regard to the returns and the temprerature.

    Some background, 2500 Sqft brand new house, one 4 ton York unit. On the second floor (Master bedroom bath and 3 additional bedrooms and a second bath) it is always warm and never gets below 80 degrees even after the unit has been running for 2 days straight or more. There are returns in each bedroom. When the unit is running, it seems like there is dead air and almost no movement of the air. When getting a ladder and feeling the return vents in each of the bedrooms, they seem to not be drawing any air, even a tissue cannot be held to the vents. The return vents are maybe 14" square. The installers found that within the walls there were some issues with the return that goes all the way down to the basement that were repaired (wrong connects etc.).

    In the attic, there is a rectangle box with 4 - 7" flex going to the returns in each bedroom and 1 large 12" flex that goes to the basement from the attic down the wall of the house for two floors and then to the furnace.

    The second floor almost never gets colder than 80 degrees and most of the time is 10 - 15 degrees warmer than outside.

    The company balanced the system and almost all air is blowing upstairs.

    I appreciate any comments on what needs to be done to make our lives livable again so we can sleep and shower without sweating.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,846
    It sounds like you need some good foam insulation in the attic above the ceiling & some put it under the roof. Also, radiant barriers are in vogue.

    What about window treatments.

    With the Returns fixed & more air to those rooms you should be comfortable.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
    Posts
    18,836
    Your second floor has an attic,first floor doesn't.

    Warm aie rises.

    In cooling more air is needed on the second floor,in heating less air is needed.Two stories ,two systems or a two zone system,is best for comfort.

    That said it sounds like yours is worse then should be expected with a single system.

    Lack of supply or return to the second floor ,or both needs to be determined.

    If leaving all doors open,solves or greatly improves,then it's lack of return air,if it doesn't it's lack of supply air,return still in question as you can't tell when supply is lacking.

    Be sure the attic was insulated and any knee walls,wouldn't be the first home where it was left out.Increasing insulation,etc., will reduce the load and the air flow required,sometimes easier then increasing duct sizes.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    bucks county
    Posts
    4
    I live in a 2500 plus square foot home that is approx 27 yrs old. I had the same issues as you. I had every vent closed on the first floor. I did two things to change the problem. First I found a crawl space in front of master bedroom addition that had NO insulation. Secondly, and by far the most dramatic change, installed a solar attic fan. This greatly reduced the heat temps on the second floor. Either foam your entire attic or it needs to have a fan for all that hot air.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    4H: Hot, Humid Houston H.O.
    Posts
    3,304
    That attic fan is going to suck much of its air from the conditioned building envelope. Air is stupid, it just goes where there is an opening. And there are always openings between the attic and ceiling, just a question of where and how big.

    If the 2nd floor is not cooling, then it needs to be changed or to get more air. Air carries a certain number of cooling BTUs per cubic foot -- need more cooling, then need more CFM. Either one is something a pro can best help you with. These answers are not easy.

    People often don't think of duct leakage, but if you have ducts in the attic then a shocking amount of cooling may be corrupted through leaks. I am a homeowner, probably a pro would not use the word "corrupted" but I think it carries a message. Fixing duct leaks may not solve your whole problem but it should be a high priority.

    Best of luck -- Pstu

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    Northern Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,970
    If I'm reading what you wrote right...... even after some issues with the return were fixed, you still can not get a tissue to hold to the return vents? If your system isn't returning the warm air from the 2nd floor and cooling it down then you're not going to get that floor very comfortable.

    It might be time to get another company (hopefully with expertise with solving air flow issues) out to look at the situation and see what they can do for you.
    Use the biggest hammer you like, pounding a square peg into a round hole does not equal a proper fit.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Cedar Grove, Wi-Sheboygan
    Posts
    1,582
    WEre there dampers put on all the supply runs ? If there are try to shut the down stairs one closed and see what kind of air flow and return air oyu get by doing that will kinda of give you a idea of how much air flow you really do have up stairs, but only close them off for a few minutes to check air flow. If air flow increases by doing that then I would say you have a duct leakage problem, and possibly bad connection to your supply box in your attic. If you really need to keep the bedroom doors closed be sure you have enough air movement form the entire upstairs so air is able to flow freely with the doors closed, if not check to see that you have the doors undercut or enough of a gap between the floor and the bottom of the doors will allow for air movement thru out the 2nd floor. I would think being a newer home you should have sufficient insulation in your attic but then again in todays day you never know what you get with certain contractors MY homewhich is by far smaller than yours only has one return centrally located between all three bedrooms and does a very good job for moving the air thru out with the minium attic insulation and I am able to keep the upstairs and downstiars within 1* of eachother which is not too bad for a 100yr+ home. I believe if you have minium knowledge of your system you should be able to find the problem area(s) and fix yourself or as been said before to get a quailified HVAC contractor to fix them. Winter is fast approaching, Godd Luck

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    13

    Thanks

    Thanks for all the great replies.

    As for the close the downstairs return vents and see if the upstairs vents draw more air, no luck. I tried to cover all my downstairs vents (3) and went upstairs and tried to see if a tissue would hold to the return vents in the four bedrooms and no luck. Didn't even change the flow. Something is really wrong.

    As for the doors in the bedrooms. When I close the doors, there is a rush of cold air out of each of the bedrooms. In each of the bedrooms and in the Master Bath, it really seems like there is little or no air flow.

    I will also try to reverse the supply vents so that when almost closed (lever up) the fins are directed up in the room instead of down. Maybe that will help?

    I almost give up with this and the company is at a loss of what to do. It is still under warranty from the installer but I think they just don't have any more tricks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Princeton, NJ
    Posts
    581
    I had 2nd floor hot air issues also. I am happy to finally say had.
    I have a Trane XV95/XL15i 100kbtu/4-ton system located in the basement for a 2-story 2800 sq. ft home.
    Originally, I'd set the Tstat to 73 on a 90 degree day and the downstairs would be at 73 at 48% humidity and the upstairs would be ~84 or 85 and ~43% humidity. I tried closing down stairs vents and all that did was increase my static pressure resulting in even less airflow. Finally I followed the sugestions of some on this site. I had a lot of changes made to the system but only two I believe are what really solved my problem with the upstairs being to hot and I'm not sure which had the bigger effect because I had both done around the same time.

    1. I had my ~900sq. ft attic insulated with R-30 insulation bats from H-depot. There was insulation up there of course but it was old and laid so flat that one could easily walk around on the attic floor joist without touching it. The new insulation was laid perpendicularly directly on top of the old. The R-30 is 10 inches high so my new insulation value is R-30 plus what ever the old was providing.

    2. I had my return duct leaks sealed in the basement. From what I could visually see they all looked sealed to me but I new there was a problem because everytime the blower came on the door would pull open ~4 inches....indicating negative pressure was present in the basement. To find the leaks, my duct pro actullay ended up cutting two 16x20 inch holes in my 24 inch return trunk at the locations where they panned into the floor joists above. This allowed us to see all of the hidden leaks (which were many) around the joists and around uneven or bent panning. He used mastic to seal it all.....the door no longer pulls open...


    Result...2 of my 3 upstairs returns work great (the 3rd pulls no air for some reason we don't understand but that is another story).

    The upstairs temp is now usually within 2 degrees of the down stairs.

    Good luck with yours.

    Key1

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    13

    Help for last time visit (hopefully)

    After reading all your wonderful replies, I'm sorry to say I still have the issue. What happened is that the company came and balanced the house so almost all air goes to the upstairs and dampered all the downstairs vents so it is hot there. When the unit runs for a day or so, the upstairs gets cooler but never less than the outside air temp, never. Also upstairs it now feels like all the cold air is at the floor and not being moved or circulated up into the room. The downstairs now takes forever to cool down. I also feel the air rushing out of the bottom of the bedroom doors (when closed) to the downstairs.

    The owner of the AC company is coming next week to look at this for the 8th time and I am at a loss of what to do since I am kinda stuck with them coming back to "fix" it under our home warranty (new home).

    What do I tell this guy to check that he may not already know?

    Also what is negative flow or air pressure in the house I read about this somewhere. How to check.

    Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Burlington , Mass
    Posts
    465
    You say you have a new home warranty, your second floor never gets below outdoor ambient. Your not a satisfied person , Its the general contractors and the HVAC contractor to get it right. Dont offer anything in the way of what to check. Just demand that the issue be resolved. You probably paid alot for the new home, why pay to fix others mistakes/problems, they already got paid to do a good job.

    You should be calling the Builder directly, he is responsible for the entire home warranty. He inturn will call the HVAC installer, after a few times he wont be happy and will demand something of the installer.


    This will be his 8th trip out to have a look ? doesnt sound to promising of a company. Keep records of each visit and how long they stayed,and what they did (if anything) you may need that later.

    From what your describing, it sounds like the upstairs return isnt connected to the system.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    13

    New system installed

    Well after 9 visits the owner of the AC Company decided that there were issues with the compressor on the outside unit and they came today to change out the old for a new replacement unit (Outside unit and inside coil). The guys just left and I will now see if this solves my AC issues once and for all.

    I still don't think with the upstairs returns barely drawing much air it will be fixed but I have hope!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,846
    Quote Originally Posted by RJS77 View Post
    Well after 9 visits the owner of the AC Company decided that there were issues with the compressor on the outside unit and they came today to change out the old for a new replacement unit (Outside unit and inside coil). The guys just left and I will now see if this solves my AC issues once and for all.

    I still don't think with the upstairs returns barely drawing much air it will be fixed but I have hope!
    We are waiting to see if the equipment changes solve all the problems.

    From here - It appeared to be largely an airflow problem & a need to reduce the heat-gain to the second floor areas.

    IMO - Those issues should have been addressed & resolved before doing any equipment change outs.
    - Darrell

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