How To Increase Airflow To The Second Floor

Patricia Oelze
by Patricia Oelze

Having a second level in your home is a bonus for most people who want more room and privacy. But what about heating and cooling your upstairs? Heating seems to be no problem since heat rises. The problem is, during the summer, how do you increase airflow to the second floor?

To increase airflow to the second floor consider keeping your AC running in fan mode, adding extra vents, and enlarging return vents. Also, make sure your vents are clean and clear and your AC is working properly and there’s no loose ductwork. You can also switch to a ductless air conditioner or look into a zoned HVAC system, and install ceiling fans on the second floor.

If your HVAC system is constructed properly and the vents are working, there is no reason why your second floor should not be as cool as your lower floors.

First, you need to figure out why the air is not getting to the second floor as it should be. There are quite a few reasons this may happen. If the air conditioner is old or needs coolant, the settings on the air blower is too low, or the ducts may need to be cleaned.

It could also be that the ducts have come loose, or they may be damaged, not letting the air flow to the second floor as it should. Another cause of this could be that you need a second-floor return duct.

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The Settings on the Air Handler is Too Low

Many air handlers have various speed settings on the blower. Some HVAC technicians seem to think that the blower should be on low. Find out where your air handler blower setting is and see if you need to turn it up higher. This is a free and easy way to fix your airflow, so if this is the problem, you are lucky.

When Is the Last Time You Changed Your Air Filter?

This is another simple cause of low airflow anywhere in the house. If your air filter is dirty, it will block the air from getting through, restricting airflow to the second floor.

You also have to make sure you have the correct filter for your needs. All filters are rated by a MERV rating. This is a rating to show the minimum efficiency reporting value of the filter.

The MERV ratings go from 1 to 16, and the higher the rating, the better the filter. Those that rate between 7 and 12 are recommended. The higher the rating, the smaller the pores. And if the pores are too small, your air cannot get through. Try getting a filter with a lower MERV rating.

You May Be Low on Coolant

This is an easy fix too, but it is not usually the cause of bad airflow. It is more of a cause of warm air coming from all the vents instead of cool air. And you may have to call an expert for this if you are not a certified HVAC repairman.

You cannot even buy the coolant if you do not have a license. So, if the air coming out of all your vents is warm, you probably need coolant. And if you need coolant, you probably have a leak somewhere. That is another good reason why you need an expert.

You Could Have Dirty Ducts

Your air ducts are an essential part of your HVAC system. The air has to go through the ducts to get to other parts of the house and back to the air handler to be recycled.

Over time, your air ducts can collect dust, dirt, and other debris that can clog up your ducts, and this will definitely restrict airflow to the second floor.

If you have the right equipment and know-how to do it, you can clean your air ducts yourself.

But if you find mold, insects, or rodent droppings, you are going to need a professional anyway. You may as well just call them in the first place and let them do the dirty work.

Damaged Ducts Can Also Be the Cause

As mentioned above, your air ducts are vital for proper heating and cooling. If the air cannot get through, it will not be able to make it upstairs. Just like with dirty ducts, your air ducts may be damaged or crushed. It may not even have been installed right in the first place.

All HVAC professionals know that the ductwork has to be configured properly to deliver the right amount of air to each area in the home. If your ductwork is too long, has too many twists and turns, or is just dented or crushed, the airflow may be able to cool your main floor but not the upper level.

Have your ductwork checked by an HVAC professional or check it yourself. Chances are, if there is a problem, it may be obvious just by following the ductwork in your basement.

However, sometimes the problem is in the wall or somewhere else you cannot see it. Best to let the professionals handle it.

Maybe You Need to Add Another Return Vent

If you have more than one floor, you typically need more than one air return vent. Actually, a lot of HVAC professionals say that you need at least one air return vent in each room. Larger rooms may need more than one.

Return air vents are just as important as the other air vents because they push the hot air out of your home and back to the air handler.

If you do not have the same amount of air going back into your air handler, you will have insufficient airflow in certain areas. Those areas are typically the highest rooms in the home since heat rises.

If you install another return air vent upstairs, the airflow will be even, and the warm air will go back to the system as it should.

Is Your Ductwork Leaking?

Another thing about ducts is that they are a major source of leaks. It is quite common for duct leaks and most of it can be covered or fixed with duct tape.

No, that is not why it is called duct tape. (Duct tape was originally called “duck tape” because it was green and repelled water like a duck when it was first developed by a woman factory worker during WWII.)

Anyway, if you find a leak, fix it. If not, that does not mean you do not have a leak. It just means that it is probably too small for you to see it. Let the professionals take care of it. They have an easy way to find leaks and they can fix them right away.

Insulate and Ventilate Your Attic

In order to reduce heat on your second floor and have adequate airflow, you must have proper insulation in your attic. If not, your second floor will be very hot and stuffy in the summer months.

Unless your roof is protected from the sun or is constructed with a material that deflects it, it will absorb the sun’s heat. The heat will then go through your attic and into your second floor, making it much more difficult for the HVAC system to cool it down.

To achieve better circulation, you need to make sure that your attic has both proper insulation and ventilation. While the insulation will reduce the amount of heat that travels to your second floor, the ventilation will try to release as much moisture and heat as possible.

Installing an attic fan will help to circulate the air in the space, resulting in an overall decrease of hot air on the second floor. Also, you can try closing some of the supply vents on the first floor to increase circulation to the second level.

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Your Air Conditioner May Need Updating

Another thing that can cause inadequate airflow to the second floor is a weak or old HVAC system. It may be the air conditioner itself, the air handler, or the blower motor. Of course, getting a new system is costly. If you do not have the money to get a new air conditioner or HVAC system, there are other solutions.

Try a window air conditioner or a portable air conditioner in your upstairs rooms. A portable air conditioner will provide plenty of air to one room and since it is portable, you can move it around to wherever you need it. This may just be the easiest and least costly way to fix the airflow problem.

Alternatively, you can try dividing your home into zones, separated by floors. This solution will be a major investment and will likely require additional, new duct work and a new central air system. However, if you’ve already exhausted all other options, having a “dual zone” cooling/heating system installed by a certified professional may solve your issue of poor airflow on your second floor.

When in doubt, it is best to have a certified professional take a look at your particular situation to determine if you need a whole new HVAC system, would benefit from multiple zones, or just need a standard repair.

Patricia Oelze
Patricia Oelze

I am a DIYer who loves writing about anything home-related. When I am not writing, you can find me studying for my PhD in Psychology, photographing nature, and swimming at the lake with my grandkids.

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