Where's the Heat Coming From???

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Old 04-18-11, 10:42 AM
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Where's the Heat Coming From???

I've been trying to cool down my newborn's room as it is on the south-facing side of the house (and top level) and takes sun the majority of the day. Therefore, it is about 4 to 5 degrees warmer in her room than the rest of the house. I installed a thermal covering over her windows yesterday (shiny silver stuff that supposedly blocks 97% of sun's energy), but it is still 73 degrees in her room and 69 in the remainder of the house. I had the attic insulated last year with an R-value of 55. Only other thing I can think of is that the house has aluminum siding and perhaps that is contributing to the problem? The bedroom is about 12' x 12' and has a single 4x10 air vent in the floor. I thought about installing another vent to help cool down the room, but I was hoping to find the source of my problem first because installing a vent is going to be a PITA. Any ideas?
 
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Old 04-18-11, 12:35 PM
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Is the window in question a new one. How much insulation in the walls? And what is the temperature of the air coming out of that vent?

Bud
 
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Old 04-18-11, 03:02 PM
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It could be the duct most homes duct is not sized correctly. Sounds like u have done the obvious now time to have a heat load done on the home so the duct can be sized correctly. For your info insulation will do nothing for heat gain.
 
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Old 04-19-11, 11:50 AM
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Heating in the winter is not my concern, it's keeping it cool during the summer months. There are three windows in the room, two of which are completely covered with the foil insulation. The third window is halfway covered. Partially covered window is 28 years old (aluminum single hung) and supposedly argon filled. Air coming out of the vent feels cool, but just isn't enough to keep the room cool. Perhaps leaving the third window partially uncovered is negating any benefits from completely covering the other two?
 
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Old 04-19-11, 12:23 PM
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My guess is the supply of cold air is not enough. You need to measure the temperature of that air with something better than your hand. Then do the same with a register in a cooler area.

The heat load calculation airman is suggesting is not just a heat loss number, but a system requirement that will tell you if the energy being delivered to that room is sufficient to cool what mother nature is applying from the outside.

Your solutions will be to supply more cooling energy or reduce the heat from mother nature.

Bud
 
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Old 04-19-11, 01:37 PM
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Sounds like I'll be adding another vent then. It will be a straight shot from the main trunk line in the basement up to her room on the second floor (about 13 feet). I can run the ductwork through a closet on the first floor straight above to the towel closet in the second floor, then directly into her room. What size ductwork should I use? 6"? The vent will be on the opposite side of the room as the existing one and will be mounted on the wall about 4-6" above the floor. Can't go much higher without interfering with the shelving inside the closet. Would putting the vent in the ceiling be even better (cold air falls right?). Not sure this would be an option though considering all the obstacles in my way of doing a ceiling vent.

Just another thought. I know from experience working on my house that none of the ductwork is taped, so everything is very leaky, which I'm sure is having a significant decrease in the air flow. The air handler fan is on the lowest setting. Should I kick it up to medium to increase the air flow? Also, there is a 4" diameter vent directly above the air handler outlet that feeds the bathroom directly above which blows way too hard (for obvious reasons). Could having this vent directly above the air handler be degrading air flow to the remainder of the home?
 
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Old 04-19-11, 01:52 PM
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I am not a HVAC guy but would it be better to put a return in that room instead of a supply?

Since your running the duct anyway. I would think the return would remove the heat better. Isn't that how they do it Now? A return in every room instead on one centrally located? Plus do you have any returns upstairs?

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-19-11, 05:21 PM
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Never thought of a return. That would actually be easier because I could run it through the attic and tap into the return from our master bedroom closet. Plus, it would be in the ceiling which seems ideal. Currently there is a single return upstairs in the hall. FYI, house has vaulted ceilings with skylights and therefore half of the bottom level is open to the upstairs, which I'm sure doesn't help.
 
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Old 04-19-11, 08:51 PM
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Again u need to do a Manuel J to know what u need. U might need a ten inch duct but with out the J u don't know! Have u made sure the dampers are open
 
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Old 04-20-11, 09:44 AM
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Only damper is one I installed on the return in the basement, which I closed last night so the 1st and 2nd floor returns would pull more air. The basement is very cool (obviously), and I suppose the upper floors feel a bit more comfortable. Hasn't been long enough to notice a difference. Will have to wait and see this weekend. I briefly took a look at the Manual J, but it wasn't obvious what I need to do. Can someone give me a quick tutorial? Does it come down to matching the output (registers) to the input (returns). Is there a simple way to do this?
 
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Old 04-20-11, 10:06 AM
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Only damper is one I installed on the return in the basement, which I closed last night so the 1st and 2nd floor returns would pull more air. The basement is very cool (obviously), and I suppose the upper floors feel a bit more comfortable. Hasn't been long enough to notice a difference. Will have to wait and see this weekend. I briefly took a look at the Manual J, but it wasn't obvious what I need to do. Can someone give me a quick tutorial? Does it come down to matching the output (registers) to the input (returns). Is there a simple way to do this?
Not sure this is relevant, but if I open the window in her bedroom, no air comes in, but if I also open the back door on the first floor, air rushes in her window. Is this because there is too much pressure in the house? Again, I am clueless in this area.
 
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Old 04-20-11, 10:17 AM
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No HVAC expert (on anything really..lol), but theres a few things I'd like to add...

Unless they were pretty high end (or the owners/builders were very energy aware) it's unlikely windows from 1983 were argon filled. Are they double pane? Also, most likely the gas, if any, has leaked out by now..so it's not providing any real benefit. Also be aware that putting film on some windows can cause glass breakage due to thermal stress.

What's the flow from the vent like compared to something that's a similar distance? Leaky ducts are never good.

I do know they Pro's here are right, you should get someone in that can check everything out. At the least they can check airflow and temps to see if what you already have is working as it should.

I have one bedroom that is always colder/warmer than the other 2 similar rooms. Why? Cause it has 2 outside walls and one large older window. The others only have one exterior wall and the window/door in each has been improved over the original. If the one rooms door is closed (guests, keeping pets out, etc) the temp variation can be 7 or 8 degrees over just a few hours.
 
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Old 04-20-11, 12:07 PM
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I was told by the home inspector that the windows are argon filled. Several of seals were leaking and we had them replaced before we bought the house. Wasn't aware of the potential issue with glass breakage. That wouldn't be good at all. Sounds like I need to have those windows replaced and perhaps add a vent. Or add a vent and wait until the windows shatter then replace them
 

Last edited by mossman; 04-20-11 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 04-20-11, 03:31 PM
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The "energy saving" replacement window business has got to be one of the biggest scams of the last forty years. Unless your windows are missing the glass the actual energy savings will take another thirty years before you break even on the cost.

ALL the suggestions given in this thread have merit. The ONLY way to fully understand the problem and be able to evaluate the various suggestions is to do it in a scientific and methodical manner. Absolutely the very first thing to do is a heat loss / heat gain calculation on the problem room. Once the numbers are in you can then make educated choices as to what the most efficacious strategies for comfort may be. More likely as not it will be a combination of several different things.

The other thing to remember is that infants have been growing to adulthood for many thousands of years before homes had central heating or cooling. Children are much more resilient to temperature changes than are adults. I remember that when I was about eight years old my family spent a summer in Iowa and while the adults complained about the heat I never noticed any problem. When I returned in my late twenties I DID notice the oppressive heat.
 
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Old 04-21-11, 06:23 AM
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Get one of these and pinpoint where the heat is coming from. I had a small hole in the wall where an outlet plate was missing. The cold air coming through was about 20F colder in the hole. I also found that the ceiling fan was running continuously but stuck due to loose screws. It read 100F.

Amazon.com: Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector: Home Improvement
 
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Old 04-21-11, 10:58 AM
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Not worried about recouping any costs, just want it to be comfortable in her room. I closed the basement damper and it doesn't seem as bad upstairs. I've also been closing other vents throughout the first level to force more air upstairs. Does this makes sense? Do I risk damaging the blower fan if it is sucking more air in than is going out? Should I just leave all the registers open and let the air flow?
 
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Old 04-21-11, 01:03 PM
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You will be fine to close a few dampers down but would not close to many
 
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Old 04-21-11, 01:29 PM
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It really sounds like you need to balance the air flow in your house.
It also sounds like to do this you will need to add more airflow by adding or increasing the duct size.
In addition to this you will likely have to balance the flow in all the duct work to increase the pressure in the plenum to be able to feed the upper floor.

This is a very common problem with two story houses.
One solution many use is a separate air handler for the upper floor.

To prove that it is or isn't a return problem is to open all doors between the main floor and the upstairs rooms.
And, to prove that the return duct at the furnace is adequate carefully open the blower door while the fan is running and gauge how much suction there is when you pull the door away from the furnace.
Just don't loose grip on the door and loose a finger if the pressure is excessive!
 
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Old 04-22-11, 09:19 AM
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There are no doors separating the floors, and when I open the air handler cover, there is A LOT of suction. I'm assuming this is a good thing. Maybe its not an airflow issue, but rather a temperature issue (air not cool enough). The evap coil is in terrible shape (bent and deteriorated fins), so it likely isn't cooling as much as it should. What temperature range should the air temp be coming out of the registers?
 
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Old 04-22-11, 03:33 PM
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...when I open the air handler cover, there is A LOT of suction. I'm assuming this is a good thing.
No, this is a BAD thing. It indicates that your return-air duct system is woefully inadequate. If it is any consolation probably close to 80% of residential forced air installations have inadequate return air ducts.
 
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Old 04-22-11, 04:17 PM
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If your door were to fall away from the furnace while running would be good.

This could be part of your problem.
Your furnace is starving of air.

You can see the results of this with a little test.
Tie some ribbons or tape a piece of paper to a couple of grills on the first and second floors with the fan running.
Set the paper or ribbon so it is only partially moving or lifted.
While the fan is running carefully open and take off the furnace door to see how this affects the air flow.

Improving return air to the main floor would be the first logical step.
 
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Old 04-22-11, 04:47 PM
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Need to do the heat load! This will tell u what size unit and duct u need!
 
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Old 04-25-11, 10:37 AM
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Wow, ok. That actually makes perfect sense to me now. So I guess I should open back up the damper in the basement return regardless of the season to give it more air. This is probably why the motor burned out prematurely. Sounds like adding a few more return vents would help then as well. I'd like to put one in each of the upstairs bedrooms. And to address Airman, I really don't have the knowledge to conduct a heat load, but it is obvious that the air handler is starving for intake, so adding a few returns would be a good start...right?
 
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Old 04-25-11, 11:31 AM
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Ok.

Only damper is one I installed on the return in the basement, which I closed last night so the 1st and 2nd floor returns would pull more air.
There are a lot of posts on this problem and I didn't clue in to what you previously said.
The only time a damper is installed on a return line is in commercial applications where there is an alternate source of air like an outside air supply.

Once you opened up the return damper how much pressure is on the furnace door?
The more pressure you find at the door the more effective adding returns will be.
Returns added to the second floor will be of minimal benefit if you have lots of return air from the first floor.
Adding supply vents to the second floor is likely what you need.

The motor will not have burned out because of a return air damper being closed.
Squirrel cage fans when the load is restricted will place less load on the motor because it is doing less work.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 01:10 PM
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The motor will not have burned out because of a return air damper being closed.
Not entirely true. While it IS true that reducing the air flow will reduce the load on the motor what you are forgetting is that many blower motors are "air over" rated for cooling and if there is insufficient air flow the motor may burnout even though the horsepower output has been greatly reduced.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 03:47 PM
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The more pressure you find at the door the more effective adding returns will be.
Ok, so if I understand correctly, the goal is to add return(s) in order to minimize the pressure at the door. And I should open the basement damper so the air handler has more intake.


Returns added to the second floor will be of minimal benefit if you have lots of return air from the first floor.
I have no idea where the most return air is coming from. I figured it was split equally between the three returns--weaker suction the farther away I would assume. The reason I would want to add returns upstairs is to suck more hot air from the upper floor.

Adding supply vents to the second floor is likely what you need.
How are supply vents going to solve my problem? I thought my problem was that I need more returns as evident from the large amount of suction at the air handler door.

...update...I opened the basement return damper fully and didn't notice any significant change in the suction at the air handler door. The door I am referring to is the air filter door, which is below the blower and on the intake side of the evap coil (obviously). I should clarify that the "door" I was referring to with so much suction is actually the access cover for the squirrel cage fan and motor. The air filter cover does not have much suction at all. So is it ok to leave the basement return closed off so more air is drawn in from the upper floors?
 

Last edited by mossman; 04-25-11 at 05:25 PM.
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Old 04-25-11, 05:25 PM
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Ok,

The suggestions I am making are very general guidelines.
The proper way to do this is to have your home and duct work assessed by doing a heating/cooling load calculation as suggested by airman.
This will not only give you a load calculation for the whole house but also for each individual room.
You then take the requirements for each room and size the duct work accordingly.

If your return air is restricted to the furnace you will reduce the total volume of air your furnace will move to both the first and second floor.
If you were to improve the air flow to the main floor and had the doors to the rooms open you MAY improve the airflow to the upstairs by returning air down the stairway.
I previously offered a way of doing a crude test to check this.

I have a hunch that:
- your returns to the main floor are inadequate.
- your returns to the second floor are inadequate or non-existent.
- your supply to the second floor is inadequate.

I have a hunch that if you improve the return to the first floor it might help.
I also have a hunch that if you increase the duct work to the second floor it would also help.
I don't have a hunch on what size ducts to install because you would need to do a load calc for that.
 
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Old 04-27-11, 10:21 AM
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Screw it, I have too many other things to worry about. I'm just going to pick up a portable self-evaporative air conditioner and put it in her room. LG makes a nice one for $250.
 
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Old 04-27-11, 10:49 AM
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It would be better to leave this alone until you can devote the time it takes to get this right.

One other thing you might want to consider is the actual temperatures you are talking about.
You said the house will run at 69 degF and the newborn's room at 73.

On the face of it a temperature of 73 deg is where a majority of people would shoot for given everything is working properly.
Humidity removal is a very big part of comfort cooling and makes a big difference in the comfort level in your home.
If your a/c system is not removing a significant amount of moisture you will have to set your temps colder than what they should be to be comfortable.

Are you sure of those temps?
We raised three kids in non air conditioned homes and there was no sleep lost over hot rooms and our summers can be Florida like for part of the year.
Unless there is a special need for lower temps in your babies room you might want to consider humidity removal rather than driving down the temp of the room.

Just thought.
 
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Old 04-27-11, 11:15 AM
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I personally think the temp is fine for baby. It's the wife that is pushing the 68-70 degree mark based on what she has read. Plus babys tend to sleep better when it's cooler. Humidity doesn't seem to be a problem. The house is relatively small so I think there actually are enough vents and returns. As I posted earlier, I put a thermal covering over the windows, which is about 1/4" thick, foil on both sides with insulating layer in center and it is warm to the touch on a sunny day, so its obvious that the windows are playing a major factor. I have a thermometer and humidistat in her room. Temp is usually about 72 to 73 when remainder of house is 69 and humidity is upper 40's. A portable A/C unit would be a quick solution to both dropping the temp and the humidity wouldn't it? I seriously considering replacing the windows regardless (argon filled, low E glass), and I'm hoping this will help significantly.
 
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Old 04-27-11, 11:25 AM
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Unless there is a special need for lower temps in your babies room you might want to consider humidity removal rather than driving down the temp of the room.
Greg H, for humidity removal isn't he better off putting a return in that room? He said it was easily accessable.

I am not in the HVAC business and only base my answer from working with HVAC people. When I inquired about adding ac to my cape style home, they said to run returns in each room upstairs, and a main return at the top of the stairs. There are some homes that have ac in my development and upstairs in a cape still stays hot while downstairs is cool, or even cold.

Some even suggested not even to put a return in the downstairs section, which I think makes sense.

With that said, it would seem he should close off that basement return, and add a return in each room of the upstairs. Which he said is easier(attic access) then adding a supply to that one room. But he should have some type of damper on them because in the heating season you want the oppisite effect. The HVAC guys I know stated that you need to change damper setting from summer to winter when dealing with a up/down level home.

What would he have to lose?

I may be talking out my @#$ but it seems logical.

I think all these posts confused him. I think that there is no consensus in the HVAC industry to suggest supplys or returns for his issue.

If you think like a refridge, it removes heat it does not cool, so to say. So in any hot space you want to remove the heat, correct?

Ahh, just my 2 cents. Like I said I am not a HVAC guy.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-27-11, 12:42 PM
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You sure are right that there are way to many posts on this!

The correct solution was offered by airman in post number three!
There is a lack of consensus amongst many working in HVAC but it is mostly because many trades people don't use the suggestions in airman's post.

HVAC is not a black art for there to be any disagreement at all in this area.
Many people working in this field are often well qualified in their area but are not engineers which is the profession that does this type of design, and uses heat load and air movement calculations to come up with furnace, a/c and duct sizing.

You really need to find someone who has a good handle on this.
Keep in mind that just because someone has been banging on sheet metal for twenty years doesn't make them qualified at HVAC design.
If you do get someone to look at this for you ask for specific references where they have successfully designed and installed duct work in a two story home like yours.

The bottom line in this case is that you can't return what you do not supply, plain and simple.
Adding returns to an area that doesn't have an adequate supply does nothing, except if the furnace is already starving for air, which leads us to how many circles now!
 
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Old 04-28-11, 08:26 AM
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Gotcha. Picking up a portable AC unit today. I think the temp is fine, it's the wife that wants to freeze the baby. She sleeps longer when the blood flow is slower (kidding of course).
 
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Old 04-28-11, 02:47 PM
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Good decision!

I don't have the energy to read through the posts to remind myself if I said this but many two story homes are now being built with two air handlers, one for each level to guarantee proper airflow to all areas.
 
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Old 04-28-11, 07:32 PM
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Just going to add to gregs post. Allways hot and cold spots in a home is because of impoper sized units and are duct. A heat load is the first step any hvac company should do for the design of the duct and unit. This is seldom done in this day and age of spec houses.
 
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Old 04-29-11, 10:40 AM
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I'm sure the system design is fine. It's a small house with a return on each level and one or two registers in each room. The bedroom I am referring to is a couple degress warmer because the sun beats on it all day and the windows are old and need replacing. I can handle it from here. Thanks for all your help.
 
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Old 04-29-11, 11:27 AM
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A couple of degrees between rooms is not fine! there are duct issues.
 
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Old 04-29-11, 09:13 PM
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You can lead a horse to water and you can try to educate a person but in neither case is there any guarantee your efforts will do any good.
 
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Old 05-01-11, 11:31 AM
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Your telling me that the top level of a three story open concept (vaulted ceiling) home being a few degrees warmer than the 1st level isn't normal!? Any heat from the lower level rises to the upper level (again, I have vaulted ceilings and skylights), the attic is directly above, and the sun beats down on this particular room all day long!
 
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Old 05-01-11, 03:43 PM
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Ok, this tread is going nowhere!

We have been discussing this problem based on your home being a two story dwelling with a basement.
I can't read through all the posts but I do not recall reading you have a "three story open concept (vaulted ceiling) home "!

There are people contributing here that could come up with a workable solution to this problem but this thread is an example of the difficulty of discussing solutions based on the info we get.

You really need to get a qualified estimator to figure this out.
Make sure you get someone who can do the calculations mentioned here and has more of an engineering background and not a simple installer.


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