Upstairs Too Hot, Downstairs Too Cold: What to Do about Uneven Cooling

Do you spend most of the summer fiddling with your thermostat, tying to bring the temperature gap between the rooms in your home? If it’s too hot upstairs and too cold downstairs, or you have one stubborn room in your home that never reaches the right temperature, this guide is for you. Read on to learn tips from our experts and fix your cooling woes for good.

Clean or replace your filters

Your filters are the first line of defense against dust, dirt, and allergens. When these pollutants get caught in the filter, airflow becomes compromised. Even if your air conditioner is doing its job, the cool air won’t make its way into your home if your filters are clogged. We recommend that you replace your filters at least once every three months. If you have pets, or if someone in your home has allergies, it’s best to replace your filters every month.

Turn the fan from “auto” to “on”

Most air conditioners have two fan settings: “Auto” and “on”. To solve uneven airflow in your home, you should turn the switch to the “on” position rather than the “auto” position. This keeps your unit running continuously instead of starting and stopping, which can help your home’s temperature stay consistent.

When the switch is in the “on” position, your system’s fan will stay on and circulate air even after the system’s heating or cooling cycle is complete. This helps to continually circulate the air in your home, which can even out the temperatures in every room. Additionally, this reduces the amount of energy your system uses, as the majority of energy use comes from the process of starting and stopping.

Move your thermostat

Your air conditioner relies on your thermostat to send an accurate temperature reading. Without it, the system wouldn’t know when to turn on, how long to run, and when to turn off. If your thermostat is sending confusing signals, you may end up with uneven cooling. Ideally, your thermostat should be:

  • Centrally located, on an interior wall of your hallway or a room your family uses often
  • Mounted at a height of 52–60 inches above the floor
  • Away from windows, doors, and skylights
  • Comfortably distanced from air vents

If the current location of your thermostat doesn’t fit all of the above, a change of scenery might do it some good. Fortunately, it’s easy to relocate your thermostat.

Know the signs of refrigerant leaks

Refrigerant leaks, or undercharges, are one of the most common problems that result in a significant amount of air conditioner repairs. You can think of refrigerant as the blood that keeps your air conditioner going. If you’re having issues with uneven cooling, a refrigerant leak may be the culprit. Along with temperature issues, signs to look out for include:

  • A hissing noise coming from the air conditioner
  • Your air conditioner turning on and off constantly
  • Lukewarm air coming from vents

Unlike gas in a car, an air conditioner doesn’t use up refrigerant. Simply adding more isn’t a solution to stop a leak.  An HVAC technician will need to work to restore the charge of the system to the manufacturer’s specifications. Checking refrigerant levels and identifying leaks is one of the many services we provide as part of our 26-point maintenance plan.

Fix leaks in ducts

If you have leaks in your ducts, your air conditioner won’t be able to cool your home effectively. While you can’t spot leaks on your own, you can keep an eye out for certain signs, including:

  • Dust: If rooms become dusty after turning on your air conditioning or heating, this is likely the result of dust, dirt, and other contaminants getting sucked into your ducts because of leaks.
  • Higher energy bills: If you’re noticing an increase in your energy bills, leaky ducts may be to blame.
  • Low comfort level: If you find that the air in your home is stuffy or never cools down, cool air may be escaping from your ducts.

Dealing with ductwork requires experience—so we recommend working with a professional to identify and fix any leaks.

Get in the zone with a Zoned HVAC system

To end your uneven cooling issues for good, consider upgrading to a Zoned HVAC System. Instead of having one thermostat responsible for the entire home, you can divide your home into “zones”, each with its own independent temperature controls. Most systems can be converted or retrofitted to accommodate zone control with your existing ductwork.

Zoned systems use electronically controlled dampers, or valves, to manage the flow of cooled or heated air throughout the home. Dampers open or close depending on temperature demands, according to thermostat input.

Replace your (oversized) system

Statistically, there’s a good chance your air conditioner is too big. Some HVAC professionals report that as many as 80% of the homes they service have oversized air conditioning units.  This may not sound like a bad thing, but in the world of air conditioning, bigger isn’t better. An air conditioner that’s too large is prone to short cycling, or turning on and off without completing a full cooling cycle. This leaves your home feeling stuffy, no matter how much you fiddle with the thermostat. Plus, short cycling can hurt your wallet as well, by driving up your monthly energy bills.

At Chas Roberts, we can inspect your current system to see if it falls short of industry standards. We can also calculate the amount of energy your home uses, in order to determine the correct size for your system. If a replacement is necessary, we will work with you every step of the way to make sure you get the best possible results for your home.

Chas Roberts: Keeping your home cool and comfortable

When summer heat rears its head, and your air conditioner isn’t up for the challenge, call in the experts at Chas Roberts to give it a boost. With over 75 years of experience, we’ve seen our fair share of Arizona summers, and we have the expertise necessary to fix whatever air conditioning problems pop up along the way. Contact us for help with repairs, system replacements, troubleshooting, and more.