Many people are attracted to the character and charm of an older home. However, these beautiful homes can have their quirks, including uneven heating, especially throughout the house’s upper floors. This is not necessarily an issue with the furnace. The culprit may be the air distribution system, which is likely not sufficiently sized to supply enough warm air to the upper floors. Learn why your older home is hard to heat and what solutions are available to you in the guide below.
Causes of Heating Challenges
Traditionally, houses built in the first half of the 20th century had a furnace located in the basement powered by wood, sawdust, oil, or coal. In the latter half of the 20th century, most of those heating systems were converted to or replaced by gas-fired furnaces with powerful blower systems. While the new furnaces could produce heat more efficiently and reliably, the homes were still plagued by other heating system problems.
One of those problems was with the ductwork used to construct the heat distribution system. Ductwork was often installed only on the lower floors, and the upper floors were heated based on the concept that warm air rises. Unfortunately, this is an ineffective way to get enough heat to the upper floors. Once the heat level of the main floor reached a desirable temperature, the furnace would shut off, and the upper floors would remain substantially cooler. If ductwork was actually installed for the upper floors, it was frequently undersized and not capable of producing enough warm air flow to keep those rooms comfy.
In addition to this, older properties typically have little or no insulation in the walls and ceilings. Of course, a lack of sufficient insulation greatly increases the rate at which heat is lost to the outside air. The building materials of the home may have also settled, warped, cracked or shrunk with time, creating openings through which warm air can escape and cold air can infiltrate. All these problems result in uneven and inefficient heating of older homes.
An Effective Heating Solution
Since older homes often have narrow, twisting air ducts—if they had them at all—it is hard to effectively utilize these ducts when updating your central heating and air conditioning system. The ability to increase the size of the ductwork, install zoning controls or add new air returns can be expensive. This process often involves cutting into walls or going through closets (thus losing precious closet space) in order to properly reconfigure the duct system. Then, ductwork needs to be enclosed and walls need to be repaired and painted. As you can probably imagine, a project like this can be laborious and inconvenient.
An increasingly popular option is to talk to an HVAC contractor about installing a mini-split heat pump, also known as a ductless system. This involves installing a condenser unit outside that extracts heat from the outside air even at sub-zero temperatures. The system then transfers this heat directly to individual rooms via small refrigerant lines and without the use of ducts. The refrigerant lines are connected to wall-, floor-, or ceiling-mounted indoor units which circulate heated (or cooled) air within the room.
In addition to being a powerful source of heat, this option is very energy-efficient and quiet. One of the key features of ductless systems is that you are able to adjust the temperature on a room-by-room basis. This permits maximum comfort because the temperatures can be set according to the needs of that particular room. Plus, ductless systems can also provide cool, conditioned air during the summer months. This makes everybody happy!
Jon’s Plumbing & Heating has been recognized as an Armstrong® Comfort Team and Pro Team contractor, a Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor®, and an A+ rated and accredited company with the Better Business Bureau®. Our technicians use a selection of products that exceed government standards. This means that you may be eligible for tax credits or rebates when installing our Energy Star®-rated furnaces and air conditioners. Learn more about the ways our team can help keep your family comfortable online. Call (740) 392-5667 to schedule an appointment.