Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

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Cody
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Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:17 am

I may have posted before on this topic but we now have installed a ceiling fan (DC) at the highest point in the open stairwell to force hot air down to the first floor. That has helped. Its my daughter family.

But they stil live upstairs in the 3 bedrooms in winter because of the cold. The goal is to make the downstairs a winter liveable, comfortable space.

They have heat vents (little round adjustable ones - not real affective) downstairs on the ceiling and two cold air vents on the wall next to the ceiling.

I'm sure much of the heat simple goes up the open stair well, overheating the upstairs. I even once blocked off the stairwell as best I could to create a "separate downstairs" and that helped but is impractical.

We are looking to be smart and cost effective here so a major remodel or reroute of furnace vents is out.

I am looking for two kinds of ideas. 1) From you experience/knowledge what relatively simple suggestion should I now try. 2) Who could professionally advise us that would be more than the traditional heating people (who don't seem to know how to deal with this problem).

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks much

ten2go
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by ten2go » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:26 am

Have you tried setting the HVAC fan to "ON" instead of "Auto". This may help to more evenly distribute the air. Hopefully, there is a cold air return on the 2nd floor which is open.

Also check around 1st floor doors, windows and fireplace. If the weather stripping or insulation could be improved any on the first floor, then less cold air will be seaping in from the outside.

Another thing to try may be to partially close off some of the furnace vents on the 2nd floor. This may allow more heat to flow into the first floor, and eventually make its way up the stairs.

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Cody
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:29 am

That's what I am lookinf for - practical solutions.

I emailed my daughter on the "does cold air come in the fire place?"

cody

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by dm200 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:54 am

ten2go wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:26 am
Have you tried setting the HVAC fan to "ON" instead of "Auto". This may help to more evenly distribute the air. Hopefully, there is a cold air return on the 2nd floor which is open.
Yes - years ago, in a rental home, we had a summer AC distribution problem - once I set the fan to run all the time - problem solved.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:56 am

I texted my daughter and she said:

The fireplace is coolish but not extreme. How would you reduce the cold air coming in? They don't use it much as it does not have a fan. It gas.

Thanks

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:57 am

She also said we had tried the fan on "on". I think we can try that again but I guess it didn't do much to help.

StandingRock
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by StandingRock » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:00 am

Do the ducts around the furnace have dampers that can be adjusted? I lived in a townhouse with a loft for years and years, and twice a year I would adjust the dampers so that in the winter time more air would blow downstairs and in the summer time more air would blow upstairs.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:09 am

No dampers but thought maybe it would work putting them in. That would be the best form of heatregulation I think.

Is in floor heating very costly to run. Would it be effective in a part of a living room (say 15 by 15 feet) where they want to be. Is it an electrical house rewire. (not a likely solution but????).

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by ad2007 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:13 am

What's the temperature difference. Also measure the humidity. You can buy one of those things for 10 bucks and know for sure.

We have the opposite problem living in Florida and had the humidity controlled to feel more comfortable in the summers.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:15 am

Should I buy a "infared gun" to measure temp at various parts of the condo? Would that work?

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by lthenderson » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:16 am

The cheapest way is to set the fan to on all the time. The easiest way is to purchase smart vent covers that connect to wifi and effectively regulate the temperature of every room by itself. They can tell your furnace to apply more heat and close all other vents where heat is not needed. They do cost quite a bit of money compared to normal "non-smart" vent covers.

https://keenhome.io/pages/how-it-works

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Valuethinker » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:21 am

Cody wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:15 am
Should I buy a "infared gun" to measure temp at various parts of the condo? Would that work?
They are helpful for finding cold spots in wall, skirting etc. If there's some place where there is an outside air leak into the insulated space, etc, that could identify that space (very cold wall next to).

They don't work on the intervening "air", they really work best pointed at a hard surface - you need a good thermometer for that. Put one by the vent and find out what the output air temp is. Then say 10' away towards center of room.

Have used smoke sticks (in my case, jasmine incense sticks) to track air flows. There may be professional smoke stick products. It's worth trying to track the air flow - it's the movement of cold air rather than the temperature itself which often makes things feel cold.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Valuethinker » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:25 am

Cody wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:56 am
I texted my daughter and she said:

The fireplace is coolish but not extreme. How would you reduce the cold air coming in? They don't use it much as it does not have a fan. It gas.

Thanks
You can get inflatable balloons which block chimneys BUT you have to remember that you did that - fire hazard if then someone puts on the fire - smoke out the whole house.

Likely rising hot air in the house is sucking cold air down the chimney.

My mental image is that one needs a powered duct that sucks the warm air from the upstairs back downstairs, down to floor level.

However the "smart ducts" solution sounds closest to that - that and zoned heating controls (expensive to retrofit).

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Jimmie » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:26 am

Cody wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:09 am
No dampers but thought maybe it would work putting them in. That would be the best form of heat regulation I think.
Whenever you do anything more than small tweaks of damper positions, you may wish to involve an HVAC technician for input. Ask him about it when he does the annual tune-up inspection of the system.

The reason is that you can't just "starve" one zone of heat to try to make up somewhere else. New, high efficiency systems calculate airflow and you can't just deadhead or restrict it unless you have a way to bypass the excess.

I've researched this topic for my own home and am not an expert. I do know that it is not as easy as many make it out to be.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by StandingRock » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:33 am

Jimmie wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:26 am
Cody wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:09 am
No dampers but thought maybe it would work putting them in. That would be the best form of heat regulation I think.
Whenever you do anything more than small tweaks of damper positions, you may wish to involve an HVAC technician for input. Ask him about it when he does the annual tune-up inspection of the system.

The reason is that you can't just "starve" one zone of heat to try to make up somewhere else. New, high efficiency systems calculate airflow and you can't just deadhead or restrict it unless you have a way to bypass the excess.

I've researched this topic for my own home and am not an expert. I do know that it is not as easy as many make it out to be.
The HVAC guy who came to tune up my system showed me how to adjust the dampers. I had no clue they were there beforehand, and the levers were mostly hidden by insulation anyway.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Epsilon Delta » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:48 am

Cody wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:15 am
Should I buy a "infared gun" to measure temp at various parts of the condo? Would that work?
It might.

What you "feel" as the room temperature is at least two different things.

The first is air temperature. This is what thermostats measure and control.

The second, and equally important, is wall temperature. If the walls are cold your body loses heat through radiation. Wall temperature is what the thermal camera will measure.

For any given structure the air temperature and wall temperature are related, if you increase the air temperature after a while the walls will get warmer. However at a given air temperature a well insulated structure will have warmer walls and feel warmer than a poorly insulated one. Air leaks can also matter because insulation only helps if there is cold air on one side and warm air on the other. If cold air flows around the insulation it may as well not be there. A thermal camera can help find any insulation or air leak problems.

One form of cold walls are windows, which are usually very poorly insulated compared to everything else. Thermal drapes, blinds or shutters can make a room feel much warmer without having to increase the air temperature.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by goblue100 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:01 pm

What is the temperature difference between the two floors? Do you have separate furnaces and thermostats for each floor?
I have a two story house with a large vaulted ceiling and a catwalk. In the morning when the thermostats go to daytime temperature, The upstairs will get as warm as 74 while we get the downstairs to 69. Eventually the temp between the two floors will pretty much equalize, but the upstairs is often a degree or two warmer. However, we have two furnaces and two thermostats. If you don't have that then a lot will depend on where the thermostat is located.
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by 123 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:03 pm

They might want to ask their condo neighbors in similar units or the condo HOA officers how other residents deal with the heat issue. They might be able to provide insight on whether it can be resolved with simple adjustments (close vents, close doors, leave fan on, etc) or whether more serious solutions like furnace upgrade or supplemental electric heaters are necessary.
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Skiandswim » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:15 pm

We had a similar problem, and the previous suggestions of a ceiling fan, running HVAC on fan mode really helped. Most programable thermostats have a fan mode setting by day and time (e.g. Nest).

We made a dramatic improvement by adding high and low return air register in the High Ceiling room. In the winter months, we close the high return and allow the low return to pull the air off the floor. This better distributes heated air. Reverse the vents for summer. The fix can be relatively simple if the HVAC unit is on the lower (high ceiling ) level.

Radiant heating is a common design feature for these rooms, but difficult and expensive to retrofit.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by MrsBDG » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:46 pm

We have a three level home on a hill so the bottom level is technically a walk out basement, fully against the hill in the back, fully above ground on the outside. It is always colder down there and the solution has been a thermostatically controlled space heater AND closing the door. Adding heat to a downstairs room is a losing battle if it can flow naturally up the staircase.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by teamDE » Tue Feb 26, 2019 3:32 pm

Sort of a bandaid, but you can install a smart thermostat like an Ecobee that has multiple sensors around the house to detect temp and presence. It can set the temperature based on where people are in the house. So if they're upstairs, it'd dial back the heat to suit them there.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:08 pm

Funny I agree with about everything that was said, even the conflicting information.

I have long wondered if the downstairs air intake vents that are up on an 8 foot ceiling (which is just before the high ceiling stairwell) is actually part of the problem. Their are no low air intakes on the floor in the downstairs (only one on the floor upstairs)s

I think I could gerryrig a system to (for a test) run a channel down the outside of the wall, covering the high cold air return with the channel then run it down to the floor. (poor explanation of concept). So in essence now having the vents draw near the floor.

The best solution would be to totally block of the open stairwell from the downstairs but can't figure out how to due that without big reno.

I fear MrsBDG is right with "Adding heat to a downstairs room is a losing battle if it can flow naturally up the staircase." is right.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:17 pm

A lot of utility companies offer free or cheap home energy audits. It won’t directly fix your problem, but they can give a much better idea of what the problem is, and give ideas for how to fix it.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by wcinnn » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:34 pm

Have solved a couple of similar problems with 'air duct boosters'. In those situations the registers were on the wall, not on the ceiling so it was just a matter of mounting them over the registers and plugging them in. Amazon has a variety of different types. Just do a search and see a variety of these things. They worked well for us..

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by LadyGeek » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:43 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (condo heating).
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Wed Feb 27, 2019 8:22 am

I'm finding this helpful but don't know exactly what to do.

https://www.energyvanguard.com/search/n ... k%20effect

I do like some of the suggestions for sure.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by sport » Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:58 am

Since the heat vents are on the ceiling in the first floor rooms, perhaps ceiling fans in those rooms would get the heat down to the floor instead of up the stairs.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by dm200 » Wed Feb 27, 2019 11:02 am

sport wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:58 am
Since the heat vents are on the ceiling in the first floor rooms, perhaps ceiling fans in those rooms would get the heat down to the floor instead of up the stairs.
yes - maybe give it a try.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Every things free » Wed Feb 27, 2019 12:13 pm

I have ceiling fans in all our rooms. They circulate dust and are noisy. I never use them. I consider them dinosaurs.

Consider adding a simple, low cost heat source. ConvectAir makes a unit that works. I believe they're manufactured in Montreal, Canada. The heater is 110 volt, no fan, no noise. It attaches to the wall, preferably under a window.

It operates on convection. The cold air settles to the floor. The heater heats the air, it rises and creates a circular motion.The hot air eventually cools, falls and the convection motion continues on its own.

We purchase them at cost directly from our county-city electric supplier. Last I remember each unit cost $235.

I have the units in all our rooms. Twelve years later, never a breakdown, no noise, no dust and a toasty house.

Kim
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by sport » Wed Feb 27, 2019 12:34 pm

Every things free wrote:
Wed Feb 27, 2019 12:13 pm
I have ceiling fans in all our rooms. They circulate dust and are noisy. I never use them. I consider them dinosaurs.

Consider adding a simple, low cost heat source. ConvectAir makes a unit that works. I believe they're manufactured in Montreal, Canada. The heater is 110 volt, no fan, no noise. It attaches to the wall, preferably under a window.

It operates on convection. The cold air settles to the floor. The heater heats the air, it rises and creates a circular motion.The hot air eventually cools, falls and the convection motion continues on its own.

We purchase them at cost directly from our county-city electric supplier. Last I remember each unit cost $235.

I have the units in all our rooms. Twelve years later, never a breakdown, no noise, no dust and a toasty house.

Kim
The cost to provide supplemental heat with electricity will be much more than the electricity used by ceiling fans. Fans are only noisy at high speeds which is unnecessary for air circulation. At lower speeds, there is no noticeable sound at all. Similarly, at low speeds, fans will not be blowing dust around. Dusting the furniture and vacuuming occasionally will also minimize dust concerns.

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Wed Feb 27, 2019 2:56 pm

She does have ceiling fans in the downstairs living space and in the kitchen. Sometimes the breeze is a bit much. But they are not too noisy.

I look at the end of the living room at the stair well and it is such a poor poor design. Just wide open and 2o foot ceilings in the stair area. Oh my!

No wonder the heat is going up the stair way.

The link to Energy Vanguard (ironic name for this forum) stated:
"The problem with stack effect in buildings is that buildings aren't vacuum chambers. They leak. Obviously, a house isn't going to start floating up into the air like a balloon (although I recall with great fondness the Disney movies of my childhood that showed such magical events). But the low density air inside the house will move up and out into the cold, dense winter air when given the chance."

This condo is hight ceilinged because the building is two story (ovbious I know). When I closed off the stairwell from the main living space (boy it looked ugly) but I did work. But that just isn't going to fly.

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Cody
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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by Cody » Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:00 pm

PS - for those who have been on the forum long enough, I am the guy with the (noise in the attic back in 2011.)

What is it with me and house issues!!!

Cody

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by MJS » Wed Feb 27, 2019 8:22 pm

quantAndHold wrote:
Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:17 pm
A lot of utility companies offer free or cheap home energy audits. It won’t directly fix your problem, but they can give a much better idea of what the problem is, and give ideas for how to fix it.
Consider a professional home energy audit if no free ones are available. An expert, looking at the actual location, will see things & know of products and solutions that mere mortals know not. Perhaps.
https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home ... rgy-audits

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by mortfree » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:05 am

I believe you said gas fireplace. Add a fireplace blower kit. It’s simple to do on your own if you can find a fan that is designed for the fireplace model. Myfireplace blower is a good site.

Thermostat: get one that also includes a temperature sensor that you can place anywhere in the house. I have a dual zone furnace so two thermostats.

I bought two Nest thermostats and two temperature sensors. I placed one in an upstairs bedroom and one in the master bedroom (first floor).

If you place it in the room that is coldest it may help to warm the place up but use more energy. Setting the furnace fan to ON does increase the electric bill (YMMV).

Also consider space heaters.

What temperature is the thermostat set to?

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Re: Suggestion on high ceiling condo heat issues

Post by michaeljc70 » Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:45 am

It seems to me there are 4 potential issues here (based on what has been posted):

1) a high ceiling
2) a wide open staircase for heat to escape to
3) vents on the ceiling (heat rises)
4) maybe improperly sized vents for the space. I'm not sure about these round vents and what they are. I've only seen round vents in retrofit AC systems and commercial applications.

Vents on the ceiling is done because it is cheaper but it is not ideal. Since you said they don't want to spend a lot of money, the suggestion to use some supplemental heat source is probably the cheapest and most effective in the short term. You mentioned a fireplace, so how about using that? Vent boosters could work, but given the non-standard sounding size/shape of the vents and that you need electrical, that may not be cheap/feasible.

There may be other good solutions, but without seeing the place, knowing the layout, where the furnace is located, etc. it is hard to say. Some pictures might help.

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