Why Is My Upstairs Always Colder Than Downstairs

Having a home that’s cold upstairs but hot downstairs in the winter is a very typical suburban scenario. Ranches and split-level homes suffer from uneven airflow. Newer construction feature large first-floor rooms and cathedral ceilings on the second floor. And, older homes have attics with no insulation and layouts not originally designed for ductwork.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to deal with second-floor rooms that are too cold in the winter. The first step is determining what’s causing it.

In this article, I’ll outline the top reasons for uneven heating in a home and how to fix it. To do so, I’m drawing from my 14 years of experience as a product manager for the HVAC distributor Peirce Phelps.

I work with dozens of contractors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware to install and modify thousands of systems. As a result, I know all about the common problems and concerns homeowners in our area experience.

If you’re interested in installing a mini split (more info on that later if you need it), download our free product guide for ideas. Or, schedule a free consultation with a certified HVAC contractor in your area.


Why Is My Upstairs Bedroom So Cold? Five Reasons

Thermostat Is Downstairs

Most thermostats are located on the first floor, where the temperature is different than it is upstairs. As a result, your heating system won’t provide enough heat to the upper level. Unless you set the thermostat way too high, the bedrooms will remain too cold.

Static Pressure

A traditional heating and air conditioner system with ductwork forces air through ducts and out of the vents in each room. But, it loses pressure the further it gets from the system. Since the upstairs rooms are much further from the furnace than downstairs, they don’t get the same amount of warmth.

High Ceilings

While high ceilings can be beautiful, they can also cause problems with temperature regulation. Hot air rises and tends to get trapped near the ceiling, leaving the rest of the room feeling colder.

Leaky Ductwork

Gaps or leaks in the ducts result in heat loss. Warm air escapes before it reaches the upper level, resulting in less heat for the bedrooms.

Losing Heat Through Attic Or Roof

Finally, homes that are losing heat through the attic or roof can also experience temperature differences between upstairs and downstairs. If your attic or roof is not properly insulated, heat can escape, leaving the upper level feeling much colder than the lower level.

Ways To Resolve The Upstairs Colder Than Downstairs In the Winter

If you find yourself shivering in your upstairs bedroom and wondering why your upstairs is colder than your downstairs, there are a few things you can do to resolve the issue.

Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats learn your temperature preferences and adjust the HVAC system accordingly. They also use multiple sensors in different parts of the house. This helps ensure your upstairs bedroom is always at the right temperature.

Change Air Filter

A dirty air filter can reduce airflow and make it harder for warm air to circulate throughout your home. Replacing the air filter every month helps improve airflow, which can send more heat to the second or third floor.

Repair or Modify Ductwork

A professional HVAC technician can inspect your ductwork and make any necessary repairs or modifications to ensure that warm air is distributed evenly throughout your home. But, this is expensive and can require a lot of work if they need to cut through walls.

Add Insulation

Insulating an attic can help keep warmth inside the home. It will also help you keep cool in the summer. You can also add insulation to exterior walls. But, that may require extra work to tear down walls and put up new ones.

Install A New System

Replacing an outdated heating and cooling system can result in a big enhancement it may be time to consider installing a new system. A zoned heating and cooling system can help regulate the temperature on your second floor, ensuring that it’s always as warm as your downstairs.

Dual Furnace and Central Air

A dual furnace and central air system can also help regulate the temperature on your second floor. With this system, you can use two separate heating and cooling units to control the temperature on each floor of your home. This is especially useful if you have a larger home with multiple levels.

Ductless Mini Split

Another option is a ductless mini-split system with air handlers in each room. These heat pump systems are energy efficient and provide targeted heating and cooling to specific areas of your home.

Dual Furnace and Central Air Vs. Mini Split

If you have a ducted system, such as a dual furnace and central air, you may notice that the temperature fluctuates between floors. This is because the system distributes the air evenly, regardless of the location.

The air conditioning unit will push cool air throughout the house, but it may take longer to reach upstairs.

On the other hand, a mini-split system is a zoned system that provides more control over the temperature in different areas of your home. Each room or zone has its own temperature control, allowing you to adjust the temperature to suit your preferences.

This type of system is ideal for homeowners who want to have different temperatures in their living room, dining room, and master bedroom.

Our Recommendation

In many cases, a ductless mini split is the best way to resolve temperature imbalances in your home. That’s especially so for homes with large rooms or a house without ductwork. The upfront cost may be more than a regular furnace and AC. But, you’ll be more comfortable and spend less over time on your monthly bills.

FAQs: Why Is My Second Floor So Cold?

Will closing vents upstairs help warm downstairs?

Closing upstairs vents will add undue pressure to the ductwork, which can cause leaks. If uneven temperatures are a problem, try a smart thermostat with multiple sensors to balance the readings. Or, consult a professional for possible ductwork modifications.

What is the best thermostat setting for a two-story house?

The best thermostat setting for a two-story house is 72 degrees in the winter. For a home with dual thermostats, set the second floor to 75 degrees. This creates a “temperature cascade” to ensure balanced comfort.

How do you keep upstairs and downstairs the same temperature?

To keep upstairs and downstairs the same temperature, start by checking for leaks or gaps in the insulation, windows, and doors. Ensure the HVAC system is functioning correctly, and consider a zoning system, ceiling fans, or closing off vents in unused rooms.

Are you ready to learn more? Get a free consultation to learn more about expert mini split system installation in Lancaster, PA or anywhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland.