3 posts / 0 new
Last post
stair draft, split level home

I have a split level home (1950's) i had central air conditioning installed, with the air return in the headspace over the stairs to the upper level.

The attic space has been insulated with a thermal blanket silver insulation.

Some of the ductwork was run through the closets in the bedroom from the attic.

Now I have a wicked cold draft on the stairs, flowing down to the living room level. I have cut and plugged the filter space on the air return with a 3" slab of polystyrene insulation. But it either does not work, or I am missing where the draft is coming from.

Can you please help?

Re: stair draft, split level home

Such drafts are normal in a split level home. My last home was a tri-level and it was often uncomfortable to sit on those stairs due to the drafts of air. Cold air-conditioned air just wants to run downhill. Warm heating air wants to go up. That is why homes of years past had doors on the stairhalls.

My upstairs bedrooms would stay cooler in summer if I kept the doors closed ( they all had air returns). Similarly, they would get much warmer in winter if the doors were left open.

Re: stair draft, split level home

It may be possible to 'balance' the system to alleviate most of this, but the laws of natural convection will mean that there is always going to be some airflow here. You need a good HVAC guy who has the knowledge and equipment needed to check for system balance. There may be dampers in place to make this easy already or they may need to be installed. Also, many times the system was balanced by setting the vanes in each register, then someone changed them to get more heat or cooling into a single space, which changed the entire system balance. You can purchase the equipment yourself and learn how to use it, but it's going to be a lot easier to just call in a Pro.


Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.