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Two-story homes are quite common and can be found all throughout the country. What many people find out the hard way, however, is that living upstairs in a two-story home can be less than desirable during the hot summer months. This is especially true in the Carolinas, where temperatures can soar. Understanding why the top story of your home can be so uncomfortable is the first step towards fixing the problem, and it’s not as confusing as you might think.
The Influence of “Stack Effect”
If you’ve never heard the term “stack effect” before, you’re certainly not alone. It’s important to realize, though, that this phenomenon is more pronounced in a two story home. As buildings grow in height, so too does the amount of pressure from top to bottom. When you turn on your AC, pressure changes throughout the home, drawing hot air from the attic into the highest floor of the home, warming the upstairs and causing the air conditioner to work that much harder, often resulting in the upstairs living area never reaching the thermostat setting. Not only that but the warmer air upstairs will then force cooler air out of the bottom! Here’s a great visual aid: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/stack-effect-when-buildings-act-chimneys . Because one-story homes typically feature three-times less pressure than two-story homes, the issue is usually less apparent.
Stack effect itself is unavoidable in homes with more than one story, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can be done in order to mitigate the issue.
The Solution: Air Sealing
One of the reasons why stack effect can be so problematic is that it comes along with a number of side-effects, mainly that of hot air being drawn in from your attic and thus creating a vicious cycle that affects energy efficiency. The solution can often be found in air sealing, and it all adds up to make perfect sense. Cracks in the ceiling of the upper floor of your home are often the culprit, and sealing them (along with adding a good layer of insulation) can typically fix the issue entirely.
Every home is unique, and each has its own needs. One of the best places to start if you feel as if your home is being affected by the stack effect is to schedule a home energy audit, which will give us a complete and clear view of exactly what’s going on. From there, we’ll determine the best path to take in order to keep conditioned air from escaping your home and making its upper levels uncomfortable.
Don’t wait until the summer heat starts getting unbearable. Contact Benton, and schedule a home energy audit today.
Katy McIlvaine, Gear Solar
Dean Benton has been a great asset to SC in bringing innovative ideas for improving energy efficiency in residential and commercial projects statewide. I would highly recommend Dean Benton for evaluating your home or business.