Downstairs Warmer Than Upstairs | How To Control Temperatures

One of the most common problems with a multi-level home is trying to find that perfect balance of temperature throughout the entire home. Often the downstairs will feel hotter then the upstairs or vise versa.

There are a number of different reasons for the fluctuation in temperature; however one of the more common reasons is because the thermostat is in the wrong place. Now, this might not be the problem in your case, and there could be some other factors that come into play.  

Let’s take a better look at some other reasons and what you might be able to do to fix them.

House Hotter Than Thermostat Set

If you are setting your thermostat to a nice comfortable setting and it still feels too warm in your home, not only are you uncomfortable, but you are wasting unnecessary money. This issue can be extremely frustrating, especially when it’s warm outside. If your house is hotter than your thermostat setting, it should not be ignored. Here are some reasons why and how to address them to keep your home cool and more energy efficient.

Your thermostat could be in the wrong area

Your HVAC system will run according to the temperature on your thermostat. If you have the thermostat installed in an area with direct sunlight or a room with poor circulation, your heating or cooling will run according to this one location. Making sure to install your thermostat on an interior wall away from moisture areas is important for more accurate readings.

You have a large home with single zone heating

If you have a larger home, it is important to have the proper HVAC system to accommodate it. There may be only one zone that the system targets, and the rest of the house are left untouched. Single zone heating is common with homes that have basements, and people tend to find those areas either too hot or too cold.

Installing a zoned HVAC system will help manage all parts of your house to ensure all rooms are a more accurate temperature. You can control zoned systems to target specific areas in your home, like the living room, basement, or bedrooms, where those areas are the most used.

A zoned system divides your home into sections, for example, the upstairs and the downstairs will be two separate sections, so that you can target each zone separately with cooling and heating. It’s pretty neat the way it works. Separate thermostats control dampers that are similar to valves that will open and close to control the flow of cooled or heated air through the ductwork of your home. So one part of the home could receive more heat or cool air than the other.

You have the wrong sized system

If your HVAC system is too large, it will heat or cool too quickly in some parts of your home but shut off before hitting the rest of your house. If it’s too small it will constantly run trying to achieve the desired setting making your thermostat readings inaccurate. Check with a professional HVAC technician for the appropriate size unit for your home that you should have. If you have a larger home or a house with a basement, two systems may be needed to ensure proper heating and cooling.

Thermostat Settings For Multi-Level Homes

One common problem that homeowners struggle with is trying to find the right thermostat settings for their multi-level home. One day it could be hot up in the bedrooms, and another day you could be looking for a heavy sweater to put on. Below I’ll help you figure out a perfect setting for the best possible comfort.

Multi-level home with one thermostat

In a home with a single thermostat, it could be extra challenging to find that perfect setting that will make every room in the house comfortable. Try this trick. Set your thermostat to your desired comfort level. Next, on your thermostat you should have an option for the fan, either “on” or “auto.” Most thermostats stay set to the “auto” position. Turn yours over to the “on” position.

By switching the thermostat to the “on” position, this will cause your furnace fan to turn on and continuously run. While it continues to run, it will blow air out of the ducts in each room, circulating the air and helping to maintain a more consistent temperature throughout the home.

Multi-level home with two thermostats

In a home that has two thermostats, many homeowners believe that they should be setting them both at the same temperature to get a consistent temperature throughout the entire house. However, this is not how it works. The upstairs will always feel slightly warmed then downstairs because as the warm air is blowing in upstairs, it will begin to force the cooler air downstairs.

Instead, what you want to do is use the independence of your two thermostats to your advantage, to get that perfect temperature throughout the house. Here’s what you can try doing. Set your upstairs thermostat to your desired temperature, and then on the downstairs thermostat set this, one to two degrees warmer.

Where Should a Thermostat Be Placed In a Two Story House?

In a two-story home, and assuming that you only have one thermostat, the ideal place to mount the thermostat is on an interior wall, on the middle floor, in the most heavily used area, which is generally a living room. The reason for putting the thermostat on the main floor rather then the second floor is because heat naturally rises.

Ideally, in a two-story home, you would want to have two thermostats that are zoned so you can control the different temperatures for each floor. The first thermostat would still go on the middle floor as mentioned above, while the second thermostat will go upstairs, typically in the middle or end of the hallway.  

Now before you do start placing the thermostats on the wall, there are some very important factors that you need to keep in mind when trying to find the perfect location. Let’s look at those below.

Things to avoid that can affect your thermostat
  • The kitchen – Avoid putting a thermostat in or right next to the kitchen. Kitchens are often hotter than the rest of the house due to them having the stove/oven and other appliances going. The extra heat that these let off will make the thermostat think the home is warmer than it is.
  • Sunlight – Avoid placing your thermostat in places where it will get direct sunlight, or in a room that has a large number of windows. During the winter months, the sunlight shining down onto the thermostat or through those large windows will trick the thermostat into thinking that it is much warmer in the home then it is; therefore, it won’t turn on as often.

    In the summer months it will have the opposite effect and run the air conditioner much more thinking that it’s hotter in the home then it is.

  • Windows and Doors – Avoid putting your thermostat near doors that lead to the outside. When the door gets opened, cold or warm air, depending on the temperature outside, will flow in and confuse the thermostat into starting or stopping.

    The same goes for placing your thermostat next to windows. You don’t want to place the thermostat where outside air flowing through will influence when the furnace turns on. The constant starting and stopping of your heating or cooling system will reduce the life expectancy of the equipment.

Will Heating the Basement Heat Upstairs?

Unfortunately, heating your basement will have very little effect on heating the upstairs. The only thing that heating your basement will accomplish is keeping the basement warm. The amount of heat that will rise to the next floor will not be enough to heat the space.

If you were looking to heat your basement as a way to keep your upper levels warmer, ideally, what you should have is a zoned heating system. The basement thermostat will keep the basement at a nice comfortable temperature, while the thermostat upstairs will keep the upper floors warm.

Should Upstairs and Downstairs Thermostat Be Set The Same?

If your HVAC system in your home is set up for two separate zones, then chances are you should have a thermostat located on different floors.  Most people who have two thermostats assume that they need to set the upstairs and the downstairs at the same temperature for better results and cost efficiency, however that is not true.

Instead, what you should do is set the upstairs thermostat at your desired comfort temperature, and then set your downstairs thermostat one to two degrees warmer. What will happen is that the cooler air upstairs will naturally fall, cooling the downstairs level and creating a more balanced environment.

Reasons Why Your Basement May Be Warmer Than Upstairs

It can be extremely frustrating as a homeowner to have different temperatures on different floors of their house. Most temperature differences occur with homes that have multiple levels, especially homes with basements, and find themselves struggling to balance the temperature. Going from a nice comfortable temperature upstairs, to an extremely warm downstairs, is confusing and many people are left wondering what to do.

  • Your HVAC or ductwork is the incorrect size – Having the wrong sized HVAC or ducts can cause many temperature imbalances throughout your home. If this is not corrected, it can cause serious damage to your furnace, which can lead to an expensive problem.
  • Your ductwork is leaking – Your basement could be warmer due to leaky ducts. Air could be getting released through cracks or holes in the ductwork located behind your walls or in the ceiling. If this is happening, most of the warm air is being kept in the basement, while not enough warm air is making getting to the upper floors. The lack of warm air upstairs will cause the furnace to run more, trying to keep the thermostat happy.
  • You might have poor insulation – If your home has less insulation on the middle and top floors of your home and more insulation covering the basement walls, your home will not retain heat, causing a fluctuation in temperature.

  • The thermostat got installed in the wrong place – If your thermostat is located in the basement or at the top of the stairs leading up from the basement, then that could be triggering the thermostat to shut off the furnace before the upstairs has had time to warm up completely.

  • Basements are generally better insulated – Basements built underground, tend to be better insulated naturally because of the dirt and soil surrounding the foundation walls.
Ways To Address Temperature Imbalances In The Basement
  • Locate and fix/patch leaky ductwork.
  • Determine if the location of the thermostat is causing the problems. If you have more then one thermostat, determine if the location of the second thermostat on the upper floor is in the proper location.
  • Open the blinds to the upper floor rooms during the daytime to let in natural sunlight heat.
  • Upgrade your HVAC system. Not the most ideal solution for most homeowners because it will be the most expensive method, but if you have a larger home, your furnace might not be able to heat all of the square footage properly. So adding a second furnace or zoning your current heating system might be the best alternative.

These are the most common problems and solutions to temperature fluctuations in your home, especially in the basement. If you are a do-it-yourself type of person like myself, then you can personally address most of these issues on your own; however, it might best to hire a professional HVAC technician to ensure there are no issues or problems that could arise.

Recent Posts