How to Keep Upstairs Cool: Cooling Tips for Multi-Level Homes

If you live in a multi-story house, you’ve likely noticed how much warmer the second floor gets compared to the ground level. This difference in temperatures can create an uncomfortable living situation, especially if you’re on the second story or above.

Thankfully, there are plenty of easy solutions that you can implement today to maintain a comfortable and cool indoor environment. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite ones here.

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Why Is My Upstairs So Hot? 

You might remember from science class that heat air rises and cold air falls. This is the fundamental reason why the upstairs is always hotter than the downstairs. When the air conditioner is on, the air circulates, but once you turn it off or switch over to heat, the heat starts to rise, it becomes hotter again and the cycle continues.

There are other reasons for the higher temperatures on the second floor, as well.

For instance, natural heat enters the home mainly through the roof. If the roof isn’t well insulated, the upstairs floor automatically becomes hotter. 

Another reason for the excessive heat may be faulty ductwork. Ducts absorb the cool air from your air conditioning and HVAC system, and then distribute it throughout your house. If the ducts are old or not properly installed or maintained, they can be the source of unevenly spread cool air — so you’ll want to make sure to check the condition of your ductwork.

If you have air conditioning upstairs that works non-stop and it still feels hot, then your air conditioner may need a thorough cleaning. If that doesn’t help, then it may be near the end of its lifespan, and time to look for a replacement. 


How to Reduce the Heat Difference in Your Home

If you want to regulate your house temperature, the essential thing is to prevent heat from entering your home. Here are some measures you can take: 

  • Shut the window blinds – Close the blinds and shades on your windows to block the sun rays from entering. When choosing drapes, opt for ones of lighter color to neutralize the rays. Make sure to seal all the holes and cracks around windows to prevent too much cold or hot air from coming in.
  • Insulate the roof or attic – Insulation plays a crucial role in keeping your house regulated. If insulating the whole house is too much of a cost, try to cover at least your roof or attic. The roof is the primary heat source in your home, so the insulation will block the heat. And if you insulate the attic, the accumulated heat won’t spread to other living spaces.
  • Install a reflective roof – Darker colors absorb more heat than lighter colors, and this applies to your roof, too. A reflective roof is made of a highly reflective type of paint, a sheet covering, or highly reflective tiles or shingles. If you don’t feel like investing in a new roof, you can just paint it over with a lighter color.
  • Reduce the use of lights and appliances – A lot of heat comes from the devices you use. If you’re trying to keep your house cool, try to avoid cooking indoors as much as possible, especially in the hottest seasons. If you have to use washers, dryers, or dishwashers, aim to use them at night or in the early morning when the temperatures are at the lowest of the day. Lights also generate a lot of heat, so it’s best to leave them off until you need them. Stabilizing your home’s temperature can better keep your floors closer in temperature.
  • Use windows and doors for cross-ventilation – Cross-ventilation can significantly help you reduce heat and circulate cool air in your home. Create cross-ventilation by opening windows and doors. If they are located directly opposite each other, they cool only the areas in between, so try to make a longer path between inlets and outlets and cool more of your home. Believe it or not, it’s just as important to air out your house during the cooler months of the year and cross-ventilate to keep your heat working at it’s best and improve the air quality.
  • Install external blinds –  Although external blinds are less common, they can really help excessive heat reduction. These blinds are mounted outside the window, and they prevent too much heat from entering through the glass on the second floor.
  • Put ice in front of a fan – Yes, this simple trick really works. If you put a bowl of ice in front of a fan, the cooler wind will pass through and reduce the temperature of your room. 

How to Keep Upstairs Cool Without AC? 

Most people can’t imagine going through summer without air conditioners.

Whether you don’t have an air conditioner or are looking to cut back on usage all together (that energy bill is no joke!), know that it is possible to keep cool in the warm weather without one. The same thing goes for adjusting the thermostat several times a day during the winter months.

If you want to stay comfortable without using a ton of energy adjusting the temperature in your home, you’ll want to try mechanical ventilation. This strategy regulates the temperature of your house by using circulating fans like whole-house fans, ceiling fans, or window fans. It can be particularly beneficial in the summertime.

Whole house fan

If you want to find a substitute for an air conditioner, your best bet is to go with a whole house fan. Whole house fans are most commonly installed in the central hallway of your attic. They work by pulling the air from open windows on the lower levels and exhausting it from the attic and roof. The attic is where the most heat accumulates, and by keeping it cool with a fan, your whole house will have a much more even temperature.

The size and strength of the fan depend on the size of your house. If you don’t plan on using the air conditioner at all, then you’ll need a stronger whole house fan. That said, if you’re a handy homeowner, then this may be a DIY job, but if not, you should call a professional to install it for you. 

Ceiling fans

If you combine ceiling fans with air conditioning, you’ll be able to better maintain and regulate the temperature of your house. Plus, by installing ceiling fans in every room you want to keep cool, you can avoid using the air conditioning altogether, especially during the springtime.

Keep in mind that the blades should not be closer than 8 inches from the ceiling and 18 inches from the walls when installing fans. If you decide to install one, contact a professional to find out which fan size you need depending on the dimensions of your rooms. 

Window fans 

Window fans are very effective and energy-saving ways of cooling. They work best when blowing outside so that they can expel hot air from your home. To get the most out of window fans, close the windows near the fans and open the windows far away to get a refreshing cross-ventilation breeze. If the windows are near shaded outdoor areas, they provide the best air intake. 

If you have a multi-level house the fans should be placed on the upper part and open windows on the lower part. 

Final Thoughts 

If you don’t spend time upstairs during the summer because of the excessive heat, or find yourself turning that second floor into a sauna during the winter just to warm the first floor enough, these tips should help you maintain a more comfortable and regulated environment.