Do you have a room in your house that you just can’t take the chill out of? We sure did. For us it was the baby’s room, which made for many long nights of her waking up cold (meaning many sleepless nights for us). On average, her room was about 5-8° cooler than the rest of the house. Our situation was due to a combination of problems; high ceilings, improper airflow, and a lack of window insulation (6 windows on the corner of the house). On top of that, her room was also at the far end of the house, so naturally the room would tend to be 1-2° cooler as the air moves through the ducting. Here are a few of the solutions we found, and some alternative options.
#1 – Insulate your windows
There are several ways to do this, but the following I found to be very effective, quick and easy to install, and very inexpensive. Basically you want to “shrink wrap” your window. Lowe’s sells a product called Shrink & Seal, which is intended just for this purpose. The kit comes with a large plastic film sheet (enough to do 5 standard windows), and a roll of double stick tape. You cut the film just over the size of your window, line the window with tape, place the film over the window, shrink with a hairdryer, cut any extra off, and you are done! Each window takes a couple of minutes, and the kit sells at an equivalent of $1/window. I was skeptical at first, because I didn’t want ugly plastic wrap on my windows, but you would never know it was there because the plastic pulls so tight when it shrinks. Windows also tend to have slight air drafts, and this seals all of that right up. The only con I found to this solution is that you cannot open the window, so you may have to redo certain windows each year if you want them open over summer (at $1/window, redoing a couple each year isn’t too bad).
Below is an installation video from the manufacturer. The video shows installing the film on the molding of the window, whereas I chose to install the film on the window frame itself (behind the blinds). This creates a smaller air gap, but it still makes a significant difference, and looks a lot better. Also, the ending shot in the video does not show the plastic shrunk all the way, so please look at my finished window below for a better example.
#2 – Drive warm air down
This is especially important if you have high ceilings. Since warm air rises, your ceiling gets all that nice warm air and you don’t. An easy solution to this problem is to drive the warm air down with a ceiling fan. Most ceiling fans have a switch to reverse the spinning direction. If you already have a ceiling fan, look for this switch, and adjust it so the fan spins with the lower edge of the blade first (on most fans this is clockwise). I also suggest cleaning the dust off of your fan before switching the direction, because the new direction will send all the settled dust into the air.
If you do not have a ceiling fan but have a ceiling light fixture, you can swap out for a ceiling fan pretty easily (check out the video below from The Home Depot). If you are replacing a light fixture, odds are you do not have proper wiring to run the light and fan separately. The video suggests using the fan chains to control this; however, you can also buy wall remotes that let you control them separately from the wall switch (I will be installing a fan using this method in the near future so stay tuned).
#3 – Improve air circulation
If you trap air in your room, you might as well put a book over your heater vent or turn off the heat all together. An easy way to test if this is a problem is to run your whole house fan, and monitor the air flow from the room vent with all doors closed, and then again with a door open. Is there a significant difference? If so, you have improper venting for that room. As a rule of thumb, you need to be able to push out of the room the same amount of air that is being brought into the room through the heating vents. This is typically done through a return air vent or the under door gaps.
Ex: A 6”x12” heating vent has a 72” sq. opening. To maximize air flow through the room, the room must have another 72” sq. opening for air to exit the room.
Option 1: Leave a door open so the air can circulate with the rest of the air in the house. This works, although it tends to be an impractical option. (In our case, it was our daughter’s room, and she needs the door shut to sleep, so this was simply not an option for us)
Option 2: Cut the bottom of your door off to increase the air flow under the door. Again, this works, but depending on the opening needed, this may require trimming several inches, which would look pretty funny. (In our case, we would have needed to cut 2 ½” off, so this was not a feasible option)
Option 3: Install a vent directly above the door through the wall. This is a very simple and cheap solution, and probably the best route to go for most situations. Simply choose the proper vent size, cut an opening between the studs, frame the walls of the opening to create a small tunnel, and install your vents on each side. (In our case, our daughter’s room was next to the living room, and we didn’t want sound to travel through this opening, so we did not choose this option)
Option 4: Install a return air vent (this is the route we chose) or tie into existing one. The basic concept here is you install a return air vent into the room, run ducting through the attic, and dump the air into the main living area so it can be cycled again. This is a more extensive project, so I will go into the details in a later blog.
I hope this information was helpful. Please feel free to leave comments or questions.