A common problem for homeowners in the DC Area is uneven heating.  We regularly have metro area homeowners call to ask, “why does my house heat unevenly?”  Once section of their home is warm and toasty, but another area feels like a meat locker.  This is very frustrating for the homeowner because we all want to be able to live comfortably in our whole home. The common causes for this cold zone depends on the type of heating system.

Radiators Heating Unevenly

Older homes in our region often utilize a boiler with radiators.  The boiler heats water which travels through the home.  In each room, a radiator fills with the hot water and heat the air using natural air currents.  In these homes, there are two primary causes for cold rooms.

Freezing Young Girl in Winter Jacket Near a Heater.1. Blocked Radiator — Radiators rely on air moving under them and rising as it heats.  Clothing, books, or furniture blocking the bottom of the radiator will cause problems.  Another potential way radiators are blocked is with decorative covers.  In the early 20th century, it was believed that fresh air would keep disease away.  In these homes, they over-sized the radiators and left windows open all winter.  As time passed and folks realized that it was wasting a lot of energy to heat with the windows open, they needed to cut back the amount of heat produced by these older units.  They resorted to metallic paint and/or covers.  Systems from the mid-twentieth century do not have this over-sizing flaw, so they can sometimes be blocked from working by decorative covers.

2. Radiators Need Bleeding — Radiators work by completely filling with hot water then heating the air as it flows past the radiator.  Occasionally some air slips into the system which means only part of the radiator is filled with water — the top portion may be full of air.  Releasing this air will allow the entire radiator to fill with hot water.  This is called “bleeding” the radiator.  If you need to learn how to bleed your radiators, we have a tutorial video.

Forced Air Heating Unevenly

Forced air from furnaces or heat pumps can also have cold spots develop in the home.  There are more potential causes for these cold spots, but we’ll work through them one at a time.

  1. Poor Airflow — One of the most common causes for uneven heat in a home with forced air is poor airflow.  However, there are many potential causes for the poor airflow.
    • Dirty Filter – if your filter becomes impacted with dirt, it will reduce your airflow which may result in air not reaching some areas of the home.
    • Disconnected Ductwork – if you had renovation work done in some part of the home, renovators may have accidentally (or by taking shortcuts) disconnected the duct run to that room.
    • Blocked Registers – Sometimes piles of clothing, books, toys, or other belongings can be placed on top of floor registers causing the air to be blocked from entering the room.  Similarly, furniture placed in front of wall registers will prevent the air from circulating in the room.
    • Closed Registers – Someone in your family may have closed the register vent without telling you.  Double-check that it is set in the open position.
  2. Doors Closed — Forced air requires the air to enter the room and for the air to be able to return to the furnace via the air return.  Your home likely only has a few air returns, so if you close off any rooms, the air will not be able to travel back to the return.  This can cause certain rooms to feel cold.
  3. Air Stratification — We all learned as children that heat rises.  This means that if left alone, the warm air in your home will rise to the top floor.  This can make rooms on lower floors feel colder.  You can combat stratification by leaving your fan set to ON and not AUTO.  Setting the fan to ON uses minimal energy (about the energy of a lamp), but can save you from using more energy trying to set the temperature high enough to keep the lower floors comfortable.

If you have any questions you would like answered about your heating system, please call Climate Heating and Cooling at 703-750-4008. If you need a heating system serviced or installed in the DC Metro Area, Climate is prepared to make you comfortable.  We service the entire DC Metro Area including towns like Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Potomac, Silver Spring, and Largo! For the science of comfort, trust the penguin.

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