Having a third floor or finished attic means more living space and higher property values. But, there’s often a catch: It’s usually too cold in the winter.
It’s why we’ve seen many homes in places such as Elgin, IL and Barrington opt for a two-furnace setup: One for the first and maybe second floor; the other for the third floor and sometimes the second- story bedrooms.
We love to do that kind of installation when it's the right solution, but sometimes a well-placed indoor heat pump or two is just what the situation calls for.
Daikin's VRV Life system gives us the flexibility to operate with two furnaces if necessary or one furnace combined with as many as 9 heat pump indoor air handlers. It's really amazing technology.
In this article, we’ll discuss why third floors and attics are tough to heat. Then, we’ll explore the reasons you might go with two furnaces and why you might use one furnace and a multi-zone heat pump setup instead.
Finally, we’ll look at a solution that’s more efficient and more effective than virtually anything else out there — and one that’s perfectly suited for the Fox River Valley.
You’d think hot air rising would make the third floor the warmest part of the house. But, that’s rarely the case. And, depending on the home, there could be more than one cause. Three common ones are:
The most common cause is a lack of insulation — even in a finished loft or third-story room.
Sure, heat rises. Then, it keeps on going up to the ceiling and through any opening it can find.
That’s because heat, or thermal energy, is always attracted to cold air.
To put it another way: If you open a window in the middle of winter, you’re not letting in the cold air. You’re letting out the warm air.
Many times, attic rooms or lofts weren’t designed as living spaces. So, even though people pretty them up, they don’t necessarily insulate them properly.
Meanwhile, even a conventional third floor has the cold-bedroom problem you see in two-story homes: The heat keeps rising and escapes through an attic or crawl space above it.
So many of our local homes were designed with a single furnace and I hear all the time how the upstairs is so hard to heat.
Generally, the temperature downstairs is warmer than upstairs. And, that’s where thermostat resides typically: On the first floor, in the living room or dining room.
So, the furnace turns off once the first floor feels comfortable. Anything above that gets left out in the cold — literally.
The furnace never stays on long enough to give the second or third stories the heat they need. And, over time, those rooms become colder and more uncomfortable.
Tapered ductwork in older homes presents an entirely different problem: Not enough heat gets to the second and thirds floors in the first place.
Decades ago, engineers were more concerned with a third story getting too much. And that the top of the house would be too warm.
It’s due to the same phenomenon as before: Hot air rises.
In response to this, tapered ductwork bottlenecked the heat coming from the furnace in the basement. This way, the first or second floors received enough heat when it wasn’t all shooting straight up to the roof.
Additionally, this provided more air pressure. With the thermal energy reaching a chokepoint of sorts, more air gets pushed out of all the vents.
The problem, of course, is that this leaves the first or first and second floors with plenty of heat.
A third floor or attic? Not so much.
Like so many installations we do, it all depends on the interior spaces of your home.
If your ductwork is decent, adding a second gas furnace will often make a dramatic difference in both the comfort of every room and the energy bill, as your single furnace will no longer need to run constantly.
This will increase the life of your overall system as the tandem furnaces will work less, resulting in less wear and tear thus leading to an overall longer life for the system.
It's a shame how much efficiency you lose in the ductwork, but that can be mitigated to some extent.
Sometimes a ductless heat pump is the most practical way to drop heating and air conditioning in a room that never had ductwork. Daikin VRV Life system can add heating to one room or an entire house. And, since it doesn’t always need ductwork, that room can be on the third floor without losing air pressure or relying on a whole separate system or a space heater.
The VRV — or variable refrigerant volume — technology has been around since the 80s. But, it caught in Europe long before residential customers in the U.S. began recognizing the benefits.
Even now, VRV Life puts you ahead of the curve in the Fox River Valley with unparalleled customized comfort.
You can click here for a detailed explanation of how these systems work.
But, here’s the quick version: A heat pump draws thermal energy from outside, amplifies it, and sends it into the house. There, it travels through narrow lines to an air handler that circulates the heat throughout the rooms.
Each handler has a thermostat. This way, it turns on and off based on the room it’s in — not a thermostat on a different floor.
The most important part of the VRV Life system — for Fox River Valley area homeowners, is the flexibility of the system. First off, I can hook up Daikin's gas furnace to your existing ductwork. Then I can add up to up to 9 indoor heat pumps and the whole system is running off the same outdoor unit.
We mentioned before that heat pumps draw heat from outside even in the winter. As long as it’s warmer than negative 13 or so Fahrenheit, there’s enough to work with.
But, in our neck of the woods, recent record-breaking winters have gotten colder than that.
Fortunately, Daikin VRV Life gives you the ability to rely on your high efficiency, modulating gas furnace when temps really dip down, then automatically switch over to your air source heat pumps when the temperature rises above -13.
This way, your third floor or attic stays comfortable all winter long — no matter how cold it gets.
If you want to learn more about Daikin VRV or find out if it’s right for your home, give us a call at (630) 504-8688. Starting with a free consultation, we’ll help you find the best system for you.