Here’s a story about a good customer. Actually, things started out on the wrong foot with this customer, because we left the gate open after a service call and his dog got out. He was not happy with us when that happened, but luckily we were able to find the dog and bring it back, so there was no harm, no foul.
He gave us a second chance, and we went out of our way to win him back. He lived in a townhouse that was about 1,800 square feet, on three levels, with a gas furnace in the basement and a master bedroom upstairs. The problem was, the temperature upstairs in his bedroom was too hot.
We told him there were a few basic things that he should try before he purchased a window unit, or a whole new HVAC system, or even to spend the money on cleaning out his system. We were trying to save him money, so we gave him more economical options.
- Turning the fan to the "on" position
- Shutting blinds and curtains
- Keep all internal doors open
- Free thermal imaging tests
Turn fans on all the time
We told him to run the fan constantly in the furnace. It doesn’t push heat or cooling, but it constantly circulates the air like a ceiling fan does, to mix some of the heat upstairs with the cooler air downstairs. Circulation is good. Stratification is not.
Number one, we said, run that fan, and that might be enough to make you comfortable. So he ran the fan for a week. The temperature outside was in the 80s, and even up to 90 degrees for several days. We called to see how it was working, and he said it was a little better. The system was still running all day, and it still had trouble keeping things cool upstairs when it was in the upper 80s, but he felt a little improvement.
Close blinds and curtains
At that point we recommended that he keep his blinds shut. He really liked light coming in, and he resisted our idea, so we made a recommendation that just for a week he try keeping the blinds and curtains closed, blocking out all the sunlight. We said, try it, let's block the solar gains for a week and see what happens. We checked back with him in a week, and lo and behold, the system was running well.
Again, it was in the upper 80s outside. The system ran well, but he was still mildly uncomfortable at the end of the day, just a little too warm. It was good in the middle level of the townhouse, where the thermostat was, but upstairs it was still just a little too warm for comfort.
Keep doors open
When we learned about this, we advised him to keep all his inside doors open. The problem was his return, the intake vent that sucks up all the heat, was in the hallway. We told him you're not drawing the heat out of those rooms like you could, so if you open the doors you'll constantly remove more of the heat, and you’ll notice an increase in your comfort.
We called him after a week, and he said it was much more comfortable. In fact, he said he never knew it could be that comfy upstairs just by making a few simple adjustments. He was very happy. Very happy.
A week later we called again, and he was still happy. About a month went by, and we're in the middle of summer. It's scorching out, in the 90s, which is hot for us. He called and said, "The system’s running, and it's even shutting off, but it's hot upstairs again. I'm having trouble sleeping at night. Is there anything else I can do?"
Thermal imaging test
He gave us the okay to do a free thermal imaging test on the ceiling of the upper level for him, and we found that even though the insulation was spread out very well, it wasn't insulating effectively because insulation settles over time, and this was so old it had lost a lot of its "insulating factor." We recommended that if he wanted to take his comfort to another level he should get at least R-49 of a high quality blown-in insulation at minimum, and he got the job done. I believe the cost of that project was about $3,000 back then.
After we did the insulation, believe it or not, he told me that when it was 100 degrees out his temperature upstairs was within one degree of the temperature at the thermostat, and he was totally comfortable. He realized that he could have achieved this level of comfort years ago if he had just taken our advice, frankly. He was ecstatic, and we felt great because we improved his quality of life.
That's the type of thing we're proud of. I tell you that story because it's a great example of how you can save a few bucks and be more comfortable while solving what we call “townhouse syndrome”.
Let me know what you think.
Call and ask questions, advice, whatever. Stay comfortable, my friends!