February / 2000
Cut Your Utility Bills

One temperature for every room
by: James Dulley

Q - Several rooms in my house never seem to get enough heat in the winter or cool air in the summer. Are there simple, inexpensive ways to even the temperatures throughout our home?-Sandra Y. 

A - Uneven heating and cooling is very common. This can be particularly annoying in the winter because the windows in the chilly rooms tend to sweat excessively, damaging the building materials. 

  Having uneven temperatures is uncomfortable and costly. Typically, the person in the chilly room adjusts the thermostat to make sure the problem room feels comfortable. This means the other rooms are overly heated (or cooled in the summer), driving up utility bills year-round.

  Luckily, several simple no-cost furnace duct adjustments and low-cost do-it-yourself products can minimize uneven room temperatures, and can pay back their cost in a couple of months.

  Try the no-cost duct balancing adjustment first. Check the position of the dampers in the ducts leading to the problem rooms. You will see a small handle on the main ducts if they have dampers (not all do). Make sure the dampers are open. Wait about four hours for the temperatures to stabilize after an adjustment. If the temperatures are still uneven, slightly close the dampers to the warmest rooms. Don't close them too much or you may adversely affect the furnace efficiency. 

  If damper balancing does not help, you will benefit from installing a booster fan to force more heated air into the problem rooms. The easiest design to install is a do-it-yourself automatic register booster fan (Equalizer by Suncourt or EvenAir by Field Controls). 
  
  These register fans are designed to fit over a room's hot air outlet register on the floor or wall. There is a small fan built in the register that draws more heated (or cooled in the summer) air into the room. They have attractive, contemporary designs and operate quietly. 

  When your furnace or heat pump starts, sensitive electronic controls inside the register detect the warmer air. This triggers the booster fan to start and draws up to 50 percent more heated air into the room. Most models include an adjustable thermostatic control, so if the room is already warm enough, the fan will not start. 

  Keeping the doors open to the problem rooms will help, especially if your home lacks enough return air registers. With the doors open, consider installing a simple Air Mover or EntreeAir fan. These types of small fans mount in the upper corner of the door frame and help circulate air between rooms. 

  Another effective option is to install a do-it-yourself booster fan inside the ducts leading to the problem rooms. There are many designs to fit standard rectangular or round sheet-metal ducts. If you can cut a hole with tin snips, these are simple to install yourself. 

  These small duct fans use very little electricity. Most have automatic controls so they start and stop when your furnace or heat pump blower starts and stops. If you are a real handyperson, you can connect it to a room thermostat too. 

While not quite as effective as adjusting duct dampers, installing good-quality adjustable room registers is an attractive option. Their louvers fit tightly to slow the air to the comfortable rooms and force more out into the problem rooms. 

  Some of these ornate cast-metal or carved wooden registers are truly works of art. If you have allergies, several new registers have built-in, washable air filters. Some are scented with lemon, pine berry, or apple cinnamon.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 665 for a buyer's guide to booster fans, registers, and deflectors. Include $3.00, a business-size SASE, and Update number. Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254. Go to www.dulley.com to instantly download.