Q. Our home is a 3200 square foot colonial with a finished basement. We've got a problem with a very wide temperature variance on the three levels. This is particularly noticeable during hot summer days when our upstairs level is noticeably warmer than the main level, and the finished basement is noticeably cooler. Currently, we have a single zone central air conditioner (5 ton) with one thermostat on the main level. We are considering the addition of a heat pump (in the attic) to exclusively cool t he upstairs level.
However, a colleague suggested something else that we'd like to solicit your advice on. His suggestion is called "zone dampering." In effect, it would require the installation of two additional thermostats-- one in the finished basement, one on the top floor-- and a mechanism in the furnace/AC room that would open up or close off the ducts to each level, determined by their respective thermostats. That way, we could get by with our existing AC/heating unit and we wouldn't have to install a second one . This "zone dampering" idea sounds like a less expensive, yet quite efficient solution. What do you think?
A. Less expensive perhaps than a new and separate system up on the upper level. Remember adding a whole separate system will require new and reconfiguring existing duct-work compounding cost, mess and disruption in the process.
Before you do that try leaving the FAN in the ON position of the selector switch on the main level thermostat during those hot spells to continuously mix the air.
What happens when the thermostat is temperature satisfied located where it is and stops calling for cooling, it shuts the whole thing down when you've set the controls in the AUTO position. Then the air begins to "stratify" by temperature. The upper lev el also gets some radiant heating boost from the hot attic and it gets way stuffy up there, as you know, long before the air near the thermostat gets to the kick on point.
With the fan ON, the temperature variance should only be in the 1 to 3 degree range from level to level due to the constant mixing running air through the system-- all things being equal.
Zone dampering can be pricey to install, albeit less than a new system, so try the fan trick first before you go spending lots of money.
Q. We recently have put an addition to our house, and the laundry room has been added to the middle of the house. My husband has run the dryer vent into the basement with a nylon over the vent to collect the lint and he tells me it is temporary until he can run the vent outside. I don't think this is a good idea, will it be OK?
A. Itís really not a good idea to vent dryer air anywhere but directly to the outside. The moist air will condense on cool surfaces and everything from rust to mold will be the eventual result. Iím surprised the building code inspector who would have ins pected your addition (if it was done with a permit) didnít note that a vent to outside wasnít there. It is now and always has been a code requirement that this positive venting be installed.
You need to check with the dryerís manufacturer as to what the maximum allowable length of the vent pipe can be before youíd have to add a booster fan to get the exhaust out of the building. Each bend of the exhaust duct adds to the length formula so do the computations carefully so the dryer works properly once youíve got it vented.