If you’re like Peter Martin, you are willing to put up with a cold house longer than most. Martin, a “This Old House” magazine contributor, spent two decades wrapped in blankets and sweaters while issuing non-stop complaints about his freezing house but did nothing about it for those 20 years.
In case you’re thinking, “I would never have waited that long,” the sad truth is that many people do just that. Martin never explained why he and his family lived in a virtual igloo, but for most homeowners, the answer is money.
If that describes you, take a breath. If, when you exhale, you release a cloud of cold air, follow Martin’s lead and have your “why is my house so cold?” question answered.
Sales associates at your favorite sweater stores may miss you, but you probably have a long list of things you would rather use that money for once your space feels toasty.
Table of Contents
6 Possible Reason Why your House is Cold
#1 Duct Work
The duct work installed in your home is inadequate for the space itself. When a heating system tries to compensate for this disparity, it’s only a matter of time before it doesn’t matter how often you adjust the thermostat as your home proves the perfect home for polar bears.
Lack of airflow as a direct result of poorly-installed or inadequate duct work can trigger evaporator coil freeze-ups (and cause other issues as well), and if left unattended long enough, an entire HVAC system could experience a premature death.
#2 Aging HVAC System and House
Even if your duct work is properly sized, you could still experience problems. Depending upon the workmanship and age of your HVAC system and house, you may be losing up to 30-percent of airflow, so while one room stays warm and cozy, another is cold enough to make ice cubes. What’s up? Your cold house may be due to major leaks from old duct work and/or loose joints or maybe the AC started showing its age.
#3 House Insulation
When Peter Martin abandoned his sweaters and called in professionals, his diagnose was lousy insulation.
Warm air retention is nearly impossible within houses that have insufficient or ancient insulation. We won’t go into hair-raising power bills that arrive in the mailboxes as a direct result. Can you imagine how much money Martin could have saved had solved this conundrum 20 years earlier?
#4 House Structure
Do you live in a multi-level home? If so, temperature differences from top to bottom can be as much as 10 degrees.
That’s because only the area around your thermostat takes a reading, so the further a room is located from it, the colder a room may stay.
A sound solution? A zoned environment. Zoned HVAC systems are controlled by multiple thermostats, so when a room gets cold, heat delivery is as easy as adjusting the proper thermostat.
#5 Distance from Heating System
Your house could be cold due to central heating system proximity. Rooms closest to the furnace are usually the warmest while those at the furthest duct work locations get the least amount of heat. There’s not much you can do about this situation unless you replace your system with one that is zoned!
#6 Leaky Doors/Windows
Ask anyone with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to close their drapes on frigid days and you’ll be told that even air leaking in from windows and frames won’t stop them from letting sun shine in.
If leaking windows are the reason your house is cold, an energy audit can pinpoint air leaks around window frames, compromised glass, “leaky” doors and dare we mention the dog flap?
5 Sensible solutions you can try to warm things up
- Patch duct work leaks with duct tape if you’re skilled enough to do so without help. Hiring a professional who is trained to spot joint and fitting leaks makes more sense.
- Follow Martin’s lead and insulate your home. Full replacement may be needed to do the job, especially since insulation material choices are more efficient these days.
- Treat yourself to that zoning system. According to Angie’s List, splitting those thermostats between upstairs and downstairs can make all the difference and the price to do this may be more affordable than you imagine.
- Add a second HVAC system. This is a great idea if you have added rooms to your older home and rely upon your current system to do double duty. As the costliest solution of all, don’t discount a zoned system before you make this investment.
- Ever heard of “smart vents”? If you never met an app you couldn’t embrace, look for smart vent systems that allow you to control yours using any device you wish.
A final word about cold houses and health
People are living longer these days, but that doesn’t mean we’re healthier thanks to stress, super bugs and the steep rise of auto-immune diseases. Bottom line is that cold houses can lead to mold-related and respiratory illnesses that can exacerbate when a home occupant is old.
The World Health Organization recommends keeping thermostats set no lower than 64-degrees in winter.
Experiment with lower temperatures and respiratory distress isn’t the only issue that can arise. Cold homes make dwellers vulnerable to viruses, colds and flu and arthritic joint pain can increase when ligaments and soft tissue swell. For heart patients, cold temps can raise blood pressures and impact heart rate, too.
Keep in mind the health and temperature study conducted in New Zealand on people with severe cases of asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
Contractors insulated ceilings, weather-proofed doors and windows and added underfloor insulation. By the end of the study, the health of every subject had improved. Proof positive that just turning up the thermostat and having a heating audit can make all the difference in the world.
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