Because of its design, a split-level home presents challenges for heating and cooling. Split level homes work well for hilly property. The homeowner walks into a foyer with steps that lead to either upstairs or downstairs living areas. Unlike a two or three story home, the open floor plan of the split-level home allows air to flow freely from one level to another. Warm air rises to the top of the split-level while cool air remains in the lower level.
Close the heat registers on the upper floor. If the thermostat for the heating system is on the upper floor, this simple step may solve your problems. By closing or blocking the registers on the upper floor, you force the heat through the lower level of the home. As the heat rises, the upper level warms. When the upper level reaches a comfortable level, the lower level is also comfortably warm.
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Install radiant floor warmers under the flooring on the lower level. These warming pads heat the floor. Because heat rises, the air in the lower levels also warm. One of the advantages of radiant floor heat is that you can turn them on and off as needed, saving energy. Unfortunately, the pads do take some time to warm. So they are not an immediate heat source.
Install a second heating system for the lower level. A second system allows you to set a specific temperature for the lower level. Running only the heater in the lower level may warm the entire home. This may free up the upper level heating system.
Install doors. Closing off the lower area keeps the warm air in the bottom floor of the split-level. Some air leaks around floor and wall joists, but doors help to create two separate heating and cooling zones.
Some split-level homeowners find that if they install a heater in the lower level and an air conditioner in upper level, air currents keep the house at a comfortable temperature all year round.
Always keep some heat in the lower level. In some climates, an unheated lower level becomes cold enough for pipes to freeze and burst.