How to Heat the Cooler Areas of a House
LESLIE: Alan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ALAN: Oh, yes. Hi. First, I’d like to say I appreciate your show and always enjoy listening to it and learning things.
TOM: Well, thanks, Alan. What’s going on in your house?
ALAN: Got basically a house that’s divided in two by a wall.
ALAN: And on the one side is the living room, office and entryway. The living room has a fireplace insert in it.
ALAN: And the living room runs too warm and on the other side of the wall, where the kitchen/dining area is, runs too cool. How can I get some of that heat from the warm side to the cool side?
TOM: Well, the fireplace is not designed to be a central-heating system so, obviously, it’s going to be hotter in the rooms where – that are closer to the fireplace. That’s the difference between a fireplace and a centralized heating system, because the centralized systems distribute the heat evenly.
Now, that said, if you were to add, perhaps, some openings – some additional openings – or if you were to add, say, a – you know what might be cool is a duct booster but not really with a duct. What a duct booster is is a fan that fits in the side of a standard register – a duct register.
TOM: It’s designed to fit inside of it. And if you had a hole in that wall between the two and you put this duct booster in it, it would basically be a fan that was on 24-7 that blew air from one side to the other. And so if you did something like that, that moved air from the hotter area into the cooler area, then you may be able to balance out a little bit.
But understand that you’re trying to do something that’s non-conventional. The fireplace in a …
ALAN: Non-conventional doesn’t bother me.
TOM: OK. A fireplace in a really old house, before we had central-heating systems, was in the middle of the home for a reason, because then it did heat the entire house. But in a modern house, when we have it on the end of the house, it’s not going to get throughout to the whole house. It’s not really something that it’s designed to do. You can kind of help it along if you provide that path for the warm air to move to the cooler spaces.
ALAN: Here’s my thought: opening up and putting a vent in high, just somewhere near the fireplace, and drawing air down through between two studs and bringing it out low on the other side and maybe a duct booster in that kind of a situation or some other kind of a vent fan.
TOM: Possibly. Yeah, possibly, if you mounted the duct booster on the kitchen side – the colder side – and then the register on the fireplace side becomes a return. Yeah, that’s possible.
What kind of heat do you have in your house?
ALAN: We have a heat pump but it’s very ineffective when you get below about 32 degrees.
TOM: Yeah. Yeah, they are, they are.
ALAN: And then you’ve got backup heat, electric.
TOM: Yeah, right. Yeah, I see, I see. Do you have a space heater or anything like that on the other room?
ALAN: Yes. And I’d just as soon take advantage of some of this heat, if I can, that we’re generating in the other side.
TOM: Sure, I understand. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Have you ever thought about – is it possible to put an additional doorway in between the two spaces? Would that make any design sense?
ALAN: Probably not, in this case.
TOM: OK. Well, I mean those are your options.
Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that there is such a thing as a wood furnace.
ALAN: Oh, sure.
TOM: There are furnaces that are designed to heat on wood – that heat with wood – and have duct systems and the blowers that move the air through. So there may be some other alternative to that heat pump.
Do you have natural gas in your area or is that just not a possibility?
ALAN: Not here.
TOM: Not here, huh?
ALAN: My druthers are geothermal but that’s just druthers.
TOM: Yeah. But that’s a big investment.
TOM: Even with the rebates, it’s a big-dollar amount. OK?
ALAN: Oh. But over a period of time, it’s a good return, too.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely.
ALAN: Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Well, you’re very welcome and good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.