Does your home have the "second floor" built into what would have otherwise been the attic space? This is a design element typical of Cape Cod-style homes, but other home designs are sometimes remodeled to allow living space in the attic, too. These attic second floors can be hard to cool; yours may stay warm and stuffy even when you have your air conditioning on. You don't have to sweat the night away! Follow these tips to cool your attic second floor more effectively.
Find a way to block the path between the second and main floors.
Hot air rises. If there's an open path between your first and second floors, the hot air is continuously going to travel upstairs while the downstairs just gets cooler and cooler. Since the downstairs stays cool (and the thermostat is typically found downstairs) the air conditioning is not triggered to turn on again, and so the upstairs just grows warmer and warmer.
You can interrupt this cycle by blocking the path of air between the downstairs and your second floor. If there's a door between your floors, all you have to do is shut it. If you don't have a door, you'll have to get a bit more creative. Place a tension rod across the opening to the stairway -- as close to the ceiling as you can get. Hang a thick curtain or a thick piece of canvas fabric over the tension rod, ensuring that it stretches all of the way to the floor. Now, the cold air that blows out upstairs will stay there, and any heat downstairs will stay downstairs.
Add more insulation to what's left of your attic.
One reason attic second floors are so hard to keep cool is that they're so close to the roof. In a normal home, the attic would work as an insulating layer between the roof and your second floor -- but you've built living space into your attic, so the heat from the roof gets transferred easily into that space. Assuming your home still has a crawlspace-like attic along its peak, adding more insulation to this space will help reduce the amount of heat that's transferred from the roof.
Buy a few batts of fiberglass insulation at your local home improvement store. (Make sure you buy the type without backing.) Unroll them perpendicular to the existing layer of insulation in your little attic. If this task seems to demanding, contact an insulation contractor to do this for you.
Leave the central fan on at night.
Most thermostats have a setting that turns on the central fan even when the air conditioner is not actively cooling the home. When you have the fan turned on, air is continually mixed, so the hot air does not really have a chance to accumulate upstairs. The temperature throughout your home will remain more even. Leaving the fan on does, of course, require electricity. So, it's best to just do this at night when you are upstairs trying to sleep to avoid sky-high energy bills. The upstairs may get a little warm with the fan off during the day, but if you're not home, this shouldn't be a big concern.
Inquire about improving your ductwork.
If your home is on the older side, the ducts in the attic second floor may not have been intended for air conditioning -- just heating. If you try the other steps suggested in this article and your upstairs is still getting too warm, reach out to an HVAC contractor from a company like R & B Heating & Air Conditioning. They can evaluate your ductwork and determine if adding new ducts or re-routing your ducts will allow your top floor to cool more effectively.