HVAC airflow trouble in my baltimore city duplex

10 Replies | Baltimore, Maryland

I have an HVAC system servicing a 3 level rowhome split into a duplex. There are two separate entrances to the rowhome with one entrance leads upstairs to a 2 floor, 2/1 apartment.  The other goes downstairs into a studio apartment where the actual HVAC is located.  My PM received a request for the HVAC to be looked at by the tenant in the 2/1 due to air not reaching the 3rd floor where his bedrooms are located.  When a service tech went out, he confirmed the unit is operating but air is just not adequately making it's way to the top of the rowhome where the bedrooms are. the main floor is cool but upstairs is a few degrees warmer.  

My PM just sent an email for purposed work by Albrights Mechanical for my approval to install a new control board on the HVAC unit for $467.  I asked to see the work order/invoice for the purposed install, any other notes from the visit and also asked if that install would alleviate the airflow concern, she stated "i'm not sure that is something they can guarantee."

Baltimore city investors, I'm not too familiar with HVAC but will a new control board be the answer?  Although it operates, the HVAC is old, should i consider just biting the bullet and installing a newer model?  Will a newer model push more air to that third floor? 

Looking to get feedback from those who have dealt with this concern or knowledgeable with HVAC systems. Thank you all for your time.

Respectfully,

Solomon

@Solomon Morris

Doesn't sound like the control board would do squat for that issue.

Here are your options:

  1. 1 - Window Unit upstairs (on the AC side) - does same issue occur in winter?
  2. 2- Install in-line 'booster fan' to help move more CFMs to that space.  Not many local HVAC companies will do this.  You'd need to track down some options for materials, and think through accessibility (where in the ductwork can you install this thing, and get electrical to it.  You'd also want to run this thing just when your central unit is moving air, so that means you'd need a control wire from your main unit, and a contactor installed next to the fan.  You may or may not have the technical aptitude, confidence, or your application might not really be feasible here.
  3. 3 - Up-size your system - this might be a larger blower motor (check this first) - and if that's not an option, then you can move to up sizing your furnace/blower (if you're running a 'typical' split system).

That's all I can think of.  Hope this helps

I had a similar problem in my 2 story rental unit, but just to one bedroom.  Are the vents in the floor?  

I used a fan that you put into the floor vent that replaces the standard grate.  I can't put an Amazon link on here but I got something from Amazon  that is called "SunCourt Flush Fit Register Air Booster".  $45 bucks a piece, might be worth a shot before you do anything drastic.  This accomplishes essentially the same thing as inline fan Jim was talking about above, but it's not as discreet. Plus depending on how many rooms you need to do this for, you might need more than 1.

Another thing to suggest is that the tenant closes some vents on the lower floor (if it doesn't make that floor too hot).  That generally increases air flow to the other vents (so hopefully more upstairs). 

Originally posted by @Mark McGarry :

I had a similar problem in my 2 story rental unit, but just to one bedroom.  Are the vents in the floor?  

I used a fan that you put into the floor vent that replaces the standard grate.  I can't put an Amazon link on here but I got something from Amazon  that is called "SunCourt Flush Fit Register Air Booster".  $45 bucks a piece, might be worth a shot before you do anything drastic.  This accomplishes essentially the same thing as inline fan Jim was talking about above, but it's not as discreet. Plus depending on how many rooms you need to do this for, you might need more than 1.

Another thing to suggest is that the tenant closes some vents on the lower floor (if it doesn't make that floor too hot).  That generally increases air flow to the other vents (so hopefully more upstairs). 

As a renter, I have had to manipulate the air flow in the same way you suggested.  It worked for awhile and maybe a solid solution if the tenant complies.  Thanks for the tips all!  Good luck! 

@Solomon Morris I would ask to speak to the tech/company directly. At first glance, if the ac is currently working, I don’t see why a control board would make it work better... but maybe there’s some reason it might (blower control, etc).

But I’d ask before spending the money!

All,

Thank you for the replies and suggestions.  I had no idea there were boosters that were install-able to help the main unit with airflow.   I'll look to make direct contact myself and conjure up a plan of action afterwards

@Solomon Morris An option I've seen success with in these instances would be to install zoning dampers and controls in the ductwork. Typically the only other options would be to cool that area separately with a window unit/PTAC unit or mini split. I would advise against the duct fans previously mentioned.

All,

I have recently closed the case on the HVAC concern I posted about almost 2 weeks ago.  At the end of the day, sometimes we forget that there are some good people out there doing their jobs at the highest possible level and that seems to be the case with the HVAC tech.  After more communication with my PM, the HVAC tech was adamant about the process he was taking with the control board. I paid for the service and haven't heard a complaint from the tenants since.  

Thank you all for the input! I learned a lot regarding HVAC systems from the feedback supplied by you all and my own research. Some times we need problems/obstacles to grow and learn!

@Solomon Morris

Hey Solomon, have you had your HVAC company check the ductwork throughout to make sure that there is sufficient duct to all rooms, that the duct work is properly sized, and that their are returns where they need to be?

If there is a return missing, that alone could be the problem and a new control board or even a new system would not solve that.

Sometimes the problem is not apparent. I have had houses where there’s little cooling airflow to the 2nd floor and the issue was simply that there was no return.

I also had an issue at one property where the walls of the 2nd floor were not properly insulated so the rooms did not retain the proper temps.

I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with your HVAC equipment, though that is an easy fix. Hope this helps.