How To Move Cold Basement Air Upstairs

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Moving cold basement air upstairs can be done by creating natural airflow by using windows, using fans to move the air, turning off the pilot light and using the vent system to pump the air upstairs, or installing a basement return air vent. Using cold basement air is effective for cooling a house. 

The basement always seems to be the coolest room in the house, especially in the summer. But when you find yourself spending time just standing in the basement to cool off before psyching yourself up to climb the stairs again, it’s time for a more permanent solution. It’s time to move that deliciously cold air upstairs!

The cold air in the basement can be used to reduce the temperature in the entire house, but it must be utilized correctly to be effective for this purpose. Let’s look more closely at how to move cold basement air upstairs.

Why Is My Basement so Much Colder Than Upstairs?

There are several reasons why your basement is so much colder than upstairs, but the two main reasons are that the basement itself is below ground level, and it is the lowest part of your house.

As the basement is below ground level, heat from within the basement is able to dissipate directly into the ground. This heat dissipation keeps the basement cool.

The cooling effect of heat dissipation, and thus the temperature difference between upstairs and the basement, is then enhanced because cold air tends to sink as hot air rises and pushes the cold air down to the lowest place in the building. 

In most other rooms of the house, you can either encourage heat loss by opening a window or introduce cold air through the use of an AC. But the basement benefits from a combination of losing heat and gaining cold air.

Related article: Basement Door Open or Closed During Summer

Create a Natural Flow of Air With Open Windows

One of the best ways to move cold basement air upstairs and into the rest of the home is to create a natural flow of air from the basement through the rest of the house.

A natural flow of air within a home can be created quite simply by using the windows in the house. Shut all the windows and external doors in your house except for one or two windows as high up in the house as possible and one or two windows as low as possible.

Keep the basement door open to provide a route for the cold air to take into the rest of the house. The strategically opened windows will generate a beneficial air pressure system that will encourage air to flow from the basement up through the house.

Hot air in the house escapes through the upstairs windows, which will, in turn, pull cool air up from the basement.

Using a box fan (amazon link) directed at one of the upstairs windows can increase the effectiveness of this system.

Using this method to try and draw cool basement air through the rest of the home may take time, which is not ideal on a very hot day. This will also close off the house to any potential cool breezes blowing in from outside, which may cool the home down more quickly.

That being said, creating this natural upward flow of air will help to decrease the overall temperature of the entire home if you are willing to wait for the airflow to pull air through the house. When given the time it requires, it is an effective method.

Use a Fan to Blow Air up the Basement Stairs

Moving cool basement air upstairs can be a challenge, but one of the most simple methods for this is by using fans to blow the cool air up the basement stairs into the rest of the house.

Using fans is a moderately effective method, but only if the right fans are used in the correct way. The best fans for this purpose are a combination of basement window fans and high-velocity floor fans/box fans (like the one pictured below) to help move the air up and out of the basement.

Vornado 660 Large Whole Room Air Circulator Fan with 4 Speeds and 90-Degree Tilt, 660-Large, Black

Install a window fan (amazon link) in one of the basement windows, but be sure that the fan that you use is designed to bring air in from outside rather than push air out from inside! You should also install the largest fan that will fit into the basement window.

Then, position a high-velocity floor fan (amazon link) on the last step of the basement stairs. Using a larger diameter fan is best in this situation since it will move more air while keeping the sound to a minimum.

Activate both the basement window fan and the floor fan simultaneously, and the fan combination will force the cool air up and out of the basement. 

This method may only be somewhat effective, as moving such a high volume of air with the use of only two small fans is not ideal. That being said, if you use this step in conjunction with the open window method, you will probably see great results!

Flip the Summer Fan Switch on Your Furnace

If the central HVAC system in your home uses a furnace, this can be used to circulate cold air from the basement into the rest of the house.

There are some simple steps to follow for this to be effective, but it is definitely possible to use your existing HVAC system to pump cool air from the basement into the rest of the house.

The first step is to remove the side panel from the furnace and turn off the gas or oil to the furnace. This will extinguish the pilot light in the system and prevent the system from pumping any warm war into the house.

Leave this panel off of the furnace to maximize the amount of cool air that can be moved by the system. 

After this, turn on the “summer switch.” This switch may be located on the furnace or on the control panel for the thermostat system. This setting will turn on the fan in the system, and leaving the side panel off of the furnace will allow the system to pull in cold air from the basement and distribute it throughout the house.

For best results, leave the trap door of your attic or rafter space open to allow the cold air to reach the space and cool down the roof of the house. This will help to cool the overall climate within the home. Leave the windows closed, and this will effectively cool your home over time.

Related article: Ridge Vent Pros and Cons

The downside to this method is that it can be time-consuming, and it may be daunting if you are not familiar with how to operate the furnace in your HVAC system. However, if you get it right, this method will cool your home very effectively without the need to purchase any extra fans or equipment.

Install a Return Air Vent in the Basement

A more complicated way to move the cool air from the basement into the rest of the house using the internal heating system is to install a return air vent in the basement.

Some basements will already have a return air vent installed, but it is probably in the wrong location within the basement. The return air vent must be installed low in the basement, near the floor, for it to be effective for returning cool air into the rest of the house

When the return air vent is properly positioned, turning on the “summer switch” on the thermostat system will engage the fan in the system and circulate air throughout the house. The location of the return air vent in the basement will allow the cold air from the basement to be pulled into the system effectively, from where it can move into the rest of the house.

It is advisable to seek the services of a professional to install this type of vent, or you risk causing damage to the system. Installing a return air vent in the basement is not a complicated task that any professional HVAC technician will be able to accomplish easily. 

Installing this type of vent will help to lower the overall temperature of the house, but the basement will never cool down completely as the warmer air from the rest of the house will be circulated into the basement. For the basement air to reach its coldest temperatures, the entire system must be turned off for a while.

Manage the Pressure Systems

When altering the flow of air within a house, it is imperative to ensure that the pressure within the air system is balanced.

An unbalanced air pressure system can result in hot or cold spots throughout the house, some rooms being significantly hotter or colder than other rooms, sewer smells being pulled up from the drains, and even exhaust fumes from any present machinery being circulated through the house!

Keeping the pressure systems within the house balanced is vital for the ventilation system to function properly (not just the heating/cooling system), and this must be taken into account when altering the airflow from within the basement of the home.

It is best to hire a professional HVAC technician to ensure that the systems’ pressure is properly balanced throughout the home, but if that is not possible, there are some simple ways to help keep the pressure balanced yourself.

Move around the house and try to determine if the temperature changes significantly from room to room. If there is a significant change, the pressure system is not balanced.

A simple way to correct the balance of the pressure is to slightly adjust the ventilation registers while the system is running. If the room you are in is too hot, try to open the vents more. If the room is too cold, try to close the vents (or vise versa for the winter season).

If this does not work, try to balance the pressure by opening and closing windows throughout the house until the temperature normalizes. 

Keep in mind that it is always best to use a professional for this type of problem to ensure that it is resolved quickly and effectively.

Tips to Improve Cooling Effectiveness

It is possible to use the cool air from the basement to reduce the overall temperature of the house, but there are ways to improve upon the methods that we have already discussed.

These are some tips for improving the effectiveness of the methods of using basement air for cooling the house:

Tips for Creating Natural AIrflow

  • Ensure a clear path for the air to flow.
  • Clear any large obstacles that may obstruct airflow.
  • Fully open drapes, curtains, and blinds.
  • Only open a few windows, not all of them.
  • Remove any obstructions from outside the basement window.

Tips for using a Fan to Move Air Upstairs

  • Use a window fan that covers the entire window in the basement.
  • Close all other windows in the basement.
  • Use a large diameter, high-velocity fan for the stairs. 
  • Place the fan on the inside of the stairwell before the door if possible.
  • Do not use a rotating fan.

Tips for using the Summer Fan Switch

  • Ensure that the attic or rafter space is effectively insulated.
  • Turn the fan speed up to maximum.
  • Close all windows and exterior doors.
  • Open all interior doors.

Tips for using a Return Air Vent

  • Use the largest vest size allowed by the International Residential Code (IRC).
  • Install the vent as close to the ground as possible.
  • Install the vent as close to the furnace as possible.

Tips for Managing Air Pressure

  • Ensure the house is properly insulated.
  • Use weather strips, caulk, and heat-resistant films on windows and doors, especially in the basement.
  • Keep air cool in the basement by minimizing the use of electronic devices and other heat sources.
  • Limit the use of lights.
  • Switch to low-heat CFL light bulbs. 
  • Keep the ventilation system cleaned and clear of debris.
  • Optimize vent angles for maximum airflow.

Benefits of Using Cold Basement Air to Cool Upstairs

Using the cool air from the basement is an effective method for cooling the air upstairs. There are many ways to utilize the cool air, and there are also many benefits of using this air rather than using other systems for cooling the house.

Using cold basement air to cool upstairs cuts down on electrical bills and utilizes the system that is already in place within the home without having to install new equipment or extra cooling systems.

The air in the basement is already cool; there is no need to cool it further, which means that the ventilation system in the house can be used to simply move the air rather than cool it as well. This also reduces electrical costs and is a very efficient use of the internal ventilation system of the house.

Using this air improves the airflow throughout the house, which improves circulation and keeps fresh air flowing upstairs.

Using this method for cooling the upstairs air in conjunction with the air conditioner reduces the load on the thermostat system while improving its effectiveness.

The main benefit of using the air from the basement to cool the rest of the house is that the upstairs will remain cool without much effort. Most of the methods highlighted here are passive systems for utilizing the cool basement air and so will require very little maintenance or management.

Moving the air from the basement will drastically improve the ventilation in the basement. This has many benefits for the basement itself and will improve the air quality in the room, reduce mold and dampness, and make the basement much more usable. 

Moving the air from the basement to the rest of the house may form part of an effective basement ventilation strategy. This is a helpful resource for properly ventilating a basement, especially one without windows.

Related Article: Do Fans Cool Down a Room


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