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Tips for Combating Airflow “Stack Effect”

Your home isn’t a skyscraper, but did you know that if you have even two stories in your building, you could experience a similar air effect as some of the world’s tallest buildings? It’s true, and this is an event called “stack effect” – one that can lead to air loss, rising utility bills and a few other issues. At Airtime Heating & Cooling, our various furnace and HVAC tune-up services include checking for various indoor air effects, including stack effect. But in case it appears during another part of the year when your inspection is past, here are some basics to know about stack effect and what you can do about it.

Stack Effect Basics

Stack effect, as we noted above, is most common in skyscrapers and other very tall buildings. It refers to a state where the peak of the structure, whether a home or building, acts as its own gigantic chimney – it funnels warm air (which naturally rises) upward, where it eventually is able to escape due to air openings that form over time. Why does stack effect happen? Because of temperature imbalances. When the temperature outside the building is much lower than the temperature inside, cold air will enter the structure at the bottom and push the warm air up. This leads to a worsening cycle where more air coming in just makes the drafts stronger, and so on. This is a larger and larger issue the taller the building is, and is part of the reason nearly all skyscrapers currently use revolving doors – because previous door types created air suction conditions so significant that people couldn’t even pull the doors open due to stack effect.

Why It’s an Issue

Within a home, stack effect is a problem when it begins to impact your air sealing. As stack effect worsens and pressure increases on the upper parts of your home, pressure will be put on the roof, insulation and other upper areas – these may crack, crumble or otherwise wear down, allowing air to escape as it rises. And as we noted above, this will only get worse with time, raising your utility bill each month and also potentially forcing you to spend on repairs for your roofing, insulation or even your foundation.

Possible Solutions

The primary combatant to stack effect is strong insulation. Stack effect may take place to some small degree in your home regardless, but if you have great upper insulation, it won’t matter. Warm air will reach the upper parts of your home and simply have nowhere to go. When you use fans and other formats to recirculate it, it will get right back into the entirety of the home instead of being lost. The most important insulation level here is the barrier between your top floor and either your roof or your attic. However, we recommend having your insulation across the home checked or upgraded regularly. For more on fighting off the stack effect, or to learn about any of our furnace repair or other HVAC services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
energy-star trane aprilaire
High-Efficiency Experts / Service & Installation
(801) 396-2446 High-Efficiency Experts / Service & Installation
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