How our first heat wave of summer can help you understand your home

DETROIT (WWJ) - Just ahead of the official start of summer (June 20), Metro Detroit is expecting a couple of days with near record-high temperatures.

“By dinner time Tuesday, 6 p.m., we’re still looking at 91 degrees in Metro Detroit with high humidity levels,” he said.

We have record heat coming for the next couple days around Metro Detroit. Air conditioners will be on full blast and people will be roasting in their 2nd story bedrooms at night. These are issues quickly dismissed as ‘the way it’s always been’ and a symptom of living in an old Michigan home. This record heat that could be headed our way gives you a unique opportunity to be a home energy detective on your own and understand what’s going on and how to fix it. That’s right, it can be fixed.

Here’s a couple facts that will help diagnose what the situation is and why the solution works.

                -As light warm air rises, cold air is PUSHED down

                -Air conditioning removes moisture from the space that it is cooling

                -The ‘stack effect’ causes a higher pressure in the upstairs and a lower pressure on the main floor and basement

                -Warm air that makes its way into the home brings in a lot of moisture



First you need to observe and make some notes on what is happening. Over the next couple days pay special attention to the temperature difference between floors, note if it feels like each is a big change from upstairs to the main level and basement. If you run a dehumidifier, check and see if it fills up faster than usual. If it gets freezing in your basement and it doesn’t feel like the cold air is even blowing out of the vents in the upper story take note. And lastly, if you have an air conditioner, see if you can tell how often it’s running when you have it on, and pay attention to how humid your home feels too.

If you find that the above symptoms are occurring in your home, here is what could be causing your discomfort.


There is a positive pressure in the upper level of your house! The cold air isn’t making its way up there because the warm air is trying to rise all the way to the top. Even though your return air ducts are pulling air back to the air conditioner, it’s just being replaced by warm air making its way upstairs. Your air conditioning doesn’t have a very good chance of making its way or staying upstairs.

Your air conditioner can’t pull moisture out of your house as fast as it is making its way in! If you found that there is a big temperature difference between the basement and upper level it’s likely that warm air and moisture is able to make its way into the part of the home with a lower pressure than the upstairs. All sources of air leaks bring moisture but the most significant one can be from the basement perimeter known as the rim joist. Most Michigan homes have these cavities stuffed with fiberglass but it doesn’t stop the air or moisture from making its way in.  As long as there is warm air that comes in, it will and rise to the top making the coldest air fall to the lowest point in the home.

There is good news for you! Sealing up the gaps and cracks around the home can fix your uneven temperatures in the home. No amount of insulation, heating and cooling or fans can stop the uneven temperatures if there are air leaks in the home which cause the warmest air to rise and coldest air to fall. The best way to determine what an impact sealing of the gaps and cracks around the home will have is by starting with a Home Performance Evaluation. This will confirm that the home can be improved to use less energy and gain more comfort. We challenge you to do a little detective work over the next couple days and see if you can fix your drafty home once and for all making it clean, energy efficient and most importantly comfortable.


To learn more about the solution for sealing up the air leaks in the basement, refer to our article that was published in the ASHI Spring Newsletter on Spider Webs and Drafty Basements.


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Tags: air, heat, home, hot, in, moisture, sealing, upstairs, wave


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