How To Fix It

How To Increase HVAC Airflow Upstairs?

Like many homeowners, you’re probably measuring your HVAC’s performance based on how efficiently it cools the living room and kitchen, completely forgetting the rooms upstairs. It may not seem like such a big deal, but if that second floor isn’t getting enough airflow, you’ll probably be spending more time than you’d like on the lower floors. Luckily for you, it is possible to boost the HVAC airflow and expel that hot, stale air buildup.

You can increase HVAC airflow upstairs by installing a ceiling fan, cleaning your existing ductwork, changing your HVAC filters, and opening the windows regularly. While these methods may not work efficiently in all houses, they are simple and affordable fixes that can make a significant difference.

Stay with me as I walk you through quick, easy ways to increase airflow upstairs and unmask the common causes of HVAC airflow problems.

1. Open the Windows

Sometimes the best solutions are right in front of you. While opening the windows is an excellent way to improve the airflow around your home on its own, think of all the airflow improvement it could bring to your home when working together with your HVAC unit.

Opening windows allows fresh air to flow in, neutralizing the smell of stale air and cooking fumes and exhausting the air your HVAC system doesn’t catch. Think of how the hot air from the kitchen rises to the upper floors. Open windows let this hot air flow out of the house, and your unit no longer has to work harder to push the hot air where it belongs—outside.

Read: Why HVAC Damper Keeps Getting Stuck Closed?

2. Change Your Air Filters

You probably don’t give your air filters much thought unless something goes wrong. But whether or not your filters are clean and new can significantly impact how well your home’s heating and cooling system works. Dirty filters make it harder for your system to function at peak efficiency, forcing the unit to work harder and shortening its lifespan. 

HVAC systems rely on filters to remove pollen, allergens, and dust particles from the air before it gets distributed around your home. When the air filters become clogged, they can’t do their job as effectively, so air won’t circulate as efficiently as it should.

Make sure you’re changing your air filters every once in a while. You should clean and replace your filters regularly to ensure that your system works as efficiently as possible and that your indoor air quality is as high as possible.

By the way, clogged or defective ducts are another cause of poor HVAC airflow in your home. Ducts get clogged with dust and dirt that builds up over time. The clogging impedes the flow of air, which has a hand in the hot, stale air buildup in the upper rooms. It is essential to check and clean the ducts regularly, along with your air filters, to enjoy an uninterrupted airflow.

Read: How To Tell If HVAC Zone Damper Is Normally Closed Or Normally Open? 

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3. Install a Ceiling or Wall Fan

A ceiling fan probably won’t cool your home. But, it can significantly improve the airflow around your home, especially in the upper rooms where the air isn’t flowing as smoothly as it should. You can install a ceiling fan or a wall-mounted fan. Install a ceiling fan if you have high ceilings and a wall-mounted fan if you have a low-hanging ceiling.

Ceiling fans work by pushing air downwards, causing a low-pressure zone underneath it. This process results in the fan drawing air towards itself. The faster the blades are spinning, the more air the fan displaces the air. And if you think about it, airflow is all about air displacement.

Wall-mounted fans are smaller, but they can still be effective at moving air around your home. They can be placed in any room and can be great at cooling down areas warmer than the rest of the house. Just remember to choose a spot with minimum furniture that will likely interfere with airflow. 

4. Work Your HVAC Unit on Fan Mode

When running your home heating and cooling system, you probably choose the “heat” or the “cool” setting, depending on the time of year and your preference. But most AC units have a “fan mode” feature that allows you to run the fans alone when the unit is on.

Fan mode is the setting on your unit that allows the fan to run continuously instead of cycling on and off with the unit’s internal thermostat. The fan supplies more air to your home without heating or cooling it.

5. Use HVAC Zoning Systems

HVAC zoning is a system used to maintain different temperatures in different rooms. HVAC zoning systems allow you to control the temperature, airflow, and humidity in other rooms of your house. 

Some rooms might be a few degrees warmer or cooler than others. You can program the system to change the temperatures in different rooms at certain times of the day. For example, you might have a living room that is a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house, which makes it the perfect place to curl up with a book on a hot day.

HVAC zoning systems also redirect air to specific rooms. You can adjust the dampers in the ductwork—depending on the season. It is essential first to know where each damper redirects the air. 

During summer, the goal is to direct cool air upstairs, while in winter, you want to move warmer air into the lower floors. Closing the dampers that direct air to the lower floor will ensure more air flows to the upper floor, making it cooler during summer.

Read: Why HVAC Zone Damper Actuator Making A Clicking Noise? How To Troubleshoot?

6. Add More Return and Supply Ducts

Adding more ventilation ducts to your house should help increase airflow and quality. You may install ventilation ducts in attics and other rooms in the upper levels to improve the airflow. Ventilation ducts have intake and exhaust ducts. The intake duct pulls fresh air into the house or office, and the exhaust duct pushes stale air out. 

More return ducts in the upper rooms suck out more hot air. More supply ducts blow in more air into the room. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, additional ductwork comes at a cost ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

7. Install Ductless Air Conditioning

Ductless air conditioners are installed in rooms, not in a centralized location like a conventional unit. Therefore, they don’t need ducts to distribute the cold air throughout your home. A typical ductless air conditioner consists of a wall-mounted indoor unit connected to an outdoor compressor.

Ductless units are more energy efficient than their counterparts, as they don’t have to maintain the airflow and temperature across the house. Ductless units are also portable, which makes them more convenient than the more extensive HVAC system. You can install them in the upper rooms that you frequent the most, like the bedroom.

Seek HVAC professional services to help you identify the best ductless ACs and provide better solutions to your existing unit.


Your home should be a pleasant and comfortable place to live for everyone. Although your central system may not cover every room in the house, installing fans, switching to smaller ductless ACs, and installing more vents should help improve the airflow in your home. If none of the tips in this article work, you can always contact an expert to provide more information on how to improve the airflow around your home.