Heat getting trapped in one room

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Moved into a circa 1780 center chimney salt box about a year ago. Came with a Vermont Castings Defiant 1945 installed in what we’re calling the “hearth room.” There is an additional open fireplace in the living room as well as another that was bricked over to accommodate the furnace. First winter was damn cold due to there being zero insulation in the house. This year is a sight better after qualifying for a 100% rebate on cellulose insulation. Never gonna be airtight, and that’s okay. Chalk it up to New England charm.

I try to not overfire my stove keeping it around 400-500F with decently long burns (still working on my timing and getting the most out of every load I put in the stove). With that, the VC definitely heats up the hearth room, but it seems to get trapped in there. The further away on the first floor, the colder it gets (as one would expect) but my sense is that I could be doing a much better job at distributing heat evenly. I’d prefer 65-68 degrees throughout rather than 75 in one room and 63 in another.

Additionally, the heat does not move upward to the second floor. This would be fine if it were just me because I’ll take any excuse to pile on wool blankets, but with a 7-month-old I’ve been told the upstairs needs to be warmed up some more. This one seems a puzzler to me because I always took as axiomatic that hot air rises, but you get halfway up the staircase and the temperature changes by 10 degrees F. You can actually stand with your feet in 75F and your head in 60F.

A little eco fan on the stove points toward the back door/mudorom (see schematic) and I’ve tried various iterations of using small floor fans directing cold air into the hearth room from adjacent rooms with minimal success (including down the stairs from the second floor, the “blueprint” doesn’t properly show that there’s 3 steps a small landing then a right angle before you head up the stairs).

I’d love to cut it up with folks on here about what they think might help, or if it’s a fool’s errand. Will happily answer any and all questions.

tl;dr: yet another Where do I point my fans? thread

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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,376
South Puget Sound, WA
The doorways are the restricting factor. Do you have a 12" table fan or a box fan? If so, try this. Place the fan at the top of the stairs, blowing downward towards the doorway so that it is blowing cold air down to the hearth room. Run it on low and see if that helps. The same for an adjacent room. It's easier to move cold air than warm so place the fan on the floor exhausting cold air from the living room or office, into the hearth room. This will cool down the hearth room and the cold air displaced from the cold room will be replaced with warmer air from the hearth room. If you want to see how this works, tape a 2' length of toilet paper to the top of the doorway before turning on the fan. Then turn it on and you can see the air flow direction.
 
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and the paper in the doorway should show which way the hot air is moving because it’s higher up in the room, right?

i already have a small floor fan pointing in from the living room. my box fan will now stand sentinel at the top of the stairs. thinking I’ll need a few dozen more thermometers 😆

The office doesn’t sit over the original foundation as it was built in the 1820s so there’s just a crawl space + it shares an uninsulated wall with the garage making it, in essence, a walk-in freezer. Hoping the second stove in there will at least help some during the daytime (lots of future projects to improve the house).
 

Mt Bob

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2013
4,073
park county montana
Return air. You have to think of air movement from and to a heating device as a circle. Looks to me you are expecting the stairwell to be the outgoing and incoming air, in which you will have cold feet. A floor vent may do wonders.
 
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Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,567
Long Island, NY
Welcome to the forums !!!

I'm assuming the wall between the hearth room and the stairway is closed off?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,376
South Puget Sound, WA
and the paper in the doorway should show which way the hot air is moving because it’s higher up in the room, right?

i already have a small floor fan pointing in from the living room. my box fan will now stand sentinel at the top of the stairs. thinking I’ll need a few dozen more thermometers 😆

The office doesn’t sit over the original foundation as it was built in the 1820s so there’s just a crawl space + it shares an uninsulated wall with the garage making it, in essence, a walk-in freezer. Hoping the second stove in there will at least help some during the daytime (lots of future projects to improve the house).
You have my sympathy. I lived in or had friends living in those old houses. One was just like you describe. My wife's house was on Calkingstown Rd and was from the early 1920s. It was much tighter.
 
Return air. You have to think of air movement from and to a heating device as a circle. Looks to me you are expecting the stairwell to be the outgoing and incoming air, in which you will have cold feet. A floor vent may do wonders.
Time to start scoping a second stairway 😂

But in seriousness, helpful way of thinking about the circulation (circulation… circle, I’m seeing it now). My uncle suggested keeping the forced air fan on always as a way to circulate heat, but my impression was that would only really work if there are vents toward the top of a room. All of the ones in this house are floor vents.

One other thing we were thinking of doing, since it’s so old a house, is knocking the downstairs plaster ceilings out. This was originally for aesthetic reasons, old home, cool exposed beams, rustic feel; but might it allow heat to rise upwards more easily as well? I don’t know, but maybe someone here has experience with that.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,376
South Puget Sound, WA
My uncle suggested keeping the forced air fan on always as a way to circulate heat, but my impression was that would only really work if there are vents toward the top of a room.
That often is ineffective unless all of the ductwork is well insulated and inside the conditioned space of the house. Furnace hot air ducts are designed for moving 125-150º air from the furnace into the room, not 75º room air. Vents at the top of the room are primarily for air conditioning. Warm air heating vents are in the floor.
 
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Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,567
Long Island, NY

Dan Freeman

Minister of Fire
Dec 3, 2021
616
NE PA
rumble.com
We live in an old farmhouse (@1840) and had a very similar problem. Our stove is in the kitchen. We installed a corner doorway fan (muffin fan) in each doorway leading out of the kitchen into adjacent rooms and cut a floor vent in the kitchen ceiling to the 2nd floor landing and use a register booster fan. These made a big difference for us. The kitchen is still the warmest room, but now the other rooms in the house heat faster and stay warmer.

(Regular links. NOT affiliate links)

Doorway fan: Amazon product
Register fan: Amazon product

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That often is ineffective unless all of the ductwork is well insulated and inside the conditioned space of the house. Furnace hot air ducts are designed for moving 125-150º air from the furnace into the room, not 75º room air. Vents at the top of the room are primarily for air conditioning. Warm air heating vents are in the floor.
probably works better for my uncle cuz he designed and built his own house around a huge thermal mass /Russian stove set up + much better vent insulation to boot.
 
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Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,567
Long Island, NY
How are you making out?

Forgot to ask ... do you have any ceiling fans?

Sorry for the delayed response, got distracted :(
 
How are you making out?

Forgot to ask ... do you have any ceiling fans?

Sorry for the delayed response, got distracted :(
We have a ceiling fan in the office (which, when we finally get the stove working in there, should help) but the height of the ceilings in the main house make ceiling fans hanging guillotines. Another reason we’re thinking of removing the plaster just to get a few more inches of room

The small floor fan in the living room definitely keeps it warmer in there (it’s where the thermostat is, something we want to change). But oddly enough upstairs will randomly (at least to me although there’s surely an explanation) get decently warm and then be cold again 🤷
 

FPX Dude

Feeling the Heat
Oct 4, 2007
427
Sacramento, CA
For air flow, paper (or I use a candle and watch flame) at eye level will drift away from heat, and at knee level will drift towards heat. That's the natural convection that you would enhance by using a fan to blow cold air towards heat. I wouldn't expect to heat basement that much with it either, and house duct work fan probably not that effective either.
 

jalmondale

Member
Dec 16, 2021
140
NY
Return air. You have to think of air movement from and to a heating device as a circle. Looks to me you are expecting the stairwell to be the outgoing and incoming air, in which you will have cold feet. A floor vent may do wonders.
This is your issue - I've been messing around with fans with my setup (stove in one corner of the house, need to get heat everywhere else), and setting up two fans to encourage a loop has been very effective. If you could have a ceiling/floor vent in the living room and office, you could potentially set up a loop through the whole house and across the second floor. The other thing I noticed was that while the cold-air-in fan should sit on the floor, it makes a surprisingly big difference to have the hot-air-out fan be elevated even a little bit. Obvious in retrospect, but I was still impressed at how much difference even a foot of elevation made.
 
Just figured I’d do a quick update. After using various suggestions here (and as I continue to understand the nature of the stove), I’ve been able to keep the upstairs much warmer. Still cool enough for my preferred sleeping temp, but you can feel that the heat is remaining up there. I think we were losing a lot of heat from the upstairs bathroom which has a dormer and terrible window treatments.

Speaking of window treatments, installed window quilts in our front room, which has the greatest number of windows. They definitely helped (and will probably get more made for the rest of the house). However, the front room remains the coolest room on the first floor, which is unfortunate because it’s where we hang out the most. It’s also where the thermostat is, so despite the rest of the house being tolerably warm (it’s never not going to be a 240 year old house), the furnace kicks on constantly. The toilet paper on the doorframe between it and the “hearth” room shows there’s definitely warm air moving into the front from, but as people noted, it’s still a door so probably not enough is getting through, especially now that it seems to be rising (as you’d expect).

It’s definitely a lot of fun to figure things out and always helpful to see other people’s suggestions.