Heating lower level of bi-level house

I have a bi-level (from the front door, there's a foyer, 6 steps up and 6 steps down), approx. 1760 square feet, in southern NJ. The current heating system is gas forced air, one zone, with the thermostat on the house's upper level. The house is built on a slab and the lower level is carpeted. The walls and attic were insulated 25-30 years ago. There's also a central air conditioning unit.
The furnace is about 20 years old and it's time to think about replacement. Before I call around for estimates, I was wondering if one of you guys would be kind enough to fill me in on options for heating this house. My main question is about the lower level. It's usually about 5 degrees cooler than the upper level, which is fine in the summer but not so great in the winter. The ducts were run between the floors, and the registers in the lower level are in the ceiling. Playing with the registers helps a little bit; closing the door between the lower level and the stairs helps more. I can keep the downstairs fairly comfortable if I close the door and run a space heater or two, but I was wondering if there's a way to set up the new furnace and/or the ductwork to make the lower level warmer.
Thanks for any replies! Sara
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Is the furnace in the lower level? There should be a return grille at the bottom of the furnace. If you open it fully, it will help draw the warmer air downward to the lower level. Otherwise you can add a supply duct close to the floor when you get a new furnace. You could also try relocating the T-stat to the den, but come summer time, you might have an issue with the upstairs being warmer than the downstairs. So you can just add a T-stat in the den, leaving the existing one where it is for the A/C unit in the summer.That's what I did in my split-level house.
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Sara wrote:

There are many different approaches and the choice is really very dependent on your specific home. I suggest that finding a good contractor will be the answer to your question.
I would tend to want a multi zoned system, but there may be other solutions that may be better in various ways.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
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there is an incredible amount of information at: http://www.buildingscience.com/resources/mechanical/default.htm
some good basics at: http://www.misterfix-it.com/Solutions/5Air.html
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I have just the opposite problem..my house is a two story, forced hot air, 2100sqft, the furnace was replace 3yrs ago(100,000btu?)the first floor is very comfortable but when going upstairs, the whole upper floor is at least 5 degrees cooler. We had the house vinyle(sp)sided w/tyvec wrap and that silver insulation and new windows throughout, and we added rolls of insulation in the attic too. I've closed dampers in rooms like bathrooms and unused bedrooms to force more air to the other rooms and I've partially closed downstairs vents to force more heat upstairs, but it doesn't seem to do anything. Any suggestions??? thanks C in NY

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In my house , there was an additional damper inside the ductwork of my bedrooms. I found out when I removed the grille to paint, I decided to take out my shop-vac and try to vacuum inside the duct as much as I could when I found this additional damper. So you might want to try removing the grille and stick your hand inside to see if you have another damper.
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In my neck of the woods, this is called a "split entry" or "split level" house. I am now living in my SECOND, such home.

This is EXACTLY like my home.

My first split-entry home had a door to the lower level that I could (and would) close. That makes all the difference in the world. I later installed a ceiling fan above the entryway. With it operating in the DOWN rotation and the door OPEN, the lower level stayed much warmer.
Unfortunately, my current house has an OPEN stair way with no way to close-off the lower level. Of course, since heat rises, it's always colder down there.
What I do to overcome this temperature differential is to run the furnace blower continuously when I wish to EQUALIZE the temperature between the two levels. This works VERY well.
Short of TWO furnaces (two zones), I'm afraid you are relegated to the things you've already tried: Close the door and run a space heater or two - or run the blower continuously.
Good luck!
--
:)
JR

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