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Community and Q&A

Cold air returns

ddore4936 | Posted in General Questions on

I live in a 2 apt bldg.  I am the downstairs apt. and have control of the heat (unfortunately) for both of us.  My upstairs neighbors come down and complained to me that they are cold. I have to have the heat a lot higher than is comfortable for me.   Problem being they have no Cold Air Returns at all upstairs.  My apt. is the only one with them and I only have 2.  I am going to assume that this would create a problem for the upstairs tenants for their comfort level because I can’t have it at a normal temp and they also be comfortable.  I want to go to my landlord but want to know what I am talking about prior to doing so.

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  1. JC72 | | #1

    My WAG is that it sounds like you're living in a house with an un-permitted converted attic. The ideal solution for you is to vacate and find another apartment. The less than ideal solution is to anonymously contact your local building code office who will inspect the house and probably force your landlord to bring the house up to code. If this happens you'll probably still have to vacate the unit.

    1. ddore4936 | | #3

      Thanks John for your input is appreciated but it isn't a converted attic. it is a home that was made into 2 apts. and unfortunately the landlord (who previously lived in bldg) evidently cut corners or truly didn't know.. but I will figure out an appropriate way to communicate with him.

      1. JC72 | | #5

        Okay, well then an un-permitted conversion into a duplex. Surely you and the upstairs tenant have your own individual electric meters? You can check public record to see if the house is being assessed as a duplex/ multi-unit.

        That'll give you an indication of what's going on.

  2. Expert Member
    Peter Yost | | #2

    Hi there Ddore (be great to have your name, BTW)

    I doubt that lack of returns is the issue or the only issue; you essentially have a configuration which needs two zones: 2 thermostats.

    It is hard to know what advice to give you so that you can go to your landlord on solid technical ground without knowing more about your HVAC system and your building. Can you provide more info? Otherwise, just go to your landlord with your co-tenant and explain the situation from a thermal comfort perspective and have him or her deal with the technical solution.


    1. ddore4936 | | #4

      Hi Peter, thanks for your reply. I do not know at this time more info on the HVAC system. I am going to go to my landlord and further explain the situation as this has been ongoing for over 10 years that I have been there and they have gone thru many upstairs tenants.. Which after writing this is probably why no one stays..

  3. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #6

    You are correct that you need air returns on both levels. You might be able to cheat and just vent between the two levels to provide an air pathway (no ductwork), but that will carry sound much more than a “real” air return would.

    There is something else you could try. Check that all the dampers are open to the upper level. If they aren’t, open them. If they are, try closing some of the dampers supplying air to your level. This will help to send more hot air to the other unit and less to you, which will help to balance the temperature between the two units. Note that without a proper return air pathway you’re likely to never get good balance between the two units, but you can probably improve it at least a little with the dampers. Be careful not to close too many dampers or you could cause your furnace to overheat.


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