Stratification is Not About Flying

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

When flying we'll usually hear the Captain speak about the stratosphere. It's a layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere. What is happening in our atmosphere is stratification, the layering of varying temperatures and densities of air. This same physical principle is applicable to our homes, except it is undesirable when it occurs.

Through the lens of an infrared camera these air layers can be observed. In my experience this will happen almost exclusively with forced air heating and cooling systems. But it also is common in high ceiling rooms, regardless of heating / cooling system variety.

In the first infrared image a distinct temperature differential can be seen between the floor and ceiling. The warm air expelled from the ducts is layered at the ceiling over the colder air at the floor.

This was taking place through out the entire second floor of this home. The reason was basically the duct placement in the rooms. The ducts had been installed high on the back walls opposite the exterior walls. This placement blows warm air straight across the ceiling causing it to stratify.

The second image is similar to the first. The heating duct is in the ceiling at the top right of the picture. That's a big screen TV below the duct. The TV is about 10 feet away from the duct. You can see the layering very clearly on the screen and the walls on the left.

The temperature differential here is about 12 -14 degrees floor to ceiling. Again duct placement is the primary culprit. This duct is in the ceiling in the center of the room. It is not effectively distributing the warm air through out the room.

A simple solution to these respective problems could be ceiling fans if practical. The TV room would be a problem, but the other room it should be possible. Ceiling fans move air very effectively using little energy. In the winter the fan should be set to run clockwise to blow the warm air off the ceiling. When standing under the fan you should not feel a breeze if it is set correctly.

A more involved solution would be to move the ducts or at minimum, again if feasible, install deflectors on the registers. Here in the Northeast we use heating more than cooling and as such ducts should be placed, if at all possible, in the floor, not the ceiling.

By homogenizing the air in these homes, it will cause the heating systems to work more effectively and efficiently and as an added bonus the rooms will feel more comfortable.

So the next time you're flying and you hear the Captain talk about the stratosphere, you'll  appreciate that outside the plane is where those air layers belong.

James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

To find out more about our high tech services click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services. Learn more about our energy audits, the Home Energy Tune uP®.

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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Tags:
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Rainmaker
368,616
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Ceiling fans...the cure-all for everything!  I love mine, but wish I also had one installed in the living room. 

Oct 11, 2008 05:54 AM #1
Rainer
161,208
Aventura | Bal Harbour | Sunny Isles Beach | REALTORĀ® 786-229-7999
SIB REALTY, Llc // WaterWayRealty.com - Sunny Isles, FL

Jim:

That word stratification really got to me- I'm glad you gave the analogy of the airline pilot regarding the stratosphere, that cleared things up. Great information about the flow of air- important stuff.

Your information was little technical for my simple mind, so- here is what I thought of- when I read your blog title. Stratification is Not About Flying

THE FIGHTER PLANE GAME

Click Here To Send Me A Message

Oct 11, 2008 06:33 AM #2
Ambassador
1,290,613
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

James, seems like you and me are in the same camp as fans of Cellulose Fiber insulation:)

Oct 11, 2008 11:42 AM #3
Rainmaker
318,482
Joshua Frederick
Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC - Defiance, OH
Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio

Great info and a very good post.  Thanks!

Oct 11, 2008 01:24 PM #4
Rainmaker
677,943
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Don, They are a great and under used energy saving device. I have three in my home.

Mott, Sorry, wasn't trying to be too technical, just get the point across about air layers in the home.

Charles, We certainly are!

Joshua, Your welcome!

Oct 12, 2008 01:32 AM #5
Rainer
23,013
Suzanne Champion
N.J. Realty - Westerville Ohio - Columbus, OH

Many people do not know about the reversing ceiling fan trick.  It's a good one!

Oct 12, 2008 01:46 AM #6
Rainmaker
677,943
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Suzanne, And very overlooked. Most homes I look at when doing a home energy audit do not have them running.

Oct 12, 2008 01:50 AM #7
Rainmaker
1,229,754
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

James,

Interesting blog. Not only ceiling fans but also bath exhaust fans seem to often be left unused.

Oct 12, 2008 04:06 AM #8
Rainmaker
677,943
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Steven,

That would be my experience as well. Usually gets the mold growing in the bathroom.

Oct 12, 2008 09:55 AM #9
Anonymous
Tim Howe

James,

I really admire the way that you use your IRC. If you are not careful, you are going to convince me of their utility ;). You have obviously been doing your homework. Keep up the good work.

 

Tim

Oct 28, 2008 11:48 AM #10
Rainmaker
677,943
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Tim,

Thanks for the compliment. I have been doing my "home work". That is I work in peoples homes and use the IR camera.  I have found the IR camera to be a great tool when used properly. That is when conditions are right. My first consideration when planning a job is figuring the best time and method to obtain ideal temperature conditions for the camera. Something that I find is hard to do in the context of a home inspection. Which is why the vast majority of my IR work is energy audits and other IR type work. It is an extremely rare occurence when my camera is part of a general home inspection.

By the way the images above are from two recent energy audits, not home inspections.

Oct 28, 2008 12:51 PM #11
Rainer
16,012
Rebecca Waldo
Waldo Renewable Electric, LLC - Old Saybrook, CT

Ah ha that is what that switch is for on the fan.  Thanks Jim.  Great information.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Nov 23, 2011 02:14 AM #12
Rainmaker
677,943
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Hi Rebecca> Boy you really went far back to find this post :) And yep that is what the switch is for. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

Nov 24, 2011 12:40 AM #13
Rainer
16,012
Rebecca Waldo
Waldo Renewable Electric, LLC - Old Saybrook, CT

No, I just joined the group and the post was right at the top.  It is a good one.  

Dec 06, 2011 01:06 AM #14
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

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