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I have a "modern" UK house (approx. 15 years old, built as cheaply as possible, a wooden house with a brick shell). If it is cold outside and I heat the ground floor to the minimum I would like, then the first floor is warmer than I would like and the 2nd floor in particular is too warm.

I have installed a door to the stairwell on the ground floor and do not heat it much, so on the 1st floor it is markedly cooler than the rooms and on the second floor it is certainly no hotter.

The heating system is wet radiators with individual thermostats. When the problem is there, it is there with thermostats turned off on the second floor and set low or off on the 1st floor. Much of the problem is likely caused by the level of "insulation" being unbalanced between the ground floor with large conservatory style skylights and the other floors (see picture on related question).

Before starting on a new roof and windows for part of the house, I would like to see if insulation between the ground floor and 1st floor could help, either bonded to the ground floor ceiling or something blown with little or no adhesive into in the spaces between the load bearing joists.

Is that feasible? Would there be any pitfalls, could it be done with minimal intrusion?

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Balancing your heating system would be the first step be it duct or radiant. You should have some mode of control as in dampers or balancing valves respectively. If it's forced air start by shutting down completely the second floor closing off the first floor and leaving the main ground floor open. The case with radiant should be relatively simple assuming valves are installed simply close the valves where there is too much heat. Keep in mind that the heating system knows nothing of the layout of your house it only knows what the thermostat can tell it so everything when it comes to balancing has to be centered around the thermostat.

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    Yes, but I don't recommend shutting anything down completely. Air movement is critical for comfort and moisture management. – isherwood Feb 25 at 18:46
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I think of insulation as reducing “heat loss” and “heat gain” once the space is conditioned.

If you can obtain the desired temperature for each space, then insulation could help maintain the desired temperature.

To me, it sounds like you need to “balance” the system, as Joe Fala has explained. Getting the correct amount of heat to each space seems to be the issue...not, having heat spill over into undesired spaces.

  • I cannot dial in a negative value on the thermostats upstairs and make the radiators there absorb heat and transfer it downstairs. So balancing heat getting less heat upstairs involves less heat downstairs, meaning it either gets too cold downstairs or I need better insulation of the conservatory (ideal, but expensive) and / or insulation between floors. – nsandersen Feb 25 at 23:19
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Two suggestions:

Balancing:
Mentioned by other but I don't think very well explained. Hot water comes in from your boiler at one end of your loop of radiators and goes out at the other. The problem with this is that the first radiator in the loop draws off heat much quicker than the second, second quicker than the third etc. and after the boiler running for 30min and shutting off, the first room can be very hot but the last still cold.

To prevent that, the system is "balanced". Your radiators have TRVs(thermostatic radiator valves) on one side and regular valves on the other. You go round limiting flow into radiators by adjusting these other regular valves (almost closed on the first, completely open on the last) by measuring temperatures and adjusting until all rooms in the house heat at an even rate.

This is a very finnicky job and it's best to get a plumber to do it.

Zoning:
It sounds like your system isn't zoned.
Modern systems split the house into 3-4 "zones" so that heat goes to different areas of the house independently.
Typically this will be something like...
1.Ground floor 2. 1st floor 3. 2nd floor 4. Hot water (if you have a tank).

These are controlled by electronic motorised valves, controlled by thermostats. They make it much easier to heat one area of the house but not the other. These work much better than TRVs which, although they're very handy because they're everywhere, have a nasty habit of not working properly. Even if they are you'll be losing heat by having hot water travel all around the house, including heating somewhat the areas that you don't want heated.

Yeah but:
So...if you're still reading I imagine you're saying to yourself "yeah, but he didn't really get the point of what I was saying nor answer my question". Well, I disagree. I think you're putting way too much emphasis on heat-loss to upstairs. You say that upstairs is too warm but it's still too cool downstairs - that doesn't happen because of heat-loss. Sure some heat will travel up but not that much - there's no way you get a warm upstairs without the downstairs being hot. The heat-loss just can't be that extreme without there being a giant gaping hole in the ceiling. Simply, the problem you've described points more to an issue with your heating than anything else (ie. that it's not properly heating your ground floor in the first place).

  • Thank you for the better explanation. The heating is a single circuit plus a hot water tank. I don't know if it can be adapted to become two circuits. But what I don't understand is how balancing or zoning can help if I have already closed the thermostat values on the 1st and 2nd floors completely (the radiators are cold) and still getting too hot upstairs by heating downstairs adequately. It doesn't seem so likely to me that the pipes in the walls and insulated hot water tank would do that much. – nsandersen Feb 27 at 9:05

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