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add heating/cooling upstairs

In a few days I'll close on a c. 1900 2-story Queen Anne located in central NC. The downstairs is fully renovated and has central air and gas heat, plus working wood and gas fireplaces. The second floor, on the other hand, is not renovated. The bath is at bare stud, one bedroom is ~80% complete (trim work and floor refinishing left), and another bedroom is left to start. There is no HVAC upstairs, and no existing ductwork.

I have a few ideas, and I'd like some help thinking about the upstairs renovations, especially heat and air, and how to prioritize them before I start getting estimates, so that I know what questions to ask and can make sure I get my horse in front of my cart. I'm a novice renovator, so if my plan gets picked apart, it can only help.

If radiant heat is installed under the wood floors in the bath, is this sufficient to warm an ~10' x 11' room?

Can a quad-zone mini-split A/C unit be used on a second floor? Will I come out ahead with a mini-split versus putting in ductwork and using a conventional split w/ducts?

I was thinking about using baseboard heating units upstairs, and installing gas fireplace inserts in the two bedroom fireplaces, which share a chimney with two functional, wood-burning fireplaces downstairs.

About the order of work upstairs, I was thinking the logical order is:
upgrade electrical
add HVAC & refit fireplaces
have bath plumbing made ready for addition of fixtures
finish out bath
complete the 80% done room
complete the unfinished room
complete the hallway

One thing that may complicate the order of work is that I plan to create arched passages between the two bedrooms where two existing closets now stand on either side of the fireplaces. The nearly done bedroom will remain a bedroom, but the 2nd bedroom will become a sitting room. I'll install a large walk-in closet across the back of that room. The upstairs will become one (very large) master suite.

For electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, I'll use pros, but for the rest, I'll do much of the work myself. Since time is not an issue, I'm not sure that the expense of hiring a general contractor to run everything is justified. I figure I can spend five years on the upstairs, since it's just me and pets in the house. Is it foolhardy not to hire a general contractor for this undertaking?

Okay, that's my plan - your critique is appreciated!

Re: add heating/cooling upstairs

Very hard to give advice in view of the variables that seem to be present; sounds like the previous owner simply concentrated on the first floor and ignored (for whatever reason) the thought of integrating the 1st & 2nd floor heating/cooling.

When you say you have "central air" and gas heat for floor 1, I assume you're referring to forced hot air and AC in steel ducts---there's no mention of having insulation blown into or applied to the exterior walls & attic, which should be one of the first things on the list---this goes for the exterior windows as well, which should be without drafts, relatively new, double pane or good storm windows.

I definitely think you should consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors" (most of them also do AC) & have at least 3 or 4 walk thru the house with you to help you get a "lay of the land" so that you can develop some sense of direction that will eventually produce a definite plan and sequence of attacking the various phases of the project----these "walk throughs" at this point needn't even involve a dollar quote---it's just a way of developing a "best way" out of the many options that exist for installing heating & AC.

Most single family homes integrate the heating & AC for the entire house, but in your case, it seems that the design has already decided on separate floors---a quick way of roughly estimating the amount of BTUs for heating and cooling is to take the total sq. footage of the 2nd floor and multiply by 35 for heating and multiply by 25 for cooling; thus a 25 X 50 2nd floor would need 1250 sq.ft. X 35 = 43,750 BTUs/hr for heating and 1250 X 25 = 31,250 BTUs/hr for cooling; it can be assumed the entire house would roughly need (in this example) 87,500 BTU/HR for heating and 62,500 BTU/HR for cooling---if you look on the equipment for the 1st floor you should be able to determine if they have any added capacity you can use for the 2nd floor, or if you will have to install a complete set of additional equipment for the 2nd floor.

Many modern retrofit jobs now involve gas-fired hot water radiant heating, fitting plastic PEX piping under the floorboards (assuming they are exposed) and connecting to a gas-fired condensing boiler for efficient low-cost heat that avoids baseboard fixtures that may interfere with furniture placement; but this would involve introducing a hot water heating system into a house that already has forced hot air.

There are numerous other options, such as a high velocity forced hot air/cooling system using 4" ducts that are easily snaked thru floor joists & studs, provides both heating & cooling, & may be much less expensive than a forced hot water system; site listed below.

I also like the mini-split systems that are on the market, especially the ones by Sanyo, that have a large share of the market.

Expect to go thru 5 or 6 HVAC estimators before you find the right man who can combine all these concepts & come up with the most cost-effective & logical plan.


Re: add heating/cooling upstairs

The lack of provision upstairs leads me to wonder if this was not being redone as an apartment, which brings up the first of the questions, does the unit for downstairs have sufficient capacity to add the upstairs? Is the upstairs adequately insulated? And since just you and the pets, why not a stand alone system that can be turned off when the upstairs not needed?

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