Hi, I am a complete newbie, having only bought my house a year ago.
I have a cute first home that was remodeled a few years ago. The only problem is that the temperature variation on the main floor is a bit too much for me from season to season.
I do not have a furnace or ducting. I have a thing that looks like a wood stove but is actually gas in the basement - it is thermostatically controlled (temperature sensor is in a small remote control). So the finished basement (family room, two bedrooms) is always perfect, and it's also cool enough in the summer. The previous owners did good with environmentally-responsible stuff, for instance I have one of those instant-hot-water-heaters (no water tank). I'd like to continue on that track.
The problem is the upper/main floor. I have zonal electrical heaters (they blow hot air) in the walls that are ugly and I hate using them as they are all manual. Also in the summer it gets too hot sometimes. I live in Portland OR and there are always 3-4 weeks where it gets above 90 - ceiling fans don't cut it, and I work from home.
I am changing the upper floor to wood floors (so it will be even colder), and I am getting a grand piano, and you really don't want extreme temperature swings with one of those.
I really don't want a window a/c or one of those ugly thru-wall a/c's. I basically want 10-15 degrees warmer in the winter, and 10-15 degrees cooler in the summer, stable temperature range and no weird humidity extremes (because of the piano).
So I'm looking for recommendations. One thing that looks like it might be a good option is mini-splits...? I only learned about them yesterday. Are they only for A/C or do they also work for heat? I'd really probably only need it to go into two locations on the main floor. My dining room (which opens to my living room, where the piano will be), and my office (computer equipment). My main floor is only 765 square feet.
I am also thinking of a very small gas fireplace in a corner unit. kozyheat makes a nifty looking fireplace for a room corner with a wine cabinet above - the "two harbors" model. don't know if that would be sufficient for heat.
Anything else I should consider? Maybe even one of those solar-powered attic fans would be good enough for cooling? Are there other environmentally-responsible things I should be considering? Does geothermal require ducting? I am not really even sure how to take the next step to learn about my options, other than asking here. I tried calling Home Depot but they didn't have a clue - they just tried to sell me portable heaters and a/c units. All I know is I don't want those, and I don't want to tear apart walls or subfloor to install inside-the-house ducting. Too expensive, too much of an ordeal.
Thanks for any suggestions. I'm hoping to get things accomplished in the next six weeks. Also, I don't mind spending a bit extra for even lower electricity/gas bills.