Hot as Hell on your 2nd Story? How to Cool Your Upstairs Area

July 19, 2021
Upstairs Cooling Solutions in North Kansas City, MO

If it has begun to feel as though the second story of your home is comparable to the Sahara Desert, it may be time to investigate various options for providing more cooling comfort. With different options available, such as variable speed, mini-splits, and different zoning, it can be confusing to determine the best option for providing maximum cooling efficiency throughout your home. Below, we examine common options to assist you in determining the most effective way to cool down your second story.

Variable Speed

Although the term variable speed is used commonly, what it is actually referring to is the blower motor located inside the air handler. This is really an electronically controlled motor that is designed to deliver greater efficiency than is typically experienced with many air conditioner motors.

Variable-speed motors are known for being energy efficient and low maintenance. Additionally, they come with lower operating costs. One of the reasons for this is that the variable-speed blower motor will operate at various speeds as a way to controlling the flow of cooled air in a more precise manner than a conventional fan motor. Of course, improved airflow leads to an improved balance of humidity and temperature.

The variable-speed motor operates by monitoring data delivered from the cooling system constantly. As a result, it is able to make automatic adjustments in order to meet your home’s cooling needs. For instance, a variable-speed motor may compensate for blocked vents or dirty filters to vary the amount of circulated air by increasing the speed of the fan. Rather than delivering a sudden blast of cooled air, the variable-speed motor instead increases to full speed gradually. The benefit of this gradual increase is less stress on the machinery.

While there are certainly many benefits associated with a variable speed motor when you’re looking at cooling the second floor of your home that already feels as though you’re living in the desert, a variable speed motor may not be your best choice.

Heat tends to rise, which is why the second floor of your home is so hot. No matter how well insulated your home may be, once heat rises, it tends to get trapped on the second floor of a home. This can make it extremely difficult for a single system to keep a second floor cool. In order to effectively cool your second story, you may need a different option.


Mini-splits are also sometimes referred to as ductless systems or ductless mini-splits. Whatever you call them, they are frequently a good choice for cooling the upstairs of a multi-level home.

Like many other cooling systems, mini-splits feature both an indoor air-handling unit as well as an outdoor condenser. The main difference separating a mini-split from other systems is that there are no ducts with a mini-split. For this reason, mini-splits are commonly used in both commercial buildings as well as residential buildings, particularly in multifamily housing units. Additionally, mini-splits are a favored choice for use in homes featuring an add-on due to the fact that there is no need to install ductwork.

When considering a mini-split, it’s important to recognize that there are two types of mini-splits. They are single-zone and multi-zone. Single-zone systems are designed to provide cooling comfort with the use of one indoor unit and one outdoor unit. This type of setup is frequently used in rooms of a home that do not feature ductwork.

A multi-zone unit works in the same manner as a single-zone system. The difference is that a multi-zone system will cool more rooms. The entire unit connects to the outside units through the use of refrigerant lines rather than ductwork. Outdoor units are comprised of three parts:

  • Compressor
  • Condensing coil
  • Fan

Among the most important elements in a mini-split is the compressor, which works to convert gasses from low pressure to high pressure, making it possible to transfer thermal heat in a more efficient manner.

The condensing coil, also referred to as the condenser, is comprised of multiple aluminum structures. The condenser converts hot refrigerant to a high-pressure liquid.

The purpose of the fan is to transport air, taking it from the condenser and pushing it outside.

The indoor unit of a mini-split, known as the air handling unit, is most often wall-mounted, although it can feature a ceiling suspension mounting. Inside this unit is the fan.

Understanding Zoning

A zoned AC system is often a good option for improving the cooling comfort of a two-story home. Multi-zoned AC systems make it possible to cool more than one room at a time in your home using different cooling rates. With this type of system, you do not have to worry about burning up in one room while being too cool in another room because you are relying on a single thermostat to cool the entire house. Zoned AC systems make it possible to individually control each room’s temperature.

Since many systems, such as mini-splits, do not require new ductwork to be installed, they are ideal for installation in older homes. In fact, each zone in your home can benefit from its own individual unit, reducing the need for renovation. Rather than having the downstairs receive an icy blast of air while the second floor is still uncomfortably warm, a zoned system will ensure that cool air is evenly distributed throughout the home.

Do I Need Two Systems or Zoning?

Still not sure whether you need a single two-zone system or whether your home needs two completely separate HVAC systems? The answer to that may depend on a few factors. For instance, if you are building a new home or you feel that your current system has ample capacity, then zoning may be the best option for your needs. In this situation, there may be no need to add a completely new secondary system. All you might need is zoning equipment.

On the other hand, if you find that your current system just does not have sufficient capacity to keep up with your home’s cooling needs, then a second system might be necessary. You may also find that a second system is a good idea if you are building an addition to your home or if you are converting attic or garage space into livable space. In these situations, your current system may not have enough capacity to efficiently cool the additional space. Should you have problems with installing new ductwork in such situations, a split system might be the best option. Either way, it’s usually a good idea to speak to an air conditioning specialist before you make any final decisions.

A number of factors must be taken into consideration when determining exactly which type of unit is best to cool your multi-level home. If you are interested in learning more about which type of HVAC system is the best choice for your two-story home, contact Summit Heating & Cooling today. Our air conditioning specialists would be happy to answer any questions you may have about cooling your second-story home in Kansas City. We also offer heating services, air duct cleaning, air quality services, commercial HVAC, water heaters, installs and emergency services.

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