Heating and Cooling Systems

What is an HVAC Zoning System?

Ever notice how the second story of your home is always stifling, while the first floor is almost Arctic all year round? That is not a coincidence. Homes often have hot and cold spots–areas where the angle of sunlight, the physics of heat, and the house design all sync up to cause temperature fluctuations from room to room.

Inconsistencies such as these are why HVAC zoning systems were created. With zoned heating and air conditioning, instead of one temperature setting for the entire house, the building is split into two or more zones each with its own set of controls and programming. It can help you split the difference in houses with hot and cold spots, multiple floors, or just iron out different temperature preferences among family members. Multi-zone heating and cooling systems have many advantages–energy efficiency among them–but they are slightly different than your average furnace, heat pump, or AC. Here's what makes them so special.

How Can I Turn an Existing HVAC System to a Zoned Unit?

Zoned HVAC systems are not a whole lot different than your usual single-zone heating and cooling equipment. The biggest distinction is that multi-zone systems have dampers within the ducts that direct heating and cooling to certain parts of your home. They also contain an additional zone control panel–electrical controls that communicate between the thermostat, dampers, and heating and AC unit. A good zoning system should also incorporate a programmable thermostat which can be set to different temperatures and settings throughout the various zones. Most heating and cooling equipment manufacturers sell zoned systems as a package that includes all the pieces you would need: dampers, control panels, thermostats, and sensors that automatically adjust for changes in temperature and air pressure through the system and in each zone. With one of those packages, almost any present heating and cooling unit can be turned into a highly sophisticated zoned system.

How Can I Design the Zones?

When deciding how to designate the zones, you will need to weigh many factors. One should be family preferences: does one individual prefer the temperature toasty warm, while one's constantly sweating? Both of these residents may need different zones to make sure everybody is comfortable. Next, consider how the home design impacts the temperature in different rooms. Are there windowed rooms which remain much cooler or hotter than the other parts of your dwelling? Are certain floors warmer than others? Have you got a newer addition that's a lot more energy-efficient than the original structure? Is there an office, gym, or other space that may require additional heating and cooling? These differences will have to be factored in also. Next, think about convenience. Would you love to have the ability to control the temperature from a hallway wall outside your bedroom? From a finished basement space? Adding a zone control point in these spaces can certainly make life a lot easier, and it's something to think about when you begin to design your zones. Always seek the advice of your contractor as you work out these layouts, since he or she may have some additional requirements because of your home's duct structure, also.

Do I Want to Hire a Contractor to Zone My Home?

Professionals overwhelmingly recommend that homeowners select a qualified HVAC contractor to help them install a zoning system in their houses. That's because it entails electrical work that's beyond the skill level of your average household DIY repairman. Contractors also understand ducting systems and will know where to place the dampers to get you the results that you desire. When designing the zones, your contractor must also take into consideration the location of south-facing windows that might add to solar heat gain, as well as the building of the ducts, a few of which may be more or less efficient, get the information on this page depending on the time of the ducting gear.

How Do I Use an HVAC Zoning System to Save Money on My Energy Bills?

The general consensus is that a zoning system can save you about 30 percent on your energy bills, because it's a more efficient way to heat and cool your house. But, you can increase the effectiveness by designating the bedrooms as separate zones. That way, you can stay nice and warm–or cool, depending on the time of year–all night long, while using less energy throughout the remainder of your dwelling. That method could potentially save you even more on your energy bills. Just be sure that your installer has experience with zoning systems, because a badly designed system may increase the static pressure in your system. That could potentially cause the components to work harder than before, thus driving up your unit's energy consumption.

What Kind of Homes Make a Great Option for a Zoned HVAC System?

Just about all homes may benefit from a zoned systems, but some are highly conspicuous candidates. Multi-level houses or those with floor to ceiling windows, solariums, and other large glass areas may find the more precise controls particularly beneficial. The same thing goes for open plan houses or those with especially sprawling single-floor designs. Furthermore, homes with finished basements and attic spaces may enjoy the ability to separate their heating and cooling needs in these areas from the main home.

Zoned HVAC systems do need an additional upfront cost to put in, and they are not right for every home. However, for many homeowners, the energy savings and convenience is well worth the price tag. Talk about next-level energy comfort!