Ever notice how the second floor of your house is always stifling, while the first floor is practically like the Arctic all year round? That’s not a coincidence. Homes often have cold and hot spots – places 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 at least two 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 is what makes them so special.
How Do 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 specific parts of your home. They also contain an extra zone control panel–electrical controls that communicate between the thermostat, dampers, and heating and AC unit. A fantastic zoning system should also include a programmable thermostat that can be set to different settings and temperatures throughout the various zones. Most heating and cooling equipment manufacturers sell zoned systems as a bundle that includes all of the pieces you would need: dampers, control panels, thermostats, and sensors that automatically correct 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 want to weigh several factors. An individual needs to be household preferences: does one person prefer the temperature toasty warm, while one’s always sweating? Both of these residents may need different zones to make sure everybody is comfortable. Next, think about how the home design impacts the temperature in different rooms. Are there windowed rooms that stay much warmer or cooler than the other elements of your home? Are certain flooring warmer than others? Do you have a newer addition that’s far more energy-efficient than the initial structure? Is there an office, gym, or other space that may require extra heating and cooling? These differences will have to be factored in also. Then 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 area? Adding a zone control point in these spaces can certainly make life much easier, and it is something to consider when you start 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 due to your home’s duct structure, also.
Do I Want to Hire a Contractor to Zone My Home?
Professionals overwhelmingly recommend that homeowners choose a qualified HVAC contractor to help them set up a zoning system in their houses. That is because it involves electrical work that’s beyond the skill level of your average household DIY repairman. Contractors also understand ducting systems and will know where to set the dampers to get you the results that you desire. When designing the zones, your contractor should also take under-consideration the location of south-facing windows that might add to solar heat gain, as well as the construction of the ducts, a few of which may be more or less efficient, based on the age 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, as it’s a more efficient way to heat and cool your house. But, you can increase the effectiveness by designating the bedrooms as different zones. This 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 poorly designed system might increase the static pressure on your system. That could potentially cause the components to work harder than before, thus driving up your unit’s energy consumption.
What Sort of Homes Make a Good Choice for a Zoned HVAC System?
Almost all homes can benefit from a zoned systems, but some are highly conspicuous candidates. Multi-level houses or people with floor to ceiling windows, solariums, along with 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. Additionally, homes with finished basements and attic spaces may enjoy the ability to separate their heating and cooling needs in these areas from the main house.
Zoned HVAC systems do require an additional upfront cost to install, and they are not right for every home. However, for many homeowners, the energy savings and convenience is well worth the price tag.