Below are several examples of how zoning systems can be used, but the most simple is in a two story home. Instead of the extra expense of installing separate HVAC systems, one system is used along with a zoning system to help equalize the temperatures on the upper and lower floors. Two thermostats are installed along with a zone control board and (typically) 3 dampers located inside your ductwork. In conjunction with the zone control and thermostats, the zone dampers (motors that open and close to restrict airflow) help balance the temperatures in the home.
What is Zoning Anyway?
You might first be wondering what zoning even is. Zoning systems help control the delivery of temperature to specific “zones” in your home by electronically controlling the airflow from a single HVAC system.
If you have a functioning HVAC system in your home and are having trouble keeping certain areas of your home comfortable, there is a good chance that a zoning system would help.
How can a zoning system help?
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Would a zoning system help me?
There are some things a zoning system can do and some it can’t. A zoning system is not a completely separate HVAC system, and temperatures will tend to equalize across each floor (especially with doors open), so a zoning system won’t provide full control– but it will provide better control. Below are a couple scenarios we see frequently:
My second floor is too hot in summer
A zoning system is good for solving this kind of problem. By placing a thermostat on each floor and controlling the delivery of air independently to each floor, we can get the temperature of each floor to be much more even. Don’t expect it to be 68 upstairs and 75 downstairs in summer, but a balanced temperature of 72 upstairs and 70 downstairs is quite possible.
My bonus room (or other room) is fine in the morning but gets way too hot in the afternoon
A zoning system is also good for solving this kind of problem. We can add a new thermostat to the room that is heating up with the afternoon sun and a control damper to the ducts feeding that room (and other necessary dampers like a bypass and primary zone damper) which together can dynamically increase the flow of conditioned air in summer and reduce the flow of heated air in winter.
My kids like their rooms to be different temperatures, and they are always fighting over the thermostat
This problem also can be improved, but your expectations need to be realistic. A zoning system is not a private HVAC system for each room like in a hotel. There is some level of temperature differential control, but the setup needs to be done correctly.
I have rooms that I don’t use very often and I’d like to close them off to save energy
If your goal is to save money, then a zoning system is probably not the right answer. Zoning systems require an upfront investment, so if saving money is your goal, this might not be the right approach.
You might be better off just shutting some dampers on the registers – But you should get professional advice before doing so for long periods of time, because this will restrict the airflow in your home, and you could find yourself limiting the lifespan of your equipment to the tune of thousands of dollars in replacement costs in order to save a few bucks.
Zoning System Q&A
Where did zoning systems come from?
In the 80’s and 90’s, multi-story homes were often built with only one HVAC system. The basic laws of thermodynamics (which seemingly were a complete surprise to homebuilders) can make this setup quite uncomfortable for the residents.
Here’s why: In the summer when your upper story is the hottest from the incredible heat load delivered from the roof and attic, any cool air that is delivered tends to sink to your 1st floor. Maintaining a comfortable temperature on the 2nd floor often meant the first floor was too cold. This is not only uncomfortable but also wastes a lot of energy. The reverse was often true in the winter with warm air rising to the second story. The best way to solve this was manually adjusting the dampers to modify the airflow to the season. There are drawbacks to this approach as well.
Of course there’s a better way. Modern building code requires multi-story homes to either have two complete HVAC systems (the best way) or a zoning system to help balance the air delivery. If you’re looking to update the comfort of an older home, which route you take might depend on your budget.
What sorts of problems does zoning solve?
Well, they won’t solve world hunger if that’s what you’re thinking, but they are pretty good for keeping temperatures more balanced in your home or even providing a little temperature control for personal preference. Uneven temperatures on different floors, or rooms that get hot or cold at certain times of the day also lend themselves to zoning solutions.
What are the biggest drawbacks of a zoning system?
Zoning systems are electro-mechanical devices, which means they can break or fail. The more stuff you have in your house that can break, means ultimately the more stuff you have in your house that will break over time. That being said, zoning systems are overall quite reliable if they set up and used properly.
If you have a zone system was never configured correctly, you might find yourself dealing with burned up zone motors and other recurring issues. Find professionals you can trust to get it right, and you’ll enjoy the comfort and control of your zone system for a long time.
How do I know if I have a zoning system?
Easiest way? Walk around the outside of your home and count the number of HVAC units. Walk around the inside of your home and count your thermostats. If you have more thermostats than HVAC systems, there is a good probability you have a zoning system. You can also look in your attic or crawl space for a control board mounted near your HVAC system that will typically be labeled as a zone board. Honeywell zone boards are quite popular in our area for homes built new in the 2000’s.
How do I know if my zoning system is working properly?
Are you comfortable in your home? If not, you probably have an issue. No, not you personally (although that could be true too, who doesn’t have issues?), but your HVAC system in general. Whether it’s the HVAC system or the zone system specifically, we can fix it. Call or contact us and we’ll let you know what’s happening. If it’s just you that has the issue, our Monster’s lips are sealed.. we’ll just keep that between us.
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