HVAC ZONING SYSTEMS: CUSTOMIZED
Do you have a friend who is always too hot or too cold? Long socks, double blankets, extra sweaters at work and in the car? Hot drinks in summer? Iced drinks in the winter? Sweating in the winter?
Wait, are you that person? Does your HVAC system know?
Air conditioning and heating, though it is an incredibly magical invention, can create a point of contention in many households, especially if your family includes that person who is always too hot or too cold. Some like it a little warmer to function, some need it cooler to sleep, and that’s not just a preference; there’s scientific reasoning behind it. A recent study published in 2019 says that men perform worse on mathematical and verbal tasks when they’re hot—and women perform worse on those same tasks when they’re cold. The battle for temperature control rages on.
But it doesn’t have to be a battle in your home. HVAC zoning can solve your disputes.
An HVAC zoning system can be implemented in your home to redirect air so every room can be exactly the right temperature for its inhabitant. Hate it when it’s cold in the bathroom after a shower? Need it chilly in the bedroom at the start of the night so you can fall asleep? A zoned HVAC can do that for you.
To break it down to its basics, a zoned HVAC uses dampers in the ducts of your system to redirect air to where you want it, to regulate the flow of heat and air and to allow for the creation of customized zones in your home.
Yes, zoning your home brings comfort and personalized AC and heating experiences, but there’s more to it than that: zoning helps with energy efficiency and, as follows, can help you save money as well.
Think about the makeup of your home and the way air mixes and travels. If you have large windows, no matter how they’re covered, they bring in heat. If you have two or more floors, you’ll always have cool, heavy air on the bottom floor and warm light air drifting to the top floor. A zoning system can help you regulate and keep temperatures consistent, working harder in rooms with big windows and on top floors with lots of heat. Conversely, it can hold back on cooling rooms on lower levels that naturally hold more cool air.
There may be rooms in your home that need less cool air to make them comfortable: maybe a home office that isn’t used on the weekends, or a workout space with your trusty treadmill or the basement where your kid’s band practices. Or maybe you have a room that’s just stuffy—where air doesn’t tend to circulate very well—that just needs a blast of AC every once in a while to clear things out and make it more comfortable. Zoning systems make quick work of these of tasks.
How does it work, though? Yes, a system of dampers in your duct work, but how do those dampers know what to do?
Just as you likely have a light switch in every room to adjust and react to the tasks at hand and different times of day, a zoned HVAC system requires a thermostat in every room. That thermostat communicates with a central system and with the damper in that room to call the HVAC system to cool or heat, depending on the need. This may sound like overkill to some—most houses just have one thermostat that regulated the entirety of the house. When you think about it, does that really make sense? Doesn’t your east facing living room get so much warmer than your west facing kitchen? Doesn’t your first floor guest bedroom stay nice and cool when the upstairs kid’s room is an inferno? One thermostat doesn’t have enough information or control to keep all of those rooms regulated or keep their temperature consistent–it just can’t. It’s like having one light switch that controls all of the lights in your home. Though it works in theory, to service the needs of your home, you need more than one switch.
To continue with the light switch comparison, don’t you turn off certain lights at nights before you go to bed? Is your single thermostat still cooling unoccupied rooms?
Installing a zoned system will help with your heating and cooling costs since you can shut off the HVAC system in rooms that don’t need it. Make those thermostats programmable so they adjust to the natural heating and cooling patterns in your home, and you can save up to 35% in energy costs.
Here are the three basic components of the system:
The first is a Zone Control Panel. This panel is mission control for your whole home, the brains of the operation. It would be mounted by your equipment-perhaps in the place where your current single thermostat is located.
Next, a whole team of Thermostats. One for every room or zone you want to control. If the thermostat reads that the temperature in that room is too hot or too cold, it lets the control panel know that it needs to push warm or cool air.
And finally, the hard working Zone Dampers. Dampers open and close to control the airflow to your zones. They’re wired to and controlled by the Zone Control Panel, responding to the temperature information generated by each zone’s thermostat.
If your current HVAC system is single zoned and in good shape, you can add zoning with the help of a professional team of HVAC specialists. What you likely have is a single-speed blower, so for the dampers to work, the extra air needs to be diverted. If you’re about to change your HVAC system, you might want to consider variable speed equipment if you’re working towards the flexibility of a zoning system.
There is a solution to the battle of temperature control in your home—and it’s as easy as setting up your Zones.