Modern homes have multiple living areas where people can relax, cook, eat, and sleep. The development of multi-zone HVAC systems has given us the opportunity to precisely set the temperature in each location or zone. This improves the overall home comfort levels for everyone and it brings other benefits too, such as improved indoor air quality (IAQ) and lower energy bills. But, to get the most out of this technology it’s a good idea to invest in a smart thermostat. This step is not strictly necessary, but it does further enhance an already impressive way to heat or cool the home.

2 Types of Traditional Thermostats

To put things into perspective let’s start with a breakdown of the two most common traditional thermostats. They are:

1.   The Non-Programmable Thermostat

This is a basic type of thermostat that’s usually a dial or LED display mounted on a centrally located wall. This system has a basic fan control that can be set to cooling, heating, or off and these thermostats tend to have poor energy efficiency. They also have limited functionality because you can’t even set a time for the HVAC system to turn on or off.

2.   The Programmable Thermostat

These units can be basically programmed to turn on and off at a preset time. This does improve the functionality and energy efficiency because you don’t need to treat the air in a home that’s empty. A programmable thermostat costs more than a non-programmable model but it’s worth the extra investment. When you only run an HVAC system when you need to there is less strain on the equipment and it tends to last longer.

What is a Smart Thermostat?

We have seen a number of smart devices enter our lives and they can make a real difference if they are used correctly. As the name implies, a smart thermostat can learn your preferences and habits and react to a changing environment. So, these units can make automatic adjustments to maintain your indoor comfort levels and monitor the energy efficiency to lower your utility bills. These systems are equipped with Wifi which means that you can monitor and control them remotely via a dedicated app on your smartphone. This is certainly a significant step up from a programmable thermostat.

Imagine a scenario where you are delayed at work and you want to return to a comfortable home. With a non-programmable thermostat, you’re out of luck unless you have the heating or cooling system running for the entire time you were at work. Even with a programmable thermostat, there is a problem because it will come on at the time you set it for your return, and with the delay it will be running and wasting energy. With a smart thermostat, you can make remote changes in real time and simply set the thermostat to turn the heating or cooling on later for your return home.

With a smart thermostat, you can closely monitor the HVAC system to optimize the energy efficiency. This can lower the utility bills with no noticeable loss in performance which is an impressive feature. Another great feature is that the smart thermostat can send you an alert if there is a problem with the HVAC system. When smaller issues are identified and fixed at an early stage, they don’t develop into larger problems that are more expensive to fix.

How Does a Smart Thermostat Work with a Multi-Zone HVAC System?

The smart thermostat will be linked to sensors in the various designated zones throughout the home. They in turn are linked to a centralized system that manages the various wireless technologies that can react to the gathered data. This will be used to create and maintain the indoor temperatures at a comfortable level for each zone. When the thermostat has sufficient data it can create an AI based schedule to handle fine tune temperature adjustments. This will be influenced by the amount of time that people spend in certain rooms and when they tend to be used. For example, the system would know that the guest room needs cooling on the weekend when you have a regular visitor at the weekend.

Smart (Sensor) vs System-Based Zoning Systems

A zoned HVAC system can be broadly categorized as smart or system-based. Let’s take a closer look at how they differ:

System-Based Zoning

In a non-smart multi-zone HVAC system, there is a separate thermostat for each zone that oversees the heating and cooling desires of the person using that space. This is easy to understand, but there are additional costs when you install more than one thermostat in your home. The energy savings may also be limited because you don’t have the capability to make precise micro adjustments.

Smart-Based Zoning

A smart-based HVAC system will use sensors in each zone with a single thermostat to control every zone separately based on the date received. When the system has enough data, it can make the usual changes automatically and you won’t forget to make seasonal temperature adjustments. This will deliver more even heating and cooling without breaking the bank. The overall investment may be higher, but these costs can be quickly recouped with the energy savings.

Smart Thermostats Controlling Radiant Floor Heating

A radiant floor heating system uses ambient heat under the flooring to warm the home instead of forced air. The heat can rise to a height of six feet which is sufficient to make a person feel warm and comfortable. This heating system can also be controlled via a smart thermostat using a dedicated heating app on a smartphone. Radiant flooring tends to keep a room warmer for longer and there is no need to pool treated air on the ceiling. This makes these energy efficient heating systems even more efficient which will lower the utility bills further.

If you want to install a smart thermostat and/or zoned HVAC system in your home, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.