In many homes, a temperature war takes place on a daily basis because we all have different needs when it comes to home comfort. Most of the time, people can find some kind of compromise, but when a person is alone in a bedroom or other room, they should have a temperature they prefer. If this scenario sounds familiar, you may find that a zoned HVAC system is the answer to your problems.

How Does HVAC Zoning Work?

The home is divided up into a series of zones which are typically individual rooms and communal areas. Each zone has a thermostat to control the temperature there and these in turn are all connected to a central control panel. A series of HVAC zoning dampers are installed to regulate the airflow in the duct system.

If you install a multi-zone ductless cooling system, the dampers are in the air outlet on each unit instead. The dampers are valves which open and close to control the flow of cooler or warmer air into each zone. The dampers can be programmed to work together if they are delivering treated air to the same zone.

When the thermostat is adjusted in a single zone, the temperature is changed in that zone. The central control panel receives that temperature change information and a call for more heat or cold will prompt it to make the changes. The dampers that are associated with that zone are partially or fully opened or closed to increase or decrease the airflow. But, the dampers that supply treated air to other zones in the home will remain closed unless the thermostat is adjusted in those zones too. So, a temperature change can take place in every zone without affecting other zones in the home.

What is the Optimal Number of Zones?

A local HVAC professional can help you to find the optimal number of zones and where the systems should be installed. This is important because poor planning and installation can affect the performance and energy efficiency. If you live in a multi-level home and the temperatures are very different upstairs and downstairs that is at least two zones right there.

There may be an underlying issue that’s causing this temperature differential, such as a lack of adequate insulation or other unknown factor. In some cases, it may be a good idea to schedule a home energy assessment to identify the cause of these problems. Another approach is to set up a zone for different sections of the home and you may even make every room in the home a separate zone. There really is no upper limit and every home is a little different.

How is the Temperature Monitored and Controlled?

The thermostat is the brain of the system and with a zoned HVAC system, there are thermostats in every zone. The zoned HVAC system will respond to the thermostat changes in each zone separately, based on the preferences of the person or people using that space. So, if a person prefers a cooler temperature at night and a warm kitchen in the morning, they can have it. That said, if you have more than one person sharing a zone, there will still be a need to find a happy temperature compromise.

Do I Need HVAC Zoning?

There are four common scenarios where HVAC zoning makes a lot of sense. They are:

  • Multi-Level Homes: Heat naturally rises and this can make upper floors feel warmer than lower floors. Most people enjoy sleeping in cooler rooms, but it’s hard to get out of bed if it’s too cold in the mornings. Setting different temperatures on the lower and upper floors can fix these problems.
  • High Ceilings: A high ceiling can trap heat at the top of the room and people lower down may feel colder than the temperature set on the thermostat. To circulate the heat more efficiently and improve the comfort levels a separate zone can help.
  • Big Windows: If you have large glass, bay, or picture windows more sunlight can enter the room and this will make the space hotter. If AC zoning is used the rooms with these types of windows can have lowered temperatures to compensate.
  • Hot and Cold Spots: If you have rooms that always seem to be at a different temperature to the rest of the home it can be frustrating. Making these spaces into a zone can resolve these issues, but there may be an underlying problem to investigate.

What are the Benefits of HVAC Zoning?

Aside from the home comfort advantages that we’ve covered up to this point, there are three clear benefits when you choose an HVAC zoning system for your home. These include:

  • Improved Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): If the air that’s traveling through the HVAC system multiple times each day is filtered, a lot of airborne contaminants are removed. Some examples of the contaminants floating in our air include dust, dirt, pollen, lint, dust mites, and more. A zoned HVAC system has dampers that will ensure that treated air is only directed toward the zone where it’s required. This limits the spread of airborne contaminants that may have escaped from a more traditional HVAC filtration system.
  • Energy Efficiency Improvements: A single thermostat that controls the temperature throughout the home can be wasteful if an adjustment is only needed in a single room or zone. When we heat or cool an entire home, more energy is consumed and this is true even if you’ve installed high-efficiency equipment. This will drive up the energy bill for no real improvement in home comfort which is a waste of money.
  • Precise Comfort Control: Adding multiple thermostats for each zone places more control in the hands of the person using that space. So an ideal temperature can be precisely set to meet the needs of an individual. Sure, there will still need to be compromises when more than one person is together, but the overall satisfaction levels will be much higher.

If you’re considering a zoned HVAC system installation for your home, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.