Do you sometimes feel like you have no control over your home’s comfort index, its thermostat settings or energy bills? These are all common symptoms of homes with only one thermostat that’s expected to make everyone comfortable without breaking the energy budget. Zoning systems offer maximum control over temperatures and comfort from one room or area (zone) to the next, with the nice bonus of delivering lower cooling and heating bills.
One Thermostat vs. Heat Gain/Loss vs. Comfort Conflicts
The thermostat’s job is a simple one – monitor the temperature and activate or adjust cooling, heating and ventilation according to the nearby room temperature reading and the real-time temperature setting.
Comfort problems arise in many homes due to varying heat gain/loss issues from room to room, level to level, area to area. A sun-facing room may feel cheery and comfortable while a room that receives little sunlight may feel too cool, damp and musty. There are countless variations to this example throughout the day and night, plus changing weather patterns, dozens of other heat gain/loss variables, and seasonal changes to sun orientation and outside temperatures.
Moreover, when you take into consideration the different comfort preferences and schedules of members of your household, a single thermostat’s limitations become crystal clear, and reveal specifically the nature of the comfort problem for your home. The single thermostat basically has an impossible job when it comes to providing comfort throughout a home.
Maximum Temperature Control
The solutions to the single thermostat problem are zoning systems. Zoning systems address the very nature of the comfort preferences, heat gain/loss and energy budget conflict in any home, offering maximum temperature control in every zone at any time of day or night.
Zoning systems are an add-on system to the ductwork, consisting of motorized modulating duct dampers installed near the trunk in each of the duct branches to each zone, which are controlled by a series of temperature sensors or separate thermostats (one sensor per zone). The modulating duct dampers open and close to precisely adjust airflow as needed to maintain the temperature setting for the respective zone.
Benefits Zone: Comfort, Savings, Convenience
Zoning systems, also called zoned temperature control, may be incorporated in existing ductwork and HVAC systems, or you may choose to install a zoning system in conjunction with an A/C and furnace system upgrade or new home construction.
Whether you have a split-level, multi-level or single-floor home, you may install a zoning system that can handle up to eight zones, or as few as two. The zoning system is monitored and controlled by either a networked WiFi thermostat system or with a single programmable control unit that monitors remote temperature sensors.
A WiFi comfort control linked to your home’s Internet network offers ultimate control of zoned temperatures from anywhere you have a cell signal using a smartphone app, or with an online tablet or computer. A WiFi system is ideal when you are upgrading to compatible heating and cooling equipment, and correlating home comfort systems for maximum indoor climate control of temperature, ventilation, humidity management and air purification.
No matter how straightforward or sophisticated the multi-linked systems you choose to install, you will enjoy these benefits:
- Control temperature in each zone based on your lifestyle and that of other household members. For instance, if you work from a home office, keep your space comfortable without paying to heat or cool the entire home.
- Zoned temperature programming allows you to make substantial cuts in your energy bill with no loss of comfort – greater comfort, lower bills.
- WiFi zoning systems offer additional control of compatible comfort systems, such as a heat recovery ventilator or whole-house humidifier.
- When you have maximum control over indoor temperature zone by zone and indoor air quality, you effectively lower the heating and cooling load of the HVAC system, resulting in less wear and repairs.
- Target specific trouble zones in the home (e.g. damp basements or hot upstairs rooms) with controlled heating and cooling.
- Lock out unauthorized users from the control device to prevent program and temperature tampering.
- With WiFi systems, receive system alerts via email or text, such as heating/cooling malfunction or significant temperature variance.
If You Answer “Yes” to Any of These Questions…
Odds are, your home is a good candidate for a zoning system. That’s simply because most homes only use one thermostat to control household comfort. With seemingly countless heat gain/loss issues in play specific to each home, there are too many factors affecting occupant comfort and energy bills for a single-thermostat HVAC system to handle. See how many times you answer “Yes” to the following questions and indoor environment situations:
- Does your home often have uneven temperatures from room to room?
- Do you have a multi-level home, or a single-level home with a sprawling layout?
- Do you have any retrofitted areas, such as a remodeled attic or basement space?
- Do household members have different preferences for comfortable temperatures during waking hours and sleeping hours?
- Are there rooms in your home that are not used frequently, such as spare bedrooms?
- Is someone home during the day (e.g. work from home, retiree, or stay-at-home mom or dad) while other household members are away?
- Does your home have high ceilings?
- Does your home have expansive glass?
- Do some rooms receive considerably more sunlight than others?
- Do you ever adjust temperature to save energy, even though it means you or others will be uncomfortable?
- No matter what you do to save energy, are energy bills always high?
- Would you like maximum temperature control in every zone of your home?
Zoning Systems: How to Design Yours
The design of the zoning system you install in your home depends upon a large number of variables, in addition to the type of system (WiFi or wired), number of zones and connected home comfort systems. Work closely with a reputable HVAC contractor who knows zoning systems and knows these steps.
A home energy audit is a valuable service to perform any time, and is important for a whole-home systems approach to energy efficiency. Your HVAC contractor assesses the efficiency of your home regarding airtightness and insulation. Specialized equipment is used to determine just how energy efficient is your home, and where it’s wasting energy.
- A blower door test depressurizes the home to locate air leaks. Common places for leaks are around windows, doors, wall switch plates, utility penetrations and the attic access door.
- A thermographic scan reveals areas with heat loss, which may be through inefficient windows and a lack of insulation in key areas (attic, floor and walls).
If any air leaks and insulation deficiencies are found, make the appropriate repairs to boost comfort and save energy. A little caulk, weatherstripping and insulation goes a long way toward achieving comfort and efficiency goals, and these upgrades are generally good for decades.
Your HVAC contractor should perform heating and cooling load calculations, which are a heat gain/loss measurement, using the industry-standard Manual J from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. The load calculation should be room by room and not just a single block load of the home.
HVAC System Selection (When Applicable)
If you are undertaking new home construction or an A/C or furnace system upgrade, it’s important to size the system correctly using Manual S, taking into consideration the zoning system you are installing and any other compatible home comfort systems that affect airflow (e.g. heat recovery ventilator or air-purification system).
If you are installing a zoning system in your existing air ducts, it’s important that your HVAC pro perform a duct evaluation to determine its integrity and design. Sealing ductwork air leaks is imperative to comfort, energy efficiency and system wear. Any damaged ducts or airflow restrictions need to be addressed. All of these issues, and perhaps others, need to be remedied before installing the modulating motorized dampers.
Finally, you are ready to design the actual zones of your home.
- If you have a multi-level home, all rooms and areas of any particular zone should be located on the same floor.
- Sun-facing rooms and shaded rooms should not be in the same zone.
- Consider the temperature preferences of occupants when zoning. For instance, if a single household member likes or needs specific temperatures different from others, make those rooms a separate zone if at all possible.
- New additions should be zoned separately.
- The thermostats or temperature sensors for each zone should be centrally located on inner walls, away from direct sunlight and ventilation.
For more information about the benefits of zoning systems and enjoying maximum temperature control in your Mid-Atlantic area home, please contact the experts at Griffith Energy Services, Inc. today.
Written by Kevin Spain