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Zoning Systems Maximize Temperature Control and Reduce Energy Consumption

Zoning systems are designed to maximize temperature control in different rooms and sections (zones) of the home and save energy in the process. If you are plagued by high energy bills and one thermostat can't keep everyone comfortable throughout your home, read on to see how a zoning system might be the ideal solution.

Thermostat Woes: Single and Looking

The typical thermostat takes room temperature readings, then activates the heating and cooling systems when the temperature reading varies from the temperature setting.That’s simple enough. Yet, thermostats in homes with uneven temperatures from room to room, or from floor to floor, cannot meet this expectations because it is beyond their design and capabilities.

The thermostat is turned up, turned down and turned off, depending on which household member is uncomfortable and how high the energy bill was the previous month. The thermostat is questioned, “Is the temperature right?” It’s accused, “That can’t be right,” and, finally, it’s dismissed, “I guess it’s broken.”

Woe is the life of a lone thermostat. But how can a single thermostat be expected to take temperature readings of zones in entirely different rooms or floors of the home? How can a single thermostat be expected to control airflow to the liking of occupants in different zones?

It shouldn’t be, and it simply can’t. It would take a network of thermostats controlling temperature in each zone to accomplish this feat. That’s a zoning system.

Zoned Temperature Control

Zoning systems allow you to enjoy superior comfort, energy savings and perhaps better household harmony (with no thermostat fussing) by dividing the home into temperature-controlled zones. Following are the basics of zoning systems:

  • Each zone has its own thermostat, or temperature sensor, that controls temperatures independently from another zone based on the manual or programmed temperature settings.
  • Automatic duct dampers are strategically installed in the air ducts near the trunk, and control airflow to each zone based on thermostat settings.
  • Each zoning system is custom designed to meet the particular heat gain/loss issues and occupant temperature preferences for the home in which it's installed. 
  • Zoning systems may be installed as a retrofit to existing ductwork, as an add-on feature of a heating/cooling systems upgrade, or as an integral component of an energy-efficient new home. 

WiFi and Wired Zoning Systems

More sophisticated zoning systems offer up to eight zones in larger homes. WiFi thermostats or temperature sensors are linked and controlled at a central control panel via the home’s wireless network. Simply use your smartphone, online computer or tablet to control, change or monitor heating and cooling settings.

Perhaps your comfort and energy-efficiency needs could be satisfied with two or three zones, and controlled by standard programmable thermostats. Upstairs and downstairs rooms could be separate zones, for instance, with a third zone being a commonly occupied space, such as a living room or home office. 

Regardless of the size and type of zoning system that serves your needs, you may enjoy these benefits:

  • Zoning systems put control of comfort room by room to each occupant’s preference 24/7/365.
  • Heating and cooling accounts for about half of the typical home’s energy bill. Make substantial cuts into your bill by heating and cooling zones as needed, rather than the entire home.
  • Utilize programmable thermostats, or smart WiFi thermostats, for convenience, comfort and savings suited to your daily and weekly schedules.
  • When you reduce your energy bill, you effectively lighten the load of the heating and cooling systems, which reduces wear and tear and saves on repair bills.
  • You may control, monitor and program compatible comfort systems, such as an air-purification system, energy recovery ventilator and/or a whole-house humidifier, for complete indoor environment comfort, control and savings.
  • Increase or decrease ventilation as needed to target specific zones for better air quality and moisture management. (For example, are there rooms in your home with excessive dust, mold or window condensation issues?)

Zoning Systems: Is Your Home a Candidate?

The factors affecting uneven temperatures, discomforts and high energy bills in a home are quite numerous and diverse, and may be attributed to the following characteristics:

  • Heat gain/loss through the home shell (i.e. inadequate air sealing and insulation) disrupts comfort, air pressure and energy bills.
  • A home’s orientation to the sun (sunlit and shaded rooms) can cause uneven temperatures, which may change through the day.
  • Balanced air pressure and unrestricted airflow help evenly distribute heated and cooled air; however, achieving this balance is typically beyond the construction and capability of a single thermostat HVAC system.
  • The number, schedule and energy usage habits of occupants affect heat gain/loss. Even in a home with balanced airflow and temperatures, occupant comfort preferences may vary from one to the other, which good zoning systems are designed to accommodate.
  • Window size, number and R-value (heat resistance) from room to room contribute tremendously to hot and cold spots.

Heat gain/loss issues are varied and substantial enough to affect the comfort and budget of a great number of homes of all shapes, sizes, floor plans, levels and household size. See if any of the following attributes ring a bell with your Chicago area home:

  • There are noticeable temperature differences – hot and cold spots – through the home, whether a single- or multi-level home. New zoning systems regulate airflow to each zone so that airflow restrictions are no longer an issue. However, it's still wise to properly seal air leaks and boost insulation in preparation for your new or add-on zoning system.
  • You live in a multi-level home and/or your home has high ceilings. The natural tendency for warmer air to rise can play havoc with finding comfort and energy-efficient temperature settings. Let your new zoning system take care of this natural occurrence for you.
  • You are planning a new addition to the home, or have previously constructed a new room. New additions are often constructed of different building materials, and may even have a different foundation. Zoned temperature control helps you enjoy your new space to the fullest.
  • Your are converting or have already converted attic and/or basement space to living space. The temperature variance from the basement to converted attic space can be 20 degrees and more. When you add airflow and moisture problems to this design, it's a recipe for high energy bills, discomfort and temperature disagreements.
  • There are rooms in your home that are not frequently used, such as extra bedrooms. Stop spending your energy dollars to heat and cool these rooms. Place all infrequently used rooms in the same zone per floor.
  • Someone in your household is home during most of the day. Many folks are home during the daytime hours for a number of reasons, such as people who work from a home office, retirees and stay-at-home parents. Program your favorite comfort temperatures for the daytime occupied zones, reduce heating and cooling in other zones, and keep the energy bill to a minimum.
  • You sacrifice comfort to save energy by turning up or turning down the temperature setting to reduce energy consumption – basically, the thermostat warden. When you install programmable thermostats or a networked WiFi control panel, you will enjoy greater comfort and savings, and greater control over who has access to adjusting temperature controls.
  • Energy bills are too high no matter what you try. Ultimately, the greater discomfort you endure to save energy, the smaller the energy savings seem to be. Live life comfortably in your own home with a custom zoning system.

Comfort, Savings by Design

The process of designing a zoning system is always the same, but the results are different. There are too many variables required of an accurate energy audit, heat gain/loss measurement and zoning system design to expect cookie-cutter results.

That is the beauty of your zoning system. It's designed to maximize your comfort and energy savings. Here are some tips to help you get started on the right track:

  • Ask your HVAC professional to perform an energy audit. This is the best way to locate air leaks and insulation deficiencies. Your HVAC systems are only as efficient as the home in which they are installed. And you will gain a wealth of energy efficiency and energy conservation tips. So, fixing home efficiency issues is the first step.
  • Once your home is buttoned up and sealed, your HVAC pro can perform an accurate heat gain/loss calculation.
  • Next, a series of measurements, observations, calculations and questions regarding occupant energy usage habits and schedules will help design the best system to serve your needs.
  • If the zoning system is part of a heating and/or cooling system upgrade or new home construction, the new heating, cooling, ventilation and air duct systems are sized and assessed for airflow through the home.
  • Finally, the living spaces are sectioned off into zones, and the network of thermostats and automatic duct doors are installed.

For more information about zoning systems for your home in the Chicago area, southwest Michigan or northwest Indiana, please contact us at 

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