Would you like to be able to independently set the temperature of your area of the house?Maybe you have an office space where you just like the summer temps a little cooler because you are using your brain and your brain is heating you up- not a joke…
Or you have a gym space in your house where you like to work out and that space would be really nice a little colder…
Or portions of the house are empty for periods of time- guest bedrooms, or guest wing or kids are in school during the day… and other parts are used all day….
Or maybe, the differences are more personal. Do you have family members that make you uncomfortable around the chosen thermostat temperatures? They like it warmer or colder than you do. Are you in a situation where one party controls the termperature and the other party or parties complain.
What we are looking for here are reasons you might like and benefit from Zoning. The solution to create independent control to temperature in the house is called a Zoned system . You are creating zones in your house that can be regulated temperature wise to make your home better fit the personal tastes of house members, make the home more comfortable on an individual basis and better use energy resources. Zoning does have energy saving benefits.
We will get into some details about zoning in a moment but first a couple of points to clarify…
Make sure any reactions to temp differences are not actually issues with the structure or mechanical system defects.
And issues with a hot upstairs, or a cold downstairs in the heating season are not caused by issues related to stack effect. Hot air floats lightly on colder air and can stratify in a house and create issues… If yo have issues with a an upstairs well that problem can be treated differently.
So now lets talk about Zoned Systems a bit more…
Technology provides the answer to what are called Zoned Systems. Areas of your home defined by you working with your HVAC company can be separated into different temperature by limiting the precise amount of heated air or cooled air delivered to a particular zone.
Zoned systems can save you money… even lots of money. The size of your savings would, of course, depend on the size of your home.
How do you use your home throughout the day? Is a portion of the house used all day and other areas not occupied… kids bedrooms or living room not occupied just someone using a home office and the kitchen and the napping parlor… a little humor there to see if you are paying attention.
And if you have marked differences between human wishes for cool or heat and the person needing more cool vents heated conditioned air to the exterior- that is opens the window for some fresh air- in the heating season or someone needing more heat in the cooling season vents cool conditioned air to the exterior- opens the window to get some fresh air, or uses a heat supplement of some kind- well, your Zoned heating and cooling system helps you save energy and save the planet by catering to human whims.
Do you like your master bedroom cool at night- say maybe 68 degrees? You certainly are paying more to cool the entire house to 68 degrees.
Maybe your parents live with you. As your years of experience increase, so does you need for warmer temperatures. Mom or Dad might be much more comfortable- say at a nice and cozy 75 degrees. And the kids in the house can have their own comfortable temp somewhere in between.
Maybe you have a spare wing for special events or guests- a zoned system can make it easy to keep the humidity down but also the temperatures at a level where you are saving money by not cooling too much or not heating too much…
Zoned Systems can really help bring temperature harmony to the home.
Here is an added bonus…
You might already have a programmable thermostat or maybe even a WIFI enabled way to control the temperature of your home when you are away. The WIFI works well when you or family members have a hectic schedule and you want to reprogram when the house heats while on the road. Zoning adds a critical dimension to this chore- there are great new versions of home automation systems and programmable controllers that can put the zone control at your fingertips from anywhere. LINK Can Home Automation OR an Internet based Thermostat save you Energy?
Zoning systems can be complex. We need to cover a few caveats first and then move onto some technical concerns
There are effective mechanical ways to accomplish a zoned heating and cooling system and poor ways. Lets explore these a bit.
Zoning Systems are tricky and they can be badly screwed up. Let someone zone your home poorly and you have more problems after you are done than you had before.
A Zoned Heating and Cooling system requires mechanical dampers in your supply ducts to the separate zones. They mechanically limit the amount of air supplied to the zone wanting less cool or less heat… remember you can only order up less conditioned air not more… you can only restrict the delivery of air.
So therefore you are building up back pressure in these ducts and the entire system. What do you do to relieve this high pressure? It the past HVAC service people would install a bypass cuct from the supply plenum that would just redirect conditioned air back into the return plenum.
This does not work well. This is still done by some companies but you do not want this done in your home because the bypass duct just makes your system recondition air which you already paid for. it does harm the overall efficiency of your system.
Bottom line- bypass ducts seriously degrade performance. There are other better was to create zones- there are other options that might do what you want to accomplish without zones. There are many possible solutions depending on your situation. There are also many peril points with your home. Some systems- some ducting arrangments just do not lay a great foundation for zoned systems.
Oversized systems which can already create issues with moisture control can only make things worse if you try to throttle such a system down into running restricted which zoning does.
Issues with oversized systems are discussed here. LINK –Is Your HVAC too Big for Texas?
Zoned systems can be tricky. New technologies are coming down to the home market from the commercial market. There a cautions and opportunities with your home and you need a careful appraisal of your situation. You can ask your chosen HVAC company about these issues and the right choice will be eloquent on why you don’t want a bypass duct and eloquent about the solutions available to you.
Zoning also works much better with a multi-speed fan system and even multi-speed condenser units. Variable speed evaporator fans allow the system to match the level of air needed without over pressure. The variable speed condensor allows the deliverance of the amount of refrigerant needed to create as much cool as you need. You have a much better chance for the system to find various levels of efficient operation with the ability to vary the air and cooling required for maximum efficiency at varying loads.
Single speed systems require much more tinkering to achieve a working zoned system. Single or even two speed fans do not have the flexibility but just push at one level of effort and so your HVAC company has to create the mechanical systems to allow over pressure to bleed into other supply ducts… I don’t want to get bogged down in detail here….
Thoughts about zoning are a good time to evaluate the system in place and to do a cost and comfort analysis to evaluate the idea of upgrading the system. LINK That discussion is here. LINK Is It Time to Invest in a New HVAC Components?
This evaluation needs to be done well ahead of when there is a breakdown and you have to make decisions under pressure and during the busy cooling system. You want your service company unstressed and better able to slow down and answer our questions… No service company is going to say this… and they might not even want you to think about it… but there is a season to deal with HVAC issues and it is not during the hotest weather when service peopel are being run ragged. A discussion on when you should do your thinking about future investment in your home is here. LINK[ When is the Right Time to Pay Attention to the Structure of Your Home? draft
s0me existing posts might need to be updated …
muppet – time to have your structural issues looked at ]
Always remember that HVAC systems only work as well as they are installed. In this case, there are a variety of ways to screw up a zoned system that leaves you with a system running a lot less efficiently and not really doing what you wanted it to do. Zoned systems work as well as they are designed and executed. It is just like new windowinstallations or skylight installations- they perform as well as they are installed. The performance of new parts, new equipment is totally subsidiary to the quality of the installation.
There are also ways to possibly serve your comfort issues without cutting into ducting and adding dampers. Your ducting system also has to match up well with a system which can be altered easily. Therefore be ready to listen to options from your chosen HVAC service company and be alert for self serving BS. Make sure you see our section talking about the HVAC field and the professionals that you will deal with … LINK – Role of HVAC and the HVAC Technician and Sales Team
Any questions or concerns or thoughts? Feel free to speak up…
Do you have a thought to contribute here? Feel free to join in the conversation.
Give us a call or email. We would enjoy helping you gather and interpret the data whether a zoned system might make sense for your specific situation.