When you get past the basic HVAC systems, one of the options commonly explored is the zoned system. Discover what zoned HVAC systems are, the different types available, and the benefits you can enjoy when you implement one in your home.

Understanding Zoned HVAC Systems

To understand a zoned system, let’s first look at how a standard system operates. Most traditional systems have a single thermostat that controls when the system cycles. When it registers the need for heating or cooling, it sends the conditioned air throughout your entire home. Ultimately, this wastes energy while leaving parts of your home too hot or too cold.

Zoned systems split the space into different areas that allow the system to direct conditioned air to those areas that need it. Each zone has its independent control sensor. These control sensors can simply be a thermostat or it may be a full thermostat that allows for independent temperature settings for each zone.

Within standard ducted systems, the zoning is accomplished with dampers installed in the ducts. These open and close to control where the conditioned air goes and, sometimes, how much of it is allowed through.

Different Types of Zoning Technologies

Like everything else in HVAC, there are different technologies available to implement zones in your home. These technologies typically include manual and automatic zoning for central ducted systems and the ductless mini-split option.

Manual Ducted Zones

The most basic zoned system is the manually controlled ducted system that has a mechanical control, usually on the outside of the duct. These are not the kind of dampers that you’ll control in real-time, but will typically change when seasons change. While they are usually fairly simple and inexpensive to install, they do require some experience with and adjusting to keep the right amount of airflow moving through the various parts of your home. Further, it requires that you have access to the ductwork, so it’s a real headache if your home sits on a slab without a basement.

Automatic Ducted Zones

The alternative to manual dampers in a ducted system is automatic dampers. These use electric solenoids that will open and close the dampers. Each zone then has either a thermometer that will open and close dampers as needed or a full thermostat that allows for customized temperature control within each zone. Automatic dampers provide vastly better efficiency compared to manual damper systems.

Ductless Mini-split

The alternative to traditional ducted systems is the ductless mini-split system. These are a special type of heat pump that uses smaller air handlers throughout your home rather than a central air handler and ducts. If you have multiple air handlers installed, these automatically create a zoned system. Some people choose to install a ductless air handler for special areas like a sunroom, addition, or even a garage. Rather than trying to guess what’s best for your home, work with an experienced technician who can evaluate your current system along with your heating and cooling goals to find the best system for your home.

6 Benefits of HVAC Zoning

As you contemplate whether one of these options is right for your home, consider the six benefits that most people enjoy.

1. Better Home Comfort

Most people experience more comfort throughout their home when they have a zoned system. This is of particular focus when you have different temperature needs in different areas of your home. For instance, you may want your bedrooms a little cooler than your main living area. When you have a zoned system that has independent thermostats for each area, you can set the temperature differently in each part of the house or building. It also allows you to independently program each zone.

2. Reduced Energy Bills

Another major benefit of these systems is the improvement in heating and cooling efficiency, which translates into lower energy bills. By directing conditioned air to only those areas that need it, you reduce the cycle length and frequency. Additionally, with the tighter temperature control available with automatic zoned systems, you aren’t left heating or cooling all areas of your home to a set standard when it’s not needed. This further improves the cost-efficiency of running your HVAC system without sacrificing your homme’s comfort.

3. More Even Heating and Cooling

One of the universal truths about homes is that they infrequently heat or cool unevenly. This is in part because of how the sun and wind hit your home. It’s also because of how conditioned air is distributed through a ducted system. A zoned system has more thermostats throughout your home to control smaller areas. This ensures that every area of your home is achieving the temperature needed to make it comfortable.

4. Fewer HVAC Repairs

How to reduce the frequency and cost of repairs is something that’s commonly on property owners minds. How efficiently a system runs affects how much wear it experiences while heating or cooling your home. The increased efficiency that comes with a zoned system reduces the overall wear, so your components will last longer when the rest of the system is properly maintained.

5. Longer System Service Life

The average gas furnace will last 15 to 20 years while air conditioners and heat pumps have a service life of 10 to 15 years. When you combine zoning with proper maintenance, you’re more likely to see the top end of these expectations.

The end of a service life comes when one of two repair thresholds is met. The first is when any one set of repairs is more than 50% of the cost of a new system. The other is when the total repairs over the last two years multiplied by the systems age exceeds the cost of a replacement. It’s easy to see where reducing the wear in any way possible helps tip this equation.

6. More Convenient Temperature Management

If you have an automatic zoned system, you’ll have thermostats that are designed to control the zones. When evaluating your thermostat options, you may want to opt for a remote-access smart thermostat. These allow you to control temperature in the various zones in your home from one of your internet-connected devices. Think about the benefit of being able to change the temperature in your bedrooms while in the living room so that it’s the right temperature when you decide to head to bed.

Property owners around Lancaster have turned to Affordable Air & Heating for more than 25 years to keep their homes comfortable. Our team provides trusted heating and air conditioning installation, maintenance and repair along with indoor air quality solutions, insulation installation and duct cleaning. Call to schedule a consultation with one of our expert technicians to discuss whether zoning is right for you and what will best fit your home.

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