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HVAC Zoning for Personalized Comfort

Woman walking into temperature controlled room smiling.


Consistent, comfortable indoor temperatures can be hard to manage in a household. 


Arguments over the thermostat control can be more vicious than the remote control. One family member can be hot upstairs and want the thermostat turned down while another is in the cold basement, and they’re cranking up the heat.  


If the Daddy's Home 2 thermostat scene hasn’t played out in your house yet, count yourself lucky.  


In today’s blog post, we’re sharing more information about HVAC zoning, some of its advantages and disadvantages, and most importantly, how to make the most of it to ensure that everyone in your household is comfortable. 


What Is HVAC Zoning? 

HVAC zoning is like a zone defence. You establish areas and control the temperature and airflow by zones. It can work by adding dampers into your ductwork to control and redirect the air into the targeted space of your home, essentially helping to create custom temperatures for each zone.  

Most homes have two options to try. 


If it’s a larger home, two separate HVAC systems can divide the house with a thermostat to control each one. This is an expensive route and is best done when a new home is under construction. 


What’s a mini-split system?

A mini-split or ductless mini-split is a heating and cooling system. It’s called a split because it has 2 major components, a compressor outside and an air handler inside. It can also enable control of temperatures and climates in multiple rooms or zones.


For most individuals with a single HVAC system, zones need to be created using the existing multiple duct runs off the plenum, or the box where the heated or cooled air is distributed. Then, you add dampers to open and shut to control the airflow.  


A normal HVAC system can have as many as four zones, whereas mini-split systems can have up to eight zones. Although with more than two zones, you’ll need a newer furnace, one that has a variable speed (ECM) motor on the fan.  


An affordable alternative is to install manual dampers. These can be placed on the trunk duct and require you to adjust with the change of seasons. Manual dampers work just like registers but at the source. In the summer you would use the dampers to push the cold air upstairs while in the winter you would adjust the dampers to push warm air downstairs. This option may still require a professional technician and a lot of experimentation on your part to get the airflow right.  


If you’re not comfortable manually adjusting the dampers, you could sign up for automatic dampers that are controlled by a zoning board. This would regulate air temperature sensors that will automatically open and close the dampers set up for each zone. A zone board can manage up to four zones. Accompanying thermostats come in several options. Some operate as just room sensors to report back to your zone board – these can be wired or wireless. You can also install full manual or programmable thermostats in each room to offer even more control in your settings.  


How Do I Know If I Need to Get into The Zone?

Your HVAC system controls the temperature of your home, whether it’s a furnace and AC or a heat pump. If it’s a standard household system, there will be one thermostat and that temperature will represent the ideal for the entire home. But how often do we get to live in the ideal?


Woman adjusting hvac smart thermostat in a bright room.


Many factors influence the temperature of a room. For instance, the time of day, where the sun is on the house most, the trees that provide shade to one side more than the other, or your house’s insulation. Maybe you have several rooms with air leaks due to old windows, or your house is multi-level. Sometimes it depends on where your thermostat is located. The sensor ensures that the temperature is met for that space, but it doesn’t necessarily work for all spaces.


If you haven’t already, try opening and closing the registers in different rooms to address hot and cold zones. This can help partially, but it won’t completely solve the problem. Other things you can try are:

  • Stay on top of regular maintenance. Make sure your filters are changed regularly to help your HVAC circulate better and improve your indoor air quality.
  • Regularly service your HVAC system to ensure it is clean. A dirty furnace or dirty AC/heat pump coils will prevent your system from heating and cooling efficiently.
  • Inspect your ductwork to remove blockages and seal leaks. If your ductwork isn’t working well, you are not getting air to all the spaces in your home.


Advantages Of HVAC Zoning

There are many advantages to being able to control the temperature inside your home. Here are a few:

  • Personalized Comfort: Without a doubt, the first big win is personalized comfort. No more fighting. Everybody gets to set the temperature to their preferred settings to maximize comfort levels.
  • Reduced Energy Use: Did you know that an HVAC zoning system uses less energy? It does this by eliminating heating and cooling spaces that aren’t in use. According to the Department of Energy in the US, 42% of your utility bill is from heating your home. If you invest in an HVAC zoning system and programmable thermostats, you could reduce your energy bill by up to 30%.
  • Benefits Multi-Level Homes: It’s just simple science that heat rises and cold air falls. Main floors will always be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Depending on where your thermostat is located, the temperature will always get to its setting on that floor first.
  • Improved Air quality: HVAC zoning systems allow you to control the temperature and the airflow in each space. This will help improve your air quality. When one space in your house never gets fresh air intake it can become stale. In equal measure, basements need good air ventilation for better moisture control. Setting up separate zones provides better air service for unique spatial needs.


Disadvantages Of HVAC Zoning

Although the advantages of HVAC zoning are plentiful, it is worth mentioning that for all of its positive attributes, there are some downsides as well. The main one being:

  • Higher Installation Costs: Ductwork can be tricky and not always easily accessible. HVAC installers will need to add dampers to each duct in every zone, add more thermostats and adjust the control panel. There is also additional electrical work that needs to be installed. HVAC zoning systems are more sophisticated than simply running your furnace and AC, so if problems arise so will potential costs.


Decisions, Decisions. What Is the Right One for You?

Like so many things in life, an HVAC zoning system will depend a great deal on your budget. Can you invest now to save on energy bills year after year? Is your family constantly in the war zone over the thermostat? Do you plan to live in this house for a long time? Do you have the right house to make it worth it? Let’s look at a few considerations.


Family embracing with dog in their home.


Home Features

  • If you live in a multi-level home, having HVAC zoning might make sense for you. As soon as you have floors with competing needs and temperatures, the greater the disparity between spaces makes HVAC zoning a sound investment.
  • Heating rooms with tall ceilings is tricky. Heat always rises, leaving the ground level cold. Programming a specific zone for this space will help. Adding a ceiling fan will also help you control the airflow better.
  • Big windows and lots of glass? Sunlight can impact the temperature of a room, so if you have large bay windows, it will be much warmer.
  • Single pane windows will push heat out instead of retaining it and you will lose your conditioned air to leaks. A zoning system assists in regulating the temperature of your brighter rooms.


The Costs

  • This will depend on several factors. If you are looking to install a separate and additional HVAC system for an exceptionally large multi-level or ranch-style home, you are doubling your spending. The most economical time to make this decision is during the initial build.
  • If you are applying an HVAC zoning system to an existing house, the equipment and installation will cost $2000-$3500, depending on your house size and the number of zones desired. This estimate assumes your ductwork is viable and you have a modern furnace. Installing a new gas furnace will cost you in the vicinity of $3000-$6000. Send us an email for a specific estimate for your home.


Final Thoughts

Each individual household has its unique needs when it comes to heating and cooling.


It’s a universally known truth that investing in HVAC zoning systems will improve the comfort of your household and save on energy. If investing in environmentally focused equipment to make your home more efficient is on your to-do list, this is a great call (along with an energy audit, better insulation, installing a heat pump and replacing your windows).


By signing up for separate zoning, you can ensure the temperature and airflow are customized to the space and its occupants.


That old office that never gets used, or the guest bedroom in the basement that only sees visitors a couple of times a year can have their own controls that reduce airflow and energy, and you can focus the heating and cooling where you need it the most.




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Vincent Afrouzi
Name: Vincent Afrouzi
Posts: 57
Last Post: July 10, 2024