In a perfect world, buildings and homes would cool down evenly during the summer and heat up evenly during the winter. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Many things can impact the temperature in a certain area, such as the directions the windows in a roof face, the amount of insulation present, the number of appliances that produce heat, and the amount of shade the home or building gets.
By installing an HVAC zoning system, it is possible to eliminate or at least reduce the presence of temperature variations. Learn how below.
What is Zone HVAC?
A standard home heating and cooling system push the same amount of cooled or heated air through each vent in the structure. With zone heating, it is possible to control the amount of heated or cooled air entering a particular home or building, which provides you with more control over the actual temperature in a certain room or area.
How Zoned Heating and Cooling Works
Modern zoned heating and cooling systems use motorized dampers in valves or ductwork inside of an A/C or heating system. The valves or dampers will close or open based on the signals received by the master control panel of the system. These are essentially the “brain” of the entire system.
Each of the designated zones has a separate thermostat, which is connected to the master control. The dampers and valves will close or open based on the information received from each of the thermostats installed.
What Type of Home Can Take Advantage of Zoned HVAC Systems?
A zoned HVAC system is a smart option for virtually any structure or building. However, the structures that will receive the best results in terms of cost and energy savings are seen in those that have one or several of these features:
- Open kitchens
- Open layouts and high ceilings
- Basement rooms or basement garages
- Rooms or areas that are not used often
- Multi-level homes
- Large windows
- Rooms that are exposed to natural sunlight
Knowing the benefits offered by a zoned heating and cooling system is the best way for a person to decide if this is an investment they should make for their home or building.
1. Improved Energy Efficiency
If there are parts of the home that are not used regularly, these rooms can be put in individual zones with their own thermostat to directly control the temperature. Keeping the zone that is not used often warmer during the summer and cooler during the winter can help reduce energy use, save money, and reduce electricity costs. This is because the system will not have to try to cool or heat the entire house, which means much less energy is used.
2. Customization Options
With a zoned HVAC system, it is possible to customize the area based on how often the rooms are used, along with what the desired temperature is for a certain area. They consider several factors that will impact the heating or cooling of a home or structure, including available shade, fans, type of ceiling, rooms that get more or less natural sunlight, cooking areas, large heating appliances, and more. Every zone will have a duct damper that is able to be regulated and controlled using a separate thermostat.
3. Increased Useful Life for the Zoned HVAC System
Thanks to the independent thermostats that are used in each zone, the HVAC system does not have to work as hard to maintain the desired temperature throughout the home. Reducing the temperature in certain, unused parts of the home or structure, will reduce the overall draw on the system. This results in less stress and wear and tear, which in turn, extends the life of the system altogether. Keep in mind, that just because the zoned system reduces wear and tear, it does not mean a person can avoid ongoing maintenance. This is going to lead to negative outcomes if someone does.
4. Quieter Heating and Cooling
If a person decides to install a standard single-zone heating and cooling system that will blast warm or cooled air into the entire building or home, the process is often loud and disrupting. This is because the system must work hard to ensure the air is forced through a bigger space.
With a zoned system, this is not the case. It is possible to direct the heated or cooled air where it is wanted at a specific time. This also means the sudden loud and obtrusive sound can be avoided. Instead, the system will work very quietly in the background, working to channel the warm or cool air through various vents, as it is needed.
5. Increased Convenience
Modern zoned systems can be installed so they are able to be controlled and operated remotely. This is done thanks to the growing popularity of smart thermostats and smartphone control features.
If someone knows they will be gone for the day, but they forget to adjust the thermostat to ensure they are not wasting energy, they can simply open up their mobile app and make the needed adjustments. Another time this is beneficial is if the weather changes suddenly. If this happens, it is possible to make immediate changes to the temperature, at any time, regardless of where the person is. This will even save someone having to get up out of bed or from watching a movie to adjust their thermostat. Instead, they just have to log in on their device, make the necessary changes, and then get back to what they were doing.
6. Two Units with One System
While a standard cooling and heating system will use both an air conditioning system and a furnace, with a zoning system it is possible to combine these two services into a single unit. This is done with the use of a quality and reputable brand of a heat pump or a different, individual unit. Also, streamlining the systems can help keep the home comfortable by ensuring the specific areas remain at the preferred temperature, on the schedule that the building or homeowner prefers. This helps to reduce maintenance costs, ductwork expenses, and total upkeep.
A zoned HVAC system provides a home and business owner with improved flexibility regarding the installation. This means it can be retrofitted or even converted into a zoned HVAC unit, too. It is best to speak with the professionals about this option to see if it is possible, as it may not be something that can be done with all homes and structures.
8. Conservation Benefits
With more and more home and building owners witnessing increased energy costs, there are many who are searching for effective ways to go green and begin saving money on energy costs. An effective way to do this is by zoning systems. This will help to reduce monthly energy costs and zoning the current HVAC system can help someone save as much as 30% on their total monthly utility costs. This means that they can stop wasting air conditioning and heating on rooms that no one is using at certain times of the day.
Installation and Related Costs for a Zoned HVAC System
There are several options when it comes to the installation of a new HVAC system. While this is true, there are still some general things a person can consider to find out the approximate cost of a zoning system. The final costs will be determined by the evaluation by the contractors but having a basic overview can help ensure a homeowner or business owner knows what to expect.
The new equipment is one of the first costs related to this installation. Every zoned system will include an inside and outside unit, the controls, and parts, such as the electrical accessories and refrigerant line-set. The cost to condition a single zone or room will be a different price than trying to provide the same conditioning to a home or building with eight or more zones. Usually, zoning equipment will range in cost from just under $3K for a single room option to more than $15KI for several zone cooling and heating systems.
Another factor that impacts the cost of installation is the labor required to handle the job. This is the fee you pay to the HVAC contractor hired to handle the installation of the system, and when necessary, remove the existing system. The labor prices of each contractor are unique; however, it is a good estimate to say that the cost of installing a zoned HVAC system will be similar to the equipment cost. However, this may vary based on where a person is located and the installation complexity.
There are additional costs in some, cases, too. For example, it may be necessary to hire a licensed electrician for the installation of a new 240-volt outlet. Usually, this costs between $200 and $1K. However, like anything else, it varies based on the nature of the work and a person’s geographic location. The price will go up further if the electrical panel in the home requires the installation of a new 240-volt circuit. To help avoid any surprises, it is best to secure an estimate for these services before a new system is purchased.
Another potential cost is related to the stand or electrical pad for the unit. Making sure there is an even surface under the outdoor unit to ensure proper drainage will usually cost between $50 and $300. An alternative option is to mount the unit on brackets. It is a good idea to ask the contractor for the right solution for the new system that has been purchased.
During the installation process, an important decision must be made – ducted or ductless? If selecting a ducted indoor unit, it is hard to generalize the cost of it. There are some homeowners who may install ducts for the first time, while others are trying to repurpose the current ductwork. This will add a new level of complexity and may increase labor costs by up to 75%. It is a good idea to talk directly with HVAC contractors who have worked with this type of job in the past to ensure an accurate price is quoted.
When choosing a zoned heating and cooling system, there are several controller options to choose from. What is selected is going to impact the cost. A wall-mounted AC and heating unit will come with handheld wireless controllers, which are a standard feature. However, there are other options, too. It is a good idea to get to know all the options and discuss them with the professionals to find the one that best meets the user’s needs.
There are also some homes that require that little something extra to complete the installation process. This is most commonly seen with older homes, higher performance homes, or homes that are located in colder weather regions where the temperature will drop below negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit regularly. With these homes, specialized equipment and designs are necessary. All of this is going to impact the final cost of the system installation.
Get an Estimate for HVAC Zoning Installation and Solutions
If a homeowner is interested in learning more about all the benefits offered by installing a zoned HVAC system in their home or building, now is the time to get in touch with the professionals. They can evaluate the area where the system is being installed and provide a customer with an accurate estimate for service.
Some of the things to discuss with the contractor include the number of zones needed, where the exterior and interior zones will be installed, if cooling and heating are needed or just one, if someone is planning to replace or supplement their current system, or if a person prefers the use of a ducted or ductless system.
An HVAC system contractor is going to let a person know what to expect during the installation process. Being informed, knowing the details, and taking the right steps will ensure the desired results are achieved.