A zoned HVAC system can be a great investment that can help to lower your energy bills, protect your furnace and air conditioner and keep your home more comfortable. The only thing is that a zoned system does require a fairly substantial investment. As such, this type of system may not be worth it if you have a smaller home or the temperature stays fairly consistent across all parts of the home. On the other hand, zoned systems are a great option for multi-story homes or any homes that have issues with hot and cold spots in different areas. Here’s a guide to help you understand how a zoned HVAC system works and what benefits it may provide to your home.

How Zoned HVAC Systems Work

The HVAC system in most homes is only a single zone, which means everything is controlled by a central thermostat and air always flows out of the vents in every room any time the heating or air conditioning is running. A zoned system breaks the house and the ductwork up into multiple zones. Each zone is still connected to the furnace and AC system and receives hot and cold air through the same type of ductwork system used in a traditional air conditioning system or heating system.

The difference is that every zone is controlled by its own thermostat instead of having just one central thermostat. This enables you to program the ideal temperature for each zone without affecting all of the other zones. Zoned HVAC systems have dampers located at various points in the ductwork, which are essentially metal doors or gates that can open and close as needed. To understand how these dampers work, it’s first necessary to look at the different parts of a ductwork system.

The main part of a ductwork system is known as the trunk, and this is what the hot air from the furnace and cold air from the AC system flows into. The trunk line has numerous smaller ducts that connect to it and supply air to all of the different rooms and areas in the home, and these are known as the branch ducts.

In a zoned HVAC system, a damper is typically installed where each branch duct meets the trunk so that each branch is its own zone. In larger homes, you will sometimes have several main branch lines that each run to a different part of the home and then additional branches that extend off of these to supply each room. In this case, dampers can also be installed where the additional branches meet the main branch to create even more zones.

When your HVAC system is running and any of the individual zones reach your desired temperature, the thermostat that controls that zone will signal the damper to close. This blocks off the branch duct so that no more air flows to that zone, but the HVAC system will continue to supply air to any zones that are still above or below the thermostat setting in that zone. Once all zones are at the desired temperature, the system will then finally shut off.

A zoned HVAC system essentially allows you to direct all of the hot and cold air to only those areas that currently need it instead of heating and cooling the entire home at once. There will obviously still be times when the system heats or cools all zones at the same time, but it will then start closing the dampers and blocking off the airflow to different zones as each one reaches the desired temperature.

Advantages of a Zone-Control System

One of the biggest advantages of a zoned HVAC system is that it can greatly reduce your heating and cooling costs by ensuring that the system only supplies air to whichever zones need it. For instance, if you have any areas or rooms in your home that are rarely ever used, you can set the temperature in those areas higher in the summer and lower in the winter. This will reduce energy usage as your HVAC system won’t need to run as long since all of the air will be directed to the areas you actually use instead of being blown throughout the whole house.

The fact that your furnace or AC won’t need to run as long also means that a zone-control system can greatly reduce the wear and tear on your HVAC system and lessen the chances of it breaking down and requiring costly repairs. This reduced wear and tear can also help to extend the lifespan of your furnace and AC.

Zoned HVAC systems are also great in terms of your overall comfort. It is common for homes to have one or more rooms that always stay hotter than the other parts of the home in the summer or colder in the winter. This is something you can easily overcome by having those rooms on their own zones. This will allow you to set the temperature in that zone lower in the summer so that it receives more air conditioning and stays cooler or to a higher temperature in the winter so it receives more heat and stays warmer.

A zoned system is especially useful for multi-story homes. The top floor is a multi-story home generally always stays much warmer than the other floors all year simply because heat rises. During the summer, all of the heat that collects in the attic can also start to be pushed down into the upper floor again causing it to be much hotter. If the top floor is on its own zone, you can set the temperature lower than what the other zones are set at so that the AC will cool that floor more effectively. Similarly, you can set the temperature lower in the winter since all of the heat that flows out into the lower floors will rise and help to keep the top floor zone without your heating system needing to run as much.

Basements tend to have the opposite problem and are usually always colder than the upper floors. If you have your basement set as a single zone, you can again ensure it receives less air conditioning in the summer so it isn’t too cold and more heating in the winter so it stays warm enough.

A zoned system can also be extremely useful if anyone in your family likes their bedroom much warmer and colder. For instance, let’s say that you’re the type of person who prefers to sleep in a cold bedroom. This can be an issue in the winter since you would normally need to turn your heating down a few hours before going to bed to ensure your room gets cold enough, which would obviously make the entire home colder. With a zoned system, all you need to do instead is simply set the temperature in your bedroom lower so that it doesn’t receive as much heat.

A zoned system can also be useful if you prefer sleeping with the windows open in the summer. Opening your bedroom window and turning off your AC entirely can lead to your home quickly becoming warmer and forcing your AC to work harder when you turn it back on. With a zoned system, you can simply shut the AC off in your bedroom while still cooling the rest of the home to prevent this.

If you’re considering a zoned HVAC system for your Wausau home, Southport Home Services is ready to help. We offer professional HVAC installation services, and we can also take care of all of your heating and cooling repair and maintenance needs. For more information on zoned HVAC systems or to schedule a consultation to see if a zoned system is right for your home, contact us today.

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Thomas Suchla
Thomas Suchla


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