Is Zoned Heating and Cooling Right for Your Home?

You turn the lights off before you leave a room. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do the same for your heating and cooling system? Unfortunately, if you have a conventional HVAC system, you can’t just switch off the air to a certain part of your home like you can a light switch. Central air truly is central, regulating the temperature of the entire house. It doesn’t care which rooms are occupied and which rooms aren’t.

It’s wasteful when you think about it.

The HVAC industry recognized this and came up with a solution: zoned heating and cooling. This type of system divides your home into distinct zones based on individual temperature preferences.

How to Get in the Zone

There are two ways of achieving temperature zoning in your home: an HVAC professional can convert your existing central air system by installing automated dampers within the ducts to direct airflow where it’s needed. The other option is to install ductless mini-splits. These units operate independently of each other, so each room can have its own set temperature.

Let’s go into a bit more detail about each option.

Zoning with dampers: This zoned system uses a single HVAC unit to deliver air to two or more rooms, such as a master bedroom and a living room. It utilizes a series of motorized dampers to control the amount of air delivered to each zone. It can be configured with separate thermostats in each room or a multi-zone thermostat for room-by-room temperature control.

You can retrofit your existing system, provided that it has a two-stage or variable-speed output. That means it has a compressor and blower with at least two levels of operation: high and low. On days of extreme heat or cold, it will operate at a high capacity. On mild days, the system will run on a low mode for longer periods to save energy. This is an important consideration because you will not experience any savings by converting a single-stage unit into a zoned system. That’s because a single-stage unit operates on one speed: high. If one or more zones is closed off, all that extra air will be forced into one room, causing the HVAC system to deliver short, frequent bursts of conditioned air. This won’t do your energy bill any favors and it could lead to mechanical failure.

Otherwise, zoning with dampers is a viable option, helping trim as much as 30 percent off your energy bill while also improving comfort.

Zoning with ductless mini-splits: If you don’t already have central air, ductless mini-splits are the way to go. A ductless mini-split consists of an indoor air handler connected to an outdoor compressor. Zoning is relatively simple: Just add more indoor air handlers. Multiple indoor units can operate off of one outdoor compressor -- yet each unit operates independently. That means the temperature in each room can be customized to the occupant’s preference. Imagine: no more bickering over the thermostat.

Ductless systems are easy to install -- no heavy-duty retrofitting required. That makes them ideal for older homes without existing ductwork And they’re super efficient. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 20 to 30 percent of air is lost through leaks and gaps in ducts. This system dispenses with ducts altogether, delivering air directly from the source, saving you money.

Ductless Mini-Splits Can Complement Your Central Air

As previously mentioned, a single-stage HVAC unit should not be zoned. Ductless mini-splits solve this dilemma. Consider installing ductless units in rooms that need more targeted temperature control. They’re also ideal for additions, detached in-law suites and basement and attic renovations -- taking the prospect of extending your ductwork out of the equation.

Bottom line: Central air is one of the greatest inventions of all time. However, it has its limitations. Governing the temperature for the entire home isn’t efficient and everyone in the home has different comfort preferences. Zoning, whether through a damper system or ductless units, solves these problems, improving your comfort and cutting energy costs. For all of your heating and cooling needs, contact Morris Heating & Air 978-961-0338.

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