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Is Zoned Heating and Cooling Right for Your Home?

Colorful replica of a multi-level home

The Problems with Central Heating & Cooling

If you are like most families, turning the lights off before you leave the room is the number one rule to save on your electricity bill. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do the same for your heating and cooling system?

A conventional HVAC system does not allow you to switch it on and off in certain parts of your home like you can with a light. It’s in the name: “central” air. Central air regulates the temperature of the entire house regardless of which rooms are occupied or empty.

That’s a huge waste.

On top of this, each member of the household has a distinct desired temperature and this is rarely universal.

The HVAC industry has a solution to these problems: zoned heating and cooling. This type of system separates your home into zones based on individual preferences, each controlled by its own thermostat. If this sounds like a solution to your family feuds, a zoned HVAC system might be right for you.

How to Get in the Zone

Adapting temperature zoning in your home can be achieved in one of two ways:

  • Converting your existing central air system by installing automated dampers within the ducts to direct airflow into the separate zones

  • Install ductless mini-splits that 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

The zoned system utilizes a singular HVAC unit to deliver air conditioning or heating into two or more rooms with motorized dampers to control the amount of air pushed out to each zone. It can be controlled with either separate thermostats in each room or a central multi-zone thermostat that has room-by-room temperature controls.

An HVAC professional can retrofit your existing system as long as it has a two-stage or variable-speed output. In other words, your current system must have a compressor and blower with at least two levels of operation: high or low.

This is an important consideration because you will not experience much benefit or 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 the extra air will be forced into one room, causing the HVAC system to deliver short, frequent bursts of air. In addition to not reducing your energy bill, it could lead to mechanical failure.

Otherwise, zoning with dampers is a viable option and it can reduce your energy bill by 30% while also improving the comfort of all members in the home.

Zoning with Ductless Mini-Splits

If your home does have a single-stage unit or you don’t already have central air, zoning with ductless mini-splits is likely the way to go.

A ductless mini-split consists of an indoor air handler connected to an outdoor compressor. Zoning is relatively simple: The HVAC professionals will add more indoor air handlers. Multiple indoor units can operate off one outdoor compressor — yet each unit operates independently. That means the thermostat in each room can be customized to the occupant’s preference and arguments over the internal temperature can be prevented.

Ductless systems are easy to install — no heavy-duty retrofitting is required. That makes them ideal for older homes with no existing ductwork.

They are also efficient. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 20–30 percent of air is lost through leaks and gaps in ducts. Since this system doesn’t utilize ducts and delivers air directly from the source, you save energy and money!

Ductless Mini-Splits Can Complement Your Central Air

As previously mentioned, a single-stage HVAC unit should not be zoned, but ductless mini-splits solve this dilemma. Consider using a ductless unit in rooms that need more targeted temperature control. They can also be used for:

  • New home additions

  • Detached in-law suites

  • Basement or attic renovations

When should you consider AC zoning?

Now that you have an understanding of AC zoning and whether your current setup could be adapted to this system, you need to decide if it is right for you. Consider AC zoning if your home:

  • Has multiple levels — You can set different temperatures on each level with one thermostat.

  • Has high ceilings — You can create a separate zone in a room with high ceilings so other rooms don’t get too warm trying to heat up that one.

  • Is different temperatures in each room — A zoned HVAC system can help you keep consistent temperatures throughout or change them based on preference and usage.

Zoning May Be the Answer to Your Home's Heating & Cooling Problems

Central air is one of the greatest inventions of all time, but 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!

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