What Zoned Heating Systems Are and Why You Might Need One

November 16, 2023
Zoned systems in Olathe, KS

Imagine having everyone in your Olathe, KS home piled into your living room for board games, snacks, and general family fun. Now imagine that your central heater is busy pumping warm air into every other room even though there’s no one to enjoy it. Like many homeowners, you probably spend hundreds of dollars each year to heat spaces that are unoccupied. Zoned heating systems eliminate this energy waste. They also prevent heated arguments over thermostat settings. Read on to find out what zoned heating systems are and why you might need one.

HVAC System Zoning Transforms Uniform Heating Into Customized Air Delivery

Central HVAC systems are designed to heat and cool homes uniformly. They’re governed by a central thermostat that’s installed in a central, neutral location. The temperature that’s set at this device is the temperature that the furnace or air conditioner will create and maintain.

The only way to limit the distribution of conditioned air with a central HVAC system is by closing HVAC air vents. Unfortunately, manually adjusting these features can negatively impact air balancing throughout the entire HVAC system. It can also cause a rapid build-up of air pressure within HVAC ductwork that subjects heaters and ACs to unnecessary stress and causes problems like short cycling and overheating.

Zoning divides building interiors into several, sensible heating and cooling zones. Each zone has its own thermostat, and each thermostat is controlled independently of the others. This makes it possible to get heated air in one room without raising the temperature in all others. It’s perfect for households in which residents have dramatically different preferences for indoor temperatures.

How Zones Are Established

When zoning HVAC systems, we account for many of the same factors that are considered when sizing heaters and air conditioners. We assess:

  • Total square footage
  • Building layouts
  • Ceiling heights
  • Household sizes
  • Heat-generating appliances

We also account for homeowners’ goals, resident preferences, and more.

Many homes with zoned HVAC systems have one thermostat on their bottom level and another thermostat upstairs on their second floors. In smaller, single-level dwellings, zoning often separates the least-used spaces from the rooms and areas that are frequently occupied.

Ductwork Modifications and the Installation of Central Control Systems

Duct dampers are the mechanical components that make zoning possible in central HVAC systems. Located within HVAC ducting, these are thin, movable plates that open or seal shut when conditioned air is needed or unwanted. For instance, when the thermostat in one zone is cranked up but the thermostat in another is turned way down, duct dampers will open to allow the flow of heated air into the space in which it’s needed and close wherever it’s not.

With basic zoning, duct dampers are often manually controlled. With modern zoning systems, central control units are installed to govern all mechanical components. Central control centers receive signals from all connected thermostats and automatically make damper adjustments in response.

Bypass Ducts in HVAC Zoning

Ductwork modifications for creating zoned central HVAC include the installation of bypass ducts. Much like vent closures, closed dampers cause a rise in in-duct pressure that can quickly wear heaters and air conditioners down. Bypass dampers offer a place for excess air to go when conditioned air isn’t wanted in any zone or room.

Mini-Split HVAC Systems Offer Zoning Too

In terms of efficiency, HVAC zoning puts central HVAC systems on par with ductless mini-splits. With both system types, there’s no need to heat or cool spaces that aren’t actively in use, and all building residents can create their preferred temperatures in their immediate areas.

Ductless mini-split systems have a single outdoor condenser unit. This unit supports multiple air handlers that all have their own independently controlled thermostats. If you live in an older home that was built without HVAC air ducts, having a mini-split installed is a cost-effective way to control your indoor climate without making major building modifications. However, if you already have a central HVAC system, having it zoned will allow you to enjoy some of the most heavily praised benefits of ductless heating and air conditioning.

Is Zoning Right for Your Home?

HVAC zoning is an upgrade that can pay for itself over time. With zoning, you’ll sidestep the costs of unnecessary heating and cooling, make all building residents a bit happier, and lower your carbon footprint. Having your HVAC system zoned is also a great way to ramp up the value and marketability of your property. After all, home buyers are increasingly eco-conscious and increasingly seeking modern upgrades like this one.

We’ve been helping residents of Olathe, KS maintain clean, healthy, and all-around comfortable homes since 2004. We offer top-notch heating, cooling, and indoor air quality services. We also provide HVAC system zoning, geothermal solutions, and preventative maintenance plans. Get in touch with Mike Bryant Heating & Cooling today to schedule an appointment!

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