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  Central AC / Heat: Zone vs. No Zone System

Central Air Conditioning / Heating: Zone vs. No Zone Systems, Improve Comfort Levels, Reduce Utility Costs, 2-Deck / 3-Deck Multi-Zone System Installation

Home >> Services >> Home Heating & Cooling >> Systems >> Zone / No Zone 


When installing a new HVAC (Heat Ventilation Air Conditioning) system in your home or business, or just upgrading your heating or cooling capabilities, consider adding a Zone Control System to improve comfort levels and reduce utility costs.

Zoning is also excellent for new homes, since it is installed during construction. If you are buying a newly constructed home, check with a your builder about a zoning system.

The J.R. Wortman Company has your zoning solutions and answers to your questions. Whether it's just a space heater to warm your living room or a complete 3 Deck Multi-Zone HVAC System, Wortman has the expertise to design and install the equipment you need.

Zone Heating: What is it?

Zone heating is the practice of warming the rooms in which you spend the most time, rather than trying to heat the whole house equally. This can be done efficiently by supplementing your central heat source with a gas, wood, or pellet burning appliance, either free-standing or insert. In any case, the result is a reduction in energy consumption.

A zone is an area of a house with independent heating and/or cooling control. Zoning segments the house into particular areas that can be individually controlled efficiently using a Multi-Zone Heating Controller.

Conventional wisdom about space heating has changed in recent years. Consumers used to be sold the most powerful heater available, to heat the entire house from one point.

Even with a duct system, this produces hot and cold spots due to differences in room size and placement in the house. Furthermore, environmental concerns, rising utility costs and more sophisticated engineering have led manufacturers and utility companies to encourage the use of zone heating.

Zone Heating: Why do I Need It?

Today's families have different lifestyles and comfort needs. Maybe you have a home office that needs extra conditioning during the day, and none at night. Or you only use the upstairs bedrooms when guests visit. Whatever your needs, zoning can keep each area of your house at the perfect temperature for you and each family member.

Imagine a home with just one light switch that could only turn the lights on or off in the entire house. You have a similar “all or nothing” situation With a single-thermostat forced air HVAC system; to get heat where you need, it you must send it everywhere.

This generally results in having to sacrifice some comfort in a attempt to save energy. With a zoning system, you can enjoy perfect comfort wherever you are, while saving huge amounts of energy by restricting airflow, with dampers, to areas not in use. It is just like the lights, use them when you need to, and turn them off when you do not.

Zoning systems, also known as automatic balancing systems, are a great solution for solving comfort problems. With multiple thermostats and duct dampers serving a single HVAC system, zoning systems can eliminate annoying and uncomfortable hot and cold spots.

Benefits of a Zoning

The main benefits of residential zoning are:

  • Comfort - meets the specific temperature and airflow requirements of one area, without affecting other areas
  • Efficiency - a well designed zoning system can save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs each year
  • Control - divides the house into multiple areas with adjustable comfort levels
  • Quiet Performance - delivers peak performance and efficiency without continually operating at peak capacity; less noise generated at lower speeds

It’s easy to see how zoning systems save energy. Areas not used can be deeply set back for maximum energy savings, while occupied areas have perfect temperature control from a nearby thermostat.

A zoning system can do even more. Overcooled or over-heated areas are eliminated, stretching the capacity of the HVAC system. For instance, a room with a western exposure never seems to get the right amount of ventilation. In the morning, with the sun in the east, the room probably gets too warm (or cold, depending on the season), and in the afternoon, the reverse is true. When a zone system is added, that western exposure gets exactly the amount of air it needs; no more, no less.

Independent tests have shown that zoning systems can save 30 percent or more on a HVAC heating and cooling bill. What you might save depends on how you use the system. Either way, a zoning system is a powerful air management tool that can provide you with increased comfort and energy savings at the same time.

What are My Zoning Options?

Option #1: Independent Zoning

If your primary heat source is electric or forced-air gas or oil controlled by a single thermostat, you can save money by turning down your thermostat a few degrees and using alternative heat sources in the main living areas of the home. This makes more sense than trying to heat everything from one point in the house.

When choosing an appliance for individual zone heating, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Heat rises. Therefore you'll get wider distribution if you install your space heater in a lower level of the house.

  • Don't buy more heater than you need. If you get a gas unit, it's a good idea to get one with a turn-down. That way, you'll get more even heat, use less fuel, and be able to enjoy the flames for a longer period of time.

There are variety of supplemental heating options from which to choose, depending on the fuel you want to use and the size and location of the space to heat. The most common type of space heaters include:

  • Electric - either Forced Air or Infrared (permanent or portable)
  • Natural Gas - Blue-flame or Infrared  (permanent installation)
  • Kerosene - should be used in well-ventilated areas only, such as garages
  • Wood-burning Stoves or Fireplaces (permanent)
  • Propane (portable)
  • Radiant Floor Heating - excellent choice for that cold bathroom tile floor

Option #2: Full Home Zoning

Your second option is a fully zoned HVAC system that controls fresh air ventilation, heat and air conditioning, for the most control to areas of the home.

The normal “zoning” in the average home is a 3 zone set-up. This type of zoning is fine for houses around 1000 to 2000 sq. feet and can be controlled very efficiently using a three zone controller. A typical home zoning set-up might include:

  • Zone 1 – Upstairs Heating
  • Zone 2 – Downstairs Heating
  • Zone 3 – Hot Water

The best thing about zoning is that it offers the home owner more control when heating and cooling their home. The more zones you have, the more control you have over your heating system.

In larger houses, say over 2000 sq. feet, it is important to design a system that include more zones. You don't want to have to heat an entire floor when you may only be using one or two rooms at any one time. In today’s environment of rising fuel prices, it is important to be more aware of the way you heat and cool your home. 

Option #3: Three-Deck Multi-Zone Units

Two-deck multi-zone systems that can have simultaneous heating and cooling are very inefficient. Two-deck systems use a combination of of heated and cooled air to reach the temperature needed.

Since such systems produce a constant volume of airflow, they use a lot of fan work, which also uses more energy than other systems. Three-deck systems that avoid simultaneous heating and cooling are a major improvement.

Traditional two-deck zone controls have the heating and cooling decks active at the same time, providing good zone temperature control and easy design and operation; however, this creates a situation where simultaneous heating and cooling occur.

With more advanced systems, it is possible to avoid simultaneous heating and cooling by using only one deck at a time to maintaining zone temperature control.

A modification of the two-deck (heat & a/c) system is the three-deck system, with the third deck being bypass air (recycled air mixed with fresh ventilation air.) The decks are arranged in a manner that when the zone is calling for heating, bypass air and hot deck air are mixed to meet the zone requirements.

In cooling, air from the cooling deck and bypass air mix to meet the cooling load. The result: no simultaneous heating and cooling.

We Can Help You Today!

The HVAC professionals at J.R. Wortman can help you make the right choice for your home. We'll give you all the information you need to select the right system to make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient. We'll design a system just right for you and provide the expert HVAC technicians to install it properly.

And we'll be here for you after the job is done. Whether it's for scheduled maintenance, or in an emergency, J.R. Wortman has highly trained electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even on Christmas Day, if that's when you need us.

To set an appointment for a consultation, please call 765-763-6444. For more information about our services and products, call us on the phone, send us an email, or submit the short form below:

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