Updated: August 2023

What Is HVAC Zoning?

Zoning is an innovation in both ducted and mini-split HVAC systems that allows you to customize the heating and cooling of individual spaces or zones in a home or business. Zoned systems allow for smarter HVAC choices because it allows you to adjust temperatures based on where you are in the home and not just whether you are home or away. When paired with smart technology, the system is an incredibly efficient way to reduce energy use in your home while keeping you comfortable.

How Zoning Works in a Home With Ductwork

Zoned systems can be installed in a home with ductwork by installing valves that block or reduce airflow to certain sections of the home. This system can be installed with new ductwork or retrofitted into sections of ductwork that are easy to reach.

In order to individually control the temperature in each zone, individual thermostats are required in each section. Many companies sell thermostat systems that have a main thermostat near the HVAC unit and several wireless expansion thermostats that connect wirelessly. One benefit of having wireless add-on thermostats is that you can try different locations to find the placement that keeps your home at the temperatures you want.

The biggest limiting factor for zones in ducted homes is how the ducts travel from one part of the house to the next. For example, it is easy to make one zone that consists of a line of ductwork that reaches three upstairs bedrooms, but it is harder to block off the middle, unused bedroom in that duct line.

In ducted homes, common zoning schemes include the upstairs versus the downstairs or the sleeping areas versus the living areas. If you have a home office that can be separated from either bedrooms or living areas within the ductwork, this may create an additional zone option.

Zones in Homes With Mini-Splits

Mini-splits create the opportunity to create zones in a home without ductwork. They also create options to heat and cool an addition without hooking it up to your home’s main ductwork. Mini-splits outside of the main ductwork are a natural zone. However, two, three, or more of these units can also be placed in several sections of the house as a part of a planned zoning scheme.

How Zones Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Having HVAC zones in your home provides an opportunity to set several temperature levels in the same building. If you spend time enjoying your home in the morning and evening, you can set your kitchen, dining room, and living areas to a temperature that is comfortable while leaving sleeping areas and unused sections of the home in a cooler state in the winter or a hotter state in the summer. If you work in a home office during the day, your system can focus on air treatment in this portion of the home. When it is time to sleep, your system can concentrate on temperature control in bedrooms.

An HVAC system that only needs to warm or cool a few rooms can use much less energy to complete this task. This translates into savings on both energy output and utility bills.

Pairing Zones With Smart Thermostats

Zones can be programmed in a few ways when paired with a series of smart thermostats. Some smart thermostats have motion-sensing devices that can trigger a change in temperature in a particular room. This creates a lag in comfort, though, as your system won’t begin to heat or cool the room until you enter in this situation.

Learning thermostats can use motion sensing technology to collect data on the days and times that you are in different rooms. This can help it to predict when you are likely to wake up, go to bed, eat meals, work in an office or leave the house for the day. Learning thermostats can be paired with motion sensors or used in conjunction with manual adjustments that you make to your thermostat. They can also be used with geofencing technology that tells your home when you are a certain number of miles away and headed to your house. This will trigger the zone that you tend to inhabit when you return for the day to preheat or precool.

Zoned HVAC With ADUs

If you are renting a room, basement, or other portion of your home, zoned HVAC allows your tenant the ability to control their own home’s temperature. In some states and regions, this is a zoning requirement for rental homes or rooms.

This is also a useful option if you have an adult child or teen who is living in your home and who keeps very different hours than the rest of the family. If your college student sleeps until noon and spends time in their living space until the wee hours, zoning can help to keep them comfortable without spending the extra utility costs to extend these temperatures to the whole house.

Commercial Zoning and Multiuse Buildings

If you have a commercial building with office space, zoned HVAC is one way to ensure that each business has control over its heating and cooling. Even within a business, zones may be necessary. For example, there are rooms, like storage areas, that may need very little HVAC treatment, and IT areas, like server rooms, that may need additional cooling capabilities. If you have a business where some workers use their office on a hybrid basis and are not always present, you can separate these offices into a different zone than workers that are present on a daily basis.

Tips on Using Your Zoned HVAC System

When using a zoned system, keep in mind that temperature control doesn’t need to be absolute in unused rooms. On cold days, keep all of your rooms, even unused rooms, at or above 59 degrees. This will prevent the buildup of mold or dry rot in these areas.

On hot days, try to keep your unused rooms at no more than 78 degrees. The Department of Energy recommends this temperature because higher heat can affect paint, wood, and other structural components of your home. It can also affect the integrity of furnishings and the health of any pets that are still in your home when you are away. If you have an animal that is known for living in very warm climates, like a chihuahua, or cold climates, like a malamute, work with your veterinarian to keep the temperature in your home set to a zone that matches the animal’s temperature regulation needs.

Call Us for Your Questions About Zoned HVAC

If you are in the Gilbert, AZ area, give us a call to learn more about how zoning would work within your own home. We can also install, maintain, and repair furnaces, air conditioning units, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits. Work with us for indoor air quality concerns, ductwork installation and repair, condensers and refrigerant VRV work, air handlers, and specialty work.

We are proud to work with both residential and commercial buildings in the area. We can work on individual HVAC units or create a package of systems for your building complex. We can also recommend our favorite brands of heating and cooling units and thermostats. Reach out to us at A/C Doctors today to learn more about what we can do for you and your family.

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