Is Zoned Heating and Cooling Right for You?

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning system uses a significant amount of energy, but homeowners can enjoy saving money on their utility bills with zoned heating and cooling. HVAC zone systems allow homeowners to maintain different temperatures in various areas of their homes, giving them more control over how much energy they use to heat and cool certain rooms. Zoned AC systems are fantastic for homeowners who want to help all their family members enjoy comfortable temperatures while saving money.

What Is a Zoned HVAC System?

A zoned HVAC system is a heating and air conditioning option that creates customizable temperature regions. This solution regulates and redirects air to specific areas throughout a home, increasing comfort and energy efficiency.

Zoned HVAC systems are more efficient, which can benefit almost any family. Many people who naturally run cold or hot prefer different temperatures than their family members, making it challenging to find a happy medium that keeps everyone comfortable. If you're always adjusting the thermostat, a multi-zone HVAC system can help meet each household member's needs while saving energy. This system is also excellent for the following conditions:

  • Rooms with large windows that pull in drafts
  • Unused or seldom-used rooms in a home
  • Home gyms or workshops that require cooler air
  • Homes with top floors that hold more heat than lower floors
  • Finished basements and attic living spaces
  • Homes with large floor plans and one or more wings
  • Houses with high ceilings
  • An additional room over a garage

With a zoned HVAC system, families can direct more hot or cold air into specific rooms and areas of their homes. This setup helps households save money because it allows them to avoid wasting energy by overheating or overcooling their home. Different types of zoned HVAC systems operate in the following ways.

Zoned HVAC Systems With Ductwork

An HVAC system with ductwork contains dampers that regulate air temperature and redirect it to different zones. Dampers open when specific zones need warm or cool air and close to stop airflow once an area has reached your desired temperature.

Ductless Heat Pump Split Systems

A ductless heat pump split system uses heat exchanger coils to move air inside and outside a home. In the winter, it takes air from the outside to heat a home. In the summer, it pulls warm air out of a home to make the air temperature cooler.

Mini-Split Systems

A mini-split system uses an outdoor unit known as a condenser to operate indoor units known as air handlers. One condenser can control between one and four air handlers, and it connects to each air handler via a thin pipe that runs through an exterior wall.

How Much Does a Zoned HVAC System Cost?

The cost of a zoned HVAC system depends on how many zones it operates and whether you are adding it to an existing heating and cooling system or starting fresh. An average zoned HVAC system typically costs between $1,700 and $4,500. Putting a zoned system in new construction costs less than adding to an existing home, and you can expect the following costs for different numbers of zones.

  • Four-zone HVAC system: Adding a four-zone HVAC system to a newly constructed home costs between $2,000 and $2,600, and adding one to an existing home costs between $2,600 and $4,500.
  • Three-zone HVAC system: A three-zone HVAC system costs between $1,800 and $2,300 for a newly constructed home and between $2,200 and $3,500 for an existing home.
  • Two-zone HVAC system: Two-zone HVAC systems cost between $1,500 and $2,000 in newly built homes and between $1,700 and $2,800 in existing homes.

To add a two-zone system to an existing HVAC system, homeowners typically pay between $1,700 and $2,800 and between $350 and $500 for each additional zone.

How Do I Use a Zoned HVAC System?

A zoned HVAC system creates individual temperature zones using duct dampers, zone sensors, thermostats and a zone control panel. Using a zoned HVAC system is straightforward.

Determine How Many Zones Your Home Needs

To decide how many individual zones you want to have in your home, consult with an HVAC professional. They can determine how many zones will best regulate your home's temperature and meet your needs. You may discover your downstairs and upstairs significantly differ in temperature and decide to designate one zone for each floor. If your family members have various temperature preferences, you may want to add a zone to each room.

Set the Thermostat According to Your Preferences

To monitor and control the temperature in your home's different zones, you only need to set each thermostat. For example, if you prefer your bathroom to be warmer than your bedroom, select your desired temperatures, and the HVAC system will do the rest. You can adjust the thermostat in any zone at any time to meet your comfort level.

Can a Zoned HVAC System Save You Money?

A zoned HVAC system can save you money because it is energy-efficient. A zoned system redirects warm and cool air from areas once they reach their desired temperature, which saves energy. Zoned systems allow homeowners to enjoy more comfort while using less energy. If you have a room your family rarely uses, you can divert air away from that zone to heat or cool the areas you use more often.

The amount of money you can save with a zoned HVAC system depends on how much energy you use for each zone. Setting temperatures to use less energy for specific zones will save you more money than setting significantly high or low temperatures in every room. However, a zoned system makes it easy to regulate your home's energy consumption, giving you complete control. Additionally, using a programmable thermostat can save you even more money.

When Is the Best Time to Install a Zoned System?

The best time to install a zoned system is during construction because a professional can easily install it in a new home without working around an existing system. Avoid installing a new HVAC system in the summer or winter because this can result in a slower turnaround time, inconveniencing you and your family. It's much better to schedule installation during the spring or fall.

Installing a new HVAC system as soon as possible is crucial if your existing system is old or damaged. However, if your current system works properly and you only want to switch to a more efficient system, you can have a zoned HVAC system installed at a more convenient time.

How Long Do Zoned Systems Last?

Zoned HVAC systems last approximately 10 to 20 years, and HVAC dampers can last 20 years with proper maintenance. Adding a zoned HVAC system to your home can increase its value and save you money on energy costs each month.

The increased home value and potential monthly savings of having a zoned system can give you an excellent return on investment. However, the amount depends on how you use and care for your system. If you intentionally set your home's thermostats to save energy in rooms you aren't using and properly maintain your system, you can increase your ROI by using less energy and improving your HVAC's life span. Follow these maintenance tips to get started.

Prevent Drafts

The more outside air that enters or exits your home, the harder your system will have to work to heat or cool it. When your system expends more effort to regulate a room's temperature, it uses more energy and wears out sooner. You can reduce your system's energy use and prolong its usable life by preventing drafts in each zone. Make sure you seal your home effectively to keep air from leaking in and out.

Inspect the System's Ducts Regularly

Any leaks in your system's ductwork can significantly increase energy usage. You should check your ducts regularly to ensure air remains in the ducts and flows efficiently. To inspect your ducts, you can place your hand near the connection points while your system is running and feel for any air. If you notice any air leaks, contact an HVAC professional to patch or seal your ductwork as soon as possible.

Replace the Air Filters

Air filters become clogged with debris and dust over time, especially when the outside air is dusty. As particles build up in filters, HVAC systems must work harder to regulate temperatures, resulting in higher energy use and more wear on your system. Replacing your HVAC system's filter as recommended by the manufacturer can reduce your home's energy consumption, save you money on energy bills, improve your indoor air quality and extend your system's life span.

Keep the System Clean

You can also prevent dust and debris buildup by cleaning your HVAC system regularly. Dust around your outdoor unit, removing any accumulated dirt, leaves, branches and grass clippings that have entered. You can also prevent debris from infiltrating your system by pruning nearby trees or shrubs.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

The best way to extend your zoned HVAC system's life is to schedule routine tune-ups. HVAC professionals can identify damage that you may miss when you check your system, providing more expertise and solutions. Preventive maintenance can address potential system issues before they cause damage, reducing the wear on your system and helping it last longer.

4 Reasons Not to Get a Zoned HVAC System

HVAC zoning is an excellent way to help homeowners increase their energy savings. However, some homes do not benefit from a zoned HVAC system. Before investing in a zoned system for yourself or a client, you must decide whether a home needs it. A zoned HVAC system is not necessary if your home or a client's home has any of the following factors.

1. Low Energy Bills

A zoned HVAC system can significantly lower your energy bills if your HVAC system uses a lot of energy. However, if your energy bills are already low, you may save more money by keeping your current system versus purchasing a different one.

2. A New System That Works Efficiently

Zoned systems are excellent money-saving home additions. However, you may not need a zoned system if you have recently upgraded your HVAC to a new, energy-efficient unit. If it's the appropriate size for your home, it will regulate your indoor temperature without any effort on your part.

3. Temperature Consistency Throughout Your Home

While many homes need HVAC zoning to balance the temperature between floors that heat or cool faster than each other, some homes can achieve a comfortable, consistent temperature without a zoned system. If every family member reports year-round satisfaction with your indoor air, your current system is doing an excellent job.

4. A Single-Stage HVAC System

HVAC zoning is not compatible with single-stage HVAC systems. Single-stage systems operate at full capacity, which eliminates the ability to reduce energy. Because single-stage systems operate at complete capacity, some zones would receive excess air if other zones were closed. If your home has a single-stage HVAC system, you cannot zone your system.

5 Reasons to Get a Zoned HVAC System

A zoned HVAC system can help homeowners reduce energy bills and increase comfort. You or your clients should consider purchasing a zoned HVAC system if any of the following situations apply.

1. You Have a Drafty House

If you notice a floor or specific rooms in your home heat or cool faster than others due to drafts, a zoned HVAC system may help you regulate the temperature. With a zoned HVAC system, you can heat or cool an area without sending unnecessary air to areas that have already reached your desired temperature.

2. Your Family Members Disagree

If your family disagrees about your thermostat's ideal setting, a zoned HVAC system can help everyone enjoy a cozy and comfortable temperature without any battles. Depending on the zones you choose to add, each family member can set a different temperature in their bedroom or the rooms they frequent the most.

3. Some of Your Rooms Go Unused

A zoned HVAC system is also excellent if you have unused rooms in your home. If your family rarely visits the attic or basement, it doesn't need to maintain a comfortable temperature. A zoned system can help you save energy in rooms you don't use by redirecting air to the places you spend your time working or relaxing.

4. You Want to Save Money

Finding every possible way to save money as a homeowner is a smart move. Energy costs can add up quickly when you own a home, and your HVAC system typically uses the most energy. When you add a zoned HVAC system to your home and use it to conserve energy, you can save a significant amount of money on your energy bills.

5. You're Constructing a New Home

If you're constructing a new home, this is the perfect time to install a zoned HVAC system. Installing new zoned HVAC systems is easier and more affordable than zoning an existing HVAC system. A zoned system can make your new home energy-efficient from the start.

Save on Energy With HVAC Systems From Ingram's Water & Air

HVAC zoning is an incredibly efficient way to increase energy savings. If you are a homeowner or contractor, you may find a zoned HVAC system beneficial for your family or clients. Ingram's Water & Air offers high-quality HVAC systems to heat and cool homes efficiently. Browse our wide selection of HVAC solutions to find the right match for your home.

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