|Zoned Heating and Cooling Systems
From the first blast of winter through the dog days of summer, it is a domestic power struggle more fierce than the competition for the television remote control. When one thermostat controls the temperature for an entire house, it produces predictable results that pit husband against wife and basement playroom against upstairs office in "The Battle of the Thermostat".
The war begins when dad turns the thermostat down because the family room is too warm. A few minutes later mom turns up the thermostat because the bedroom is too cold. Eventually, someone is opening a window or closing a vent to get the temperature just right, and no one is really comfortable. But there's a better solution than family feuds or dressing in layers.
Zoned heating and cooling systems allow you to control the temperature of each room individually. By using a series of motorized dampers and thermostats that work independently, zoning can eliminate hot or cold rooms found in almost every home, while cutting energy by up to 25 percent, according to Anne Drake, a spokeswoman for Honeywell's zone control systems.
Zone controlled systems divide a home into areas with common heating and cooling needs during specific parts of the day. Air flow is controlled in each area by a separate thermostat. Instead of sending the same amount of heated or cooled air into all room every time the furnace or air conditioner is turned on, the system sends conditioned air only to the zones that need it. Temperaturs can be kept at an ideal comfort level when the family is up and about, then changed to an energy-saving temperature overnight or when the family is away.
For example, in a typical two-story house, the main floor with the living room, kitchen and dining area, is usually occupied during the evenings. Bedrooms are occupied mostly at night and in the early morning. With zoning, you can cool or heat one area of the house at a time. You can also select different temperature settings for each zone of the house. In most homes, a two or three zone system is sufficient. Rarely does a home equire more than three zones.
Most homes can be zoned according to room occupancy, but unique exposure factors may require a different zoning strategy. A room with large amounts of glass facing south or west will have more heat gain than other rooms in the home. A separate zone might be required for that room alone!
At an average price of $1,200, zone control systems provide a cost efficient alternative to dual air systems that require separate air conditioners and furnaces for different areas of the house, according to Ron Reinhardt of Research Products Corporation. "It justs makes sense. You become more comfortable in your home, and you save money."
Zone control is especially effective in homes that have multiple levels, spawling designs, large glass windows, or large open areas such as an atrium or solarium. Existing homes with finished basements, attic spaces and additions are also good candidates for zoning. Almost all forced air systems can be converted for zone control, according to Reinhardt. "A control panel, thermostats, dampers and the proper duct work are all it takes."
Builders are still learning about zone control systems, even though HVAC contractors have been installing them for the last five years or more. Zoning is still be introduced in some regions of the United States and has been well received by the home-buying public.
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