Your Guide to an HVAC Zoning System

Your home’s temperature may feel like a Goldilocks-esque tale — too hot, too cold, (but rarely) just right. But don’t worry, the story doesn’t have to end there. With an HVAC zoning system, you can finally balance your home’s heating and cooling. 

“Great, sign me up!”

Slow your roll, friend. As always, you’ll want to do your research before deciding to get a zoning system in your home. Luckily, our HVAC experts at Santa Fe Air have got you covered with an in-depth guide to get you started. 

What is an HVAC zoning system?

An HVAC zoning system is a heating and cooling system that uses dampers (we’ll get to what those are in a bit) to regulate air flow to specific areas. As a result, you can customize the temperature of specific zones. 

For instance, if your upstairs gets super hot in the summer, but you don’t want your downstairs to get too cool, zoning can make sure cold air hits the upstairs without throwing off the temperature downstairs.  

Without a zoning system, the only way to control the temperature in certain areas is to manually open and close the vents. Apart from being tedious, it can also damage your HVAC system if you close too many vents at once.

If you’re thinking about getting a zoning system, you’ll first want to decide what your zones will be. Most people separate their home into the main floor and the upper floor, but you don’t have to do it that way. Your home, your choice. 

Zones can be as specific as having a zone for each room. This is especially great for those Brady-Bunch-sized families who can’t seem to agree on the perfect temperature. If you’re not sure about how you should separate your zones, an HVAC expert can help you configure your home. 

How HVAC zoning works

There are three main components that come to play with HVAC zoning: motorized dampers, thermostats, and a control panel. These components work together to regulate temperatures in each zone. 

Motorized dampers

Motorized dampers definitely won’t put a damper on your HVAC system (ba-dum-tiss). Okay, so we’re HVAC technicians not comedians, but the point is, motorized dampers are key to controlling airflow. Dampers are installed in your ductwork, and the number of dampers you’ll need depends on the design of your ducts. You won’t have to figure that out on your own; your technician will do all the hard stuff for you. 

Dampers can either fully open or close, or you can install a modulating controller that opens and closes dampers part way. Really it just depends on how extensive you want your HVAC zoning system to be. 

Thermostat 

Unlike HVAC systems without zoning, your thermostat(s) will monitor the temperature in each zone. This can be done in two ways:

    1. The easiest option is to install a thermostat in each zone to control and monitor the temperature. 
    2. If you’re feeling a little fancy, you can get a multi-zone thermostat and sensors. Sensors are installed in every room and send information to the thermostat. 

With both options, you can invest in a Wi-Fi thermostat so that you can control your home’s temperature wherever you go! How’s that for energy saving?

Control panel

Dampers and thermostats are wired to the control panel, and the control panel connects to your HVAC system. This panel is the reason why multiple thermostats are able to control your HVAC units. A control panel receives information about each zone’s desired temperature. Based on that, it controls the dampers to create an airflow that’ll reach the desired temperature. 

Signs you could use an HVAC zoning system in your Kansas City home

You have a two-story home

Most people have the same complaint when it comes to a two-story home — it’s warmer upstairs than downstairs. Why? Simply put, heat rises. Zoning can alleviate that extra heat and balance out temperature levels between the two floors. 

Why is My Room So Hot?: How to Fix Hotspots in Your Home

You have vaulted or cathedral ceilings

Vaulted ceilings are most common in the living room (or even master bedroom in some cases). Either way, those areas may need a little extra air to heat and cool the space since the ceiling is higher up. 

Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage Furnaces

You have large glass windows

Large windows are beautiful, but they also let in extra sunlight, which means more heat. Especially in the summer, those areas may need to be set at a lower temperature than the rest of the house. 

You have unused rooms

You could be spending a lot of extra money on your utility bill by heating or cooling rooms no one uses. By making them into their own zone, you can keep the temperature low in the winter and higher in the summer. 

You have a finished attic and/or basement

An attic or basement are areas that are naturally harder to heat and cool. This can be frustrating if you’ve spent money to finish them, but they’re still uncomfortable to stay in. 

Advantages of an HVAC zoning system

The biggest advantage is to an HVAC zoning system is comfort. If you always have areas that are too hot or too cold, zoning can ensure that you find the “just right” temperature for you and your family. If you have areas that require a specific temperature, such as an at-home gym, you can choose to make those places cooler while keeping the warmth in the rest of the home. Really, it’s all about what you want, and when does that ever happen otherwise? 😂

Beyond comfort, zoning can be a major energy saver. It’s the same idea behind closing vents in unused rooms. Since you can monitor and control the temperature in each zone, you won’t be blasting air into places that don’t need it. You don’t want your HVAC system pumping more heat or cool air than it needs to, and you really don’t want to see a sky-high utility bill. 

How to Lower Your Utility Bill This Winter

Zoning frequently asked questions

When is the best time to get an HVAC zoning system?

There’s not necessarily a “best time,” but adding a zoning system when you’re first building a house is ideal. In doing so, a technician can design ductwork that doesn’t require as many dampers, which can save you money during installation. 

Can a zoning system be installed on my existing furnace and A/C?

Absolutely! If you are not ready to upgrade your furnace and air conditioner, we can install a zoning system that can easily be used on a future upgrade.

Can I zone my house on my own?

No, you can’t zone your home by yourself. It’s a job meant for professionals. An experienced HVAC technician will know how to install the components for your zoning system to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Even if you love proving to your wife that, “I got this,” it’s best to leave it to the pros (she’ll still think you’re pretty great…hopefully). 

How much will zoning my home cost?

The cost to zone your home is going to vary from person to person. Some people need more dampers than others, which will obviously cost more. If there are parts that have to be replaced in your current system, that’s also going to up the price. We recommend talking to your local HVAC technician to get exact costs.

What are common problems people face with zoning?

Most problems come from poor installation. If you go to an HVAC company without much experience, you’re more likely to face issues such as malfunctioning thermostats, faulty wiring, or an unresponsive control panel. 

Santa Fe Air can help with your zoning needs

If you’re in the Kansas City or Johnson County areas, let our HVAC technicians at Santa Fe Air give you the best HVAC zoning system available. We ensure that everything is installed correctly the first time, so all you have to worry about is…well, nothing. 

Get a free quote