Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency with System Zoning and Smart Thermostats
Technology has come a long way from one wood-burning stove in the kitchen. While heating and cooling solutions in modern homes are varied and often technologically advanced, most homes still do not take advantage of the technology available to achieve maximum energy efficiency. HVAC Zoning Systems and Smart Thermostats are two ways to save money while heating and cooling your home.
Digital Zoning in Your Home Prevents Energy Waste
You’ve probably noticed that some rooms in your home stay cooler while others stay warmer. When you need to adjust the temperature of one room to maintain comfort, you wind up unevenly heating or cooling every room.
What is Digital Zoning?
A zoned system separates your main system into “zones” which can be heated or cooled independently of one another, allowing for better temperature control.
While in theory, a standard system maintains the entire home at one temperature, this is impossible, as the ambient temperature near the thermostat differs from the temperature of other rooms thanks to factors like drafts, sunny windows, and heat-creating appliances. This causes inefficiency in heating and in energy use.
Zoning is sometimes a confusing term, as people often use it to mean two different things:
- It can refer to one or more systems mechanically divided into zones with independent thermostats.
- It can mean having one non-divided system which uses multiple sensors and operates based on averages.
Typically, such a system operates using a complex network of dampers (for ductwork) or zone valves (for hydronic systems) plus zone control sensors, which send information on the room’s temperature to a main control panel which gives the signal to the dampers or valves to open or shut depending on whether the room needs heating or cooling.
Why do You Need a Zoned System?
Simply put, without a zoned system, you’re uncomfortable and your energy bill is higher than it has to be.
Regardless of energy-efficient windows and well-insulated walls, heat escapes to vaulted ceilings, basements stay cooler than the rest of your house, rooms with more sunlight hours get warmer, etc. Different people in your household sleep and work better at different temperatures. And why would you heat a guest room that has no guests? System zoning is the solution.
How Does Zoning Help Me Save Money?
Digital Zoning allows you to maintain a set temperature in each area of your home, depending on the room’s use and temperature-affecting variables, as well as personal preference.
With zoning, your heating and cooling systems use less energy. The energy that is used is being used efficiently. This can reduce your power bill, saving you hundreds every year.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All. You Have to Work With What You’ve Got:
The type of heating and cooling system you have is the main factor in what type of thermostat you can have and whether a zoning system, and what type, will work for you. Most homes will support a zoned system and smart thermostat, but it may take a consultation with your local heating and air professional to determine what’s right for your home.
Digital Zoning Your Home Is Not DIY-friendly
If your home is not already outfitted with a zoned system, you’ll want to call your local heating and air specialist to discuss the possibility of installation and get a quote.
Typically, installation of a zoned system runs between $2,000 and $4,000. It’s time-consuming and detailed work which usually involves cutting into walls to access and modify existing ductwork. The number of zones and system you choose will affect your quote. Your local HVAC technician will be able to discuss the process and options with you.
A Technician Will Help You Find the Right Fit
The nation’s leading heating and thermostat company, Honeywell, makes a range of residential and commercial zoning products including TrueZONE dampers to split your duct system into controllable zones, as well as the RedLINK line of wireless-enabled solutions which support wired systems and wireless thermostats with up to four zones. An HVAC specialist will be able to help you locate, purchase, and install these products.
There Is Another Option:
There is an option for home zoning from the Ecovent company. The Ecovent system works by adjusting vents in your existing duct system and uses sensors from multiple remotes to aggregate the data at a smart hub which controls the vents. This system provides a smartphone app from which you can view your entire system, is entirely wireless, keeps you from having to install wires, and works well with the Emerson Sensi thermostat (discussed below).
This highly advanced home comfort solution is only available from Ecovent; if you’re interested in their system, you’ll need to contact them directly.
So Your Home Is Zoned. Do You Have a Smart Thermostat Yet?
Smart thermostats are the best thing to happen to home energy efficiency, and they boast an impressive array of capabilities.
Smart Thermostats Offer a Wide Array of Useful Features
Some of the features found in recent smart thermostat models include:
- Presets for different days of the week
- Motion sensors to save energy when you’re away from home
- GPS or Bluetooth technology to activate the system when you’re close to home
- Smart-home systems integration
- Learning capabilities to detect energy use patterns and optimize efficiency
Most smart thermostats on the market will work in conjunction with a zoned system and offer a mobile app for you to control your system and monitor efficiency from your smartphone.
Save Up to 30% On Your Power Bill
The consensus is that smart thermostats will save you up to 30% of your current energy use due to their optimization features which allow you to customize your home’s energy use to avoid excess heating or cooling.
Smart Thermostat Cost and Setup
Purchasing a smart thermostat won’t set you back as far as you might think. It really depends on what features you’re looking for and what systems you’re working with. Functional models begin around $150.00 but may not be compatible with zoned systems, while top of the line models can run above $200.00 and require add-ons at an additional cost to outfit your digitally zoned system.
Installing a smart thermostat is usually a simple enough task for a DIY-er. Complications may arise if your smart thermostat calls for a common wire, or C-wire, to allow full functionality. Choosing a thermostat that doesn’t require a C-wire, or contracting an electrician will easily solve this problem. The simplest smart thermostat setup will take only about 30 minutes. You can plan on additional time for modifications and setup for additional zones.
The Best Smart Thermostats On the Market Now
Now that you’re aware of the benefits of home zoning and smart thermostats, you’ll be ready to shop for a smart thermostat to take advantage of the savings. Here are some of the top models:
Nest Learning Thermostat
- No C-wire required
- Compatible with most smart home systems
- Highly functional linked mobile app
The Nest Learning Thermostat is at the top of our list for good reason: Its capabilities are unmatched. It works with zoned and non-zoned systems, and is compatible with most heating and cooling systems (gas, electric, and forced air are OK; it does not work with electric radiators or underfloor systems).
To use Nest Learning Thermostat with a zoned system, you will need to purchase a nest thermostat and Heat Link, which connects with the zone valves, for each zone.
The top selling point for Nest is that it’s specially designed to monitor patterns in your home to automatically determine and set the most efficient functions. It also provides energy efficiency reports and alerts you to any issues it notices with your furnace or AC unit. Also, Nest Learning has an “airwave” feature which keeps your fan running after the compressor has shut off, cooling your home with “leftover” cool air to cut costs.
- Requires a C-wire
- Compatible with most smart home systems
- Highly functional linked mobile app
Built to rival Nest, and voted best overall by CNET, Ecobee 4 boasts impressive features such as motion activation, built-in Alexa speaker, and responsive touchscreen display – and it’s self-install friendly. While Ecobee does not give zone control without more than one thermostat, it does use wireless remote sensors to monitor temperature and movement in each zone to ensure inhabited rooms maintain the set temperature. Plus, if you don’t have a C-wire Ecobee offers a solution with their self-install Power Extender Kit.
- No C-wire required
- Alexa and Amazon Echo Compatible
- Functional Mobile App
The Emerson Sensi is said to have a great mobile app and Amazon Echo support. A cost-sensitive option, the Sensi offers the functionality you need to maintain energy efficiency, but lacks the automatic and intuitive features of its high-dollar competitors. This smart thermostat does offer seven-day scheduling, weather info, geofencing (to activate the system when it senses you’re close) and equipment status updates. While it doesn’t have sensors for digital zoning, it will save you money with its efficient presets, and it’s the top-rated thermostat for compatibility with the Amazon Echo.
Your Smart Thermostat Can Pay For Itself in As Little As a Year!
One of these systems will save you an average of 30% on your power bill. The average monthly residential power bill in Georgia is $123.00. Reduced by 30%, your new monthly bill is $86.00, saving you almost $450 per year – almost double the cost of the top-selling smart thermostat.
Even accounting for outfitting additional zones or a smaller percentage on savings, you’d still see your smart thermostat pay for itself within the first one to three years!
Knowing this, why wouldn’t you zone your home and install a smart thermostat? When you’re ready to learn more, call Sig Cox Heating and Air, Augusta’s most trusted HVAC service provider.