Any home with heating or cooling has a zoning system. Some homes have one zone, meaning there’s one thermostat on the main floor and it cools or heats the home to the specific temperature at that thermostat. Rooms on other floors may get much cooler or hotter as temperatures between a home’s main and second or third levels can vary.
Some homes, especially newer ones, are set up with different zones for each level of the home. The main level has one, and the upstairs has other zones. If you have a three-level home, you could have three zones.
The Benefits of Multiple Zones
When you have a multi-level home in southern Florida, zones are essential to keeping all areas of your home cool and comfortable. If you don’t have more than one zone, you can open and close dampers to force more of the cooler air to one area than another, but that takes trial and error.
It’s better to figure out how many zones you need and look into adding them.
Suppose you have a two-level home and one thermostat. Say your living room is the area where your main floor thermostat is located. It uses the air in that room to determine when it’s time to turn on the AC and keep the temperature at your chosen setting. If you want it to be 72ºF, the AC will run to ensure the living room thermostat is at the right temperature.
Meanwhile, all of your bedrooms have windows facing west, so the late afternoon sun warms those rooms up faster than the living room that’s positioned in the eastern portion of the house. When you’re ready for bed, those rooms are warmer than 72ºF and not comfortable for sleeping.
With different zones, the AC would control each zone to ensure your bedrooms are at the right temperature. This can also be helpful if you set the AC to 78ºF when you go to work to help lower energy consumption. But, someone in your home works another shift and wants upstairs bedrooms to still be cool while that person sleeps.
As your system isn’t working as hard to cool certain zones, it can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your central AC. Keep your system maintained and you might find it lasts longer than you expected.
The Two Types of Zoning Systems
HVAC zoning systems come in two types.
Centralized zoning systems have one or more zones connected to thermostats within your home. The setting on the thermostat determines how cold or warm your rooms are. Centralized systems that have multiple zones make it easier to save money. You can set the zone you’re currently using to be cooler than a zone you won’t be in for several hours.
The wall-mounted thermostat pays attention to the ambient temperature in the room and tells the AC system when it’s getting too warm. This signal triggers the AC system to turn on. When the room temperature is correct again, the system shuts off.
When you have multiple zones, you can have the guest rooms in your home set to a higher temperature when no one is using them. If you only have guests a few times a year, you can keep those rooms a lot warmer for the bulk of the year, which will save a lot of money.
Ductless zoning systems are quiet and incredibly efficient as air cannot leak. These are the wall-mounted systems you find where there’s an outdoor compressor and wall unit connected by a hole drilled in the wall. Set the temperature on the wall-mounted unit and it keeps the temperature regulated that way.
These systems can be more expensive, but you might find rebates to help reduce the cost. They also need plenty of maintenance to prevent breakdowns. If your home has rooms that aren’t air conditioned by your central system, such as an addition to your home, ductless systems can save the day.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Zoning System
What should you be thinking about when you choose a zoning system? There are five key factors.
Your Square Footage
The square footage in your home does impact the number of zones you need. You might have four zones for a larger two-level home. It’s possible to have different zones for each bedroom to ensure bedrooms are cool enough for the person sleeping in that room.
Your Home’s Layout
A home with an open layout is going to cool differently than a home with multiple rooms and doors that you can close. The height of your ceilings also impacts how quickly and effectively your home will cool. Multiple zones may not be practical in every home.
Your Existing System
What do you currently have in your home? If it’s currently a single zone, the ductwork is not necessarily sized for multiple zones, they would have to be updated to account for the change. Your AC system also needs to be equipped with two-stage or modulating HVAC equipment. If it isn’t, you’d have to completely upgrade your system, too.
Where you live is another factor. You have to make sure any changes are up to code. This is why you need to work with a professional AC installer. In January 2023, new AC systems are required to meet SEER2 efficiency standards. In Florida, systems must meet the 14..3 SEER2 requirements for systems below 45,000 Btu and 13.8 SEER2 for systems 45,000 Btu or greater.
How insulated is your home? Florida attics get hot. If you set up a second zone upstairs and lose cool air through an uninsulated attic, it’s going to waste energy. You’d need to add insulation.
In the end, your budget is a deciding factor. Adding zones isn’t an affordable project for everyone. Some equipment is needed, such as a zone board, extra thermostats, and air temperature sensors that open and close the dampers as necessary. You have the labor costs for these additions and any changes to your electricals.
How Much Does It Cost to Add Zones?
How much will it cost to add a new zone? It varies and depends on your home’s layout, existing system, square footage, and the number of desired zones. The national average is around $3,100, but it can be far more affordable with the low-end being around $1,500. Work with a southern Florida AC expert to get an exact quote.
You know your system’s old. Should you do the zones or the new AC system first? It is best to have new zones installed at the same time you’re adding a new HVAC system. You’ll ensure that the AC system that’s installed is able to support your desired number of zones. If you know it’s time for a new central AC system, ask the installer about new zones at the same time.
New zones help with energy efficiency and comfort. All Year Cooling is Miami’s AC repair and installation specialist. We’ll help you choose the best new AC system and determine how many zones you should have. Schedule a free consultation with our AC experts to learn more about zoning systems.