Sensible Home: Automatic zone-control system helps keep home comfy

Q. Some rooms in our house are too hot or too cold, and someone is always complaining. What can we do to even out the room temperatures to keep everyone happy? Will doing this lower our utility bills?

A. There probably is not one house in the entire country that has even temperatures throughout all the rooms. There are many factors, such as the length of the duct and any bends, the home’s orientation to the sun, the number of windows and exterior walls, etc., that impact room air temperature.

Actually, it is not desirable to have all the rooms the same temperature. Depending upon the activity level in the room, a wide range of temperatures may be comfortable. Also, some people just like it warmer or cooler.

The simplest method to control temperatures in various rooms is to adjust the dampers in the furnace ducts leading to the rooms. Somewhere near the furnace, find a small handle on the side of each duct. When the handle is parallel to the duct, the damper is typically open.

During the winter, partially close the damper in the ducts leading to rooms that are too warm, and make sure the other ones are fully opened. You may find you must close the dampers almost completely to affect the room temperature. Wait several hours for the room temperature to stabilize between adjustments.

Mark the damper handle locations on the ducts with a “W” for winter. During summer, the damper adjustments will have to be changed. For example, a room that gets a lot of sun during the winter may need less warm air to be comfortable. During the summer, that room will be too hot and will need extra cooled air.

Installing an automatic zone-control system is the best and most energy-efficient method for controlling individual room temperatures. Instead of manually adjusting the duct dampers, a zone-control system adjusts special dampers based on the actual room temperatures and what you desire.

Many houses have access to several main ducts, which later branch out to individual rooms. In this case, the zone-control system will control the temperatures in each room grouping, such as all the bedrooms.

A programmable thermostat is mounted in each room to control the motorized duct damper leading to it. If the room is too warm during the winter, the damper partially closes. For example, a thermostat may continuously readjust the damper as the intensity of the sun through a window changes throughout the day.

The majority of the energy savings is realized because each room temperature can be varied throughout the day. There is no need to keep the bedrooms toasty warm during the daytime or the living room warm overnight. A cooler room loses less heat through the walls, so the furnace runs less.

The following companies offer zoning systems: Aprilaire, 800-334-6011, www.aprilaire.com; Arzel Zoning Technology, 800-611-8312, www.arzel.com; Durodyne, 800-899-3876, www.durodyne.com; EWC Controls, 800-446-3110, www.ewccontrols.com; and Zonex Systems, 800-228-2966, www.zonexsystems.com.

 

Send inquiries to James Dulley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.