How to set up cooling zones in your home

Posted at 4:15 PM, Jul 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-04 16:15:07-04
All the rooms in your home are not created equal - some can stay warmer or cooler than others.
A zoning system - a combination of a zone panel, a thermostat and a series of dampers - can control the airflow to individual rooms and keep temperatures more even.
"Say you’re asking for cooling upstairs, the dampers for downstairs will close and block off the cold air to downstairs and the air conditioner will come on and all your air will go upstairs,” said John Mills, an HVAC professional. 
You can zone just about any existing HVAC system - an average, two-story home will run about $2,500-- but Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, said it’s more ideal to have it as part of the original construction.
"The optimal time for installing a zoning system is when the house is being built, so if you’re in the process of building, talk to your builder and see if it makes sense for your home,” Hicks said. 
Two zones, each with its own thermostat, are best for most homes. Contrary to many homeowners’ belief, more zones do not mean more efficiency nor huge monthly savings.
“Installing a zoning system isn’t going to make your home more efficient. You’re not going to see it on your utility bills, but what you will see is a much more comfortable temperature throughout your house,” Hicks said.
Some people will attempt their own zoning by closing registers in different rooms, but Mills says that can do more harm than good.
"We’ll see people close every register in the first floor to try to force more air upstairs, but that can make the air conditioner run too cold and freeze up," he said.
Experts say most homes could benefit from a zoning system, especially if it has vaulted ceilings, a room above a garage or a lot of large windows. They also recommend installing programmable thermostats with the systems to help maximize efficiency.

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