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HVAC Zone Controls & Zoning Dampers

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Fact or Myth? #HVAC #Zonecontrol can save energy

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SmartZone zone control

First of all, if you are not familiar with HVAC Zoning (Zone control) for your home you can click here and learn more about how it works.

Sometimes, zoning is pitched as a device that can be added to your current HVAC system that will "save you energy" because you are able to turn "off" heating and cooling to areas that are not being used.  Sounds good, right?  Well...there a "but."  This as actually a highly debated or more aptly put... highly contested claim among HVAC professionals.

The simple fact is that it isn't a simple answer but the simplest version is:  HVAC Zoning CAN save energy in some applications.

Not all applications of zoning are intended to save energy, some are set up to optimize comfort.  In these situations, energy savings may not the top priority but it can still be set up to help save energy when the comfort is not in demand.

Zoning puts the control in the hands of the user (homeowner) via the thermostats.  These thermostats can be set to optimize energy savings or comfort... or, most likely, somewhere in between.

Some believe the primary purpose of zoning is comfort & I would agree, but, SmartZone can be used in some applications to save energy by reducing necessary run-time.

As far as I have found there have been very few and NO independent studies on the energy savings capabilities of hvac zone control but I have personally been in the industry for 14 years and I believe I know why.  Every test I have seen is try to prove some % of energy savings and yet there is a flaw with even the question that is being asked.  The problem with this question is that it is looking for an automatic percentage saving when zoning is installed.  I think this gets to the heart of why the professionals that dispute zone control's ability to "save energy" do so. 

This is an IMPORTANT NOTE:  HVAC Zone Control by itself will NOT save energy.  However, it CAN be used to save energy.

A proper study to prove that zone control CAN save energy would be straight-forward.   Two identical houses with identical hvac systems, one with a 2 zone system & the other with a single thermostat.  On the house with zoning, set one thermostat to OFF 12 hours per day and the other thermostat to run a normal 24hr / 7 day schedule.  The thermostat schedule should be the same as the 24hr / 7 day schedule in the house with only one thermostat.  This study would show that zoning can save energy if used in certain ways.

SmartZone has been around since 2004 and we have over 200,000 installed in the field.  We have seen direct feedback that empirically shows energy savings, not just in isolated cases but in extremely high volume.  First hand, real-world experience shows that it can be done, but it also shows that in cases where comfort is the priority... energy savings isn't a guarantee with zone control.

Check out SmartZone at ZoningSupply.com

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Spring is HVAC maintenance season... think about Zone Control.

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With warmer weather approaching, upstairs or certain areas of your home can become uncomfortably warm without SmartZone. HVAC zone control can make the entire home more comfortable in the hottest Summer months. 

Most homes with a single thermostat have some issues with keeping everyone, everywhere in the house comfortable.  With SmartZone, thermostats are places throughout the home to achieve comfort everywhere... and if you choose to turn off some of the areas (zones), you can even save energy.  Most importantly, however, SmartZone can make your home more comfortable than it is now.  See the slides below for how it works.

How it works...

  1. SmartZone is connected to several Thermostats placed in "zones" throughout the home or building.
  2. SmartZone is connected to the Air Conditioning (AC) and Heating equipment.
  3. Dampers (air valves) are installed in the existing ducts that connect to room vents in the "zones."
  4. SmartZone controls the AC & Heating equipment AND opens/closes dampers to control air to the zones based on the thermostats.

There is obviously a lot more to HVAC Zone control than the above bullet points.  Bypass & static pressure, duct sizing & damper leakage, thermostat & equipment types, equipment modes & changeover, compressor staging, emergency & auxiliary heat... and much more.  The good news is that SmartZone takes the guess work out of the potential complications of zoning.  Check out more about why SmartZone is the best choice here.

2016 : QUESTIONS & ANSWERS about SmartZone - D

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Photo by perrygerenday/iStock / Getty Images

Do the wires from the condenser-outside and the system board on the air handler connect to the terminal labeled Equipment on your install sheet ? 

Assuming you are installing zoning for the first time, the wires connecting to the equipment connector on SmartZone are the same wires that connected to the single thermostat you used to control your equipment before installing SmartZone.  The terminal labels from your thermostat should be the same or similar to those on the equipment terminal.  If you see only a Y and W terminal on the thermostat then the wires from those thermostat terminals will go to Y1 and W1 respectively on the SmartZone equipment terminal.  Your hvac equipment controls will be powered by a 24VAC transformer that should be connected to the C and Rh (or you can use the Rc instead of Rh terminal because the two are jumpered together) on the SmartZone equipment connector.  Typically the wires connecting to the SmartZone equipment terminal will come from your hvac equipment control board located in the blower cabinet.  In some installations, the Y wire is typically yellow colored  (or Y1 and Y2 if you have a multispeed system) may come from the outdoor condensing unit.   If you have a heat pump you should also have a wire (typically orange) in the W2/OB equipment terminal on SmartZone.

What is the O/B dip switch and what does O-B do?

The dip switch for O or B determines the way the refrigerant reversing valve works for cooling and heating mode.  The setting you use will be determined by the hvac equipment brand you have.   O will energize the reversing valve during the cooling mode and B will energize the reversing valve during heating.  Typically Rheem/RUUD equipment will require the dip switch to be set to B and all other brands will use O, however, check with the equipment manufacturer to be sure.

Feel free to contact our technical support line at 844-966-3123 if you need additional information or assistance. We appreciate your interest in our line of Ecojay SmartZone control products. Thanks for contacting us with your questions.


CUSTOMER EMAIL: I have a 10 year old Honeywell EMM-3 zone controller. I turned the heater on this year and nothing....The system led on the emm-3 was off, I hit the boot button and the led came on and the heater started to run but a couple of minutes later the led went off and the heater stopped.  Did this twice. Am I correct in assuming its the emm-3 that's bad?  If so I would like to replace it with one of your Ecojay zone controllers.  I have a two zone system installed around 2006.  Will your system work with the existing other components...from what I've read I assume yes.

ANSWER:   Based on the information you provided it would seem likely your EMM-3 zone controller has bit the dust.  You should check to make sure the R and C wires at theZONE PANEL TRANSFORMER connector at the bottom right corner of the zone board are securely tightened to ensure the transformer power connection wires are not loose and causing intermittent power loss.  Ecojay's ZS2X-2.0 and ZS2L-T are compatible replacements for your EMM-3. If your dampers work properly with the EMM-3 they should work the same way with Ecojay zone controls.  Same goes for your thermostats.  (Must have a COMMON wire)

 


What is the difference between the 2X and the 2L (SmartZone Lite)?

 

The 2X and 2L-T are the same functionally speaking. They are both multi-stage compatible (up to 2 cool/3 heat stages) for conventional gas/electric, heat pump and heat pump with dual fuel hvac equipment.  Both display supply air temperature, each zone's thermostat call and damper open/close states and equipment operating mode. The most significant difference is the 2X has more granularity for adjusting equipment high/low temperature limit equipment protection settings. The 2X limit settings can be adjusted in 1 degree increments and the 2L-T gives you the option of 2 fixed low and high limit temperature settings. The 2X includes a supply air temperature sensor in the box whereas the 2L can be ordered with (ZS2L-T) or without (ZS2L) a sensor. We strongly encourage ordering a supply air temperature sensor with the 2L. Do not use the sensor from your existing EMM-3.  Beyond those differences, the ZS2L-T is at a lower price point. Both zone controllers, as do all Ecojay products we offer, include a 5 year replacement warranty.


CUSTOMER EMAIL: I recently purchased and installed several of your 3 wire zone dampers using an existing control system. During the process I released the clutch and opened and closed the dampers several times for temporary operation.  Do I need to go thru a setup process?  Can the actuator figure out the damper position?

ANSWER: The actuators will "reset" themselves back to correct open and closed positions the next time they are powered by the SmartZone panel.  There is no need to adjust or configure the dampers after the clutch has been pressed and damper blade rotated.  If, however, the "u" bolt that holds the shaft is loosened then the damper blade should be oriented is in the same position as the motor (open or closed) when it is re-tightened.


Question: What would be the best settings for a Carrier 5 Ton Geothermal Unit with 3/2 Heat Cool?  Would you set all zones to HP or (Zone 1 to H2) and (Zone 2&3 to HP) and set the Ecobee zone 1 to have some or all control?

I am a little confused by this... Thanks!

ANSWER: Since the zone controller, by default, controls staging for the entire system and knows what all zone are doing you don't need to use the Ecobee on zone 1 to control staging unless you have a particular situation or preference to use it that way.  Your equipment will normally operate more efficiently under most circumstances which should translate to lower utility costs if you allow SmartZone to handle staging.

The most common practice we see with heat pump equipment using SmartZone is to use a HP thermostats on all zones.  This tends to be the least confusing way of operating the system.  One not is that you can ONLY control Em. Heat from ZONE 1.  For this reason, some people choose to use a GE stat on zones 2 - 4 to eliminates the confusion about where emergency heat can be manually controlled.  Since, most thermostats can be configured for both HP or GE operation so it is your preference. The critical step is that you set the STAT TYPE on SmartZone to the type of thermostat installed on each zone.  See INSTALL GUIDE


EMAIL QUESTION:  I have a 2 zone forced air (gas) heat/cooling system controlled via a DuroZone SWZ-SW zone controller and paired with DuroZone Multiline dampers (4) total. Current thermostats are White-Rodgers. I want to replace the current thermostats with a pair of Nest thermostats. Apparently the existing zone controller is not compatible due to the reliance on both O and B wires to tell the zone controller what mode the system is in (heat or cool). I stumbled on to this site and the recommended zone controller. Would the SmartZone 2x work in this case? If so are there any guides on installation that would make this easy to accomplish?

ANSWER: SmartZone control products are compatible with the Nest thermostat and all 24VAC hvac equipment including gas/electric, heat pumps and heat pumps with dual fuel.. You can follow the link below to view the SmartZone Installation manual on the Zoning Supply website. Please contact us by phone at 844-966-3123 or email with any questions about SmartZone installation, operation or zoning in general.

http://zoningsupply.com/smartzone-guide/
HERE IS HOW TO WIRE THE DAMPERS: http://zoningsupply.com/blog/smartzone-can-be-used-with-any-24v-damper


QUESTION: I have a Lennox variable speed modulating furnace. Will your system work with my furnace?

ANSWER: If your controls are 24VAC (most residential hvac systems are) the furnace should work with our SmartZone controls.  If you are not sure if you have 24VAC controls, remove your thermostat from the wall and look for wiring terminals labeled W, W1 or W2. These are the circuits that control the furnace for 24VAC systems. If you have any of these terminals on your thermostat and have wires connected to any of them your furnace is compatible with SmartZone. 

QUESTION: Can more then one damper be wired to one damper output? Have 3 zones that have 2 supply ducts each.

ANSWER: You can connect 4 spring dampers and 10 power dampers to each damper connector so you will easily be OK.  For 3 zones you will need the SmartZone ZS4X four zone controller.

Honeywell TrueZone ARD Dampers wiring to SmartZone

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The latest form Honeywell ARD dampers is a nice looking product and works nicely with ecojay SmartZone.  Wire as shown below.  Other damper wiring at www.zoningsupply.com/blog


SmartZone-4X
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SmartZone has the simplest setup and best features of any zone control. Find out more about SmartZone and why it's the smart choice: www.zoningsupply.com/buy-smartzone/

Damper Wiring: Yet another 5-terminal damper style wired to SmartZone

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We confirmed today, thanks to a helpful customer, how another DuroZone damper wires using 3 wires (even though it has 5 terminals).

If your damper motors look like the one shown, wire to SmartZone as shown.

If your motors looks different than this, see our other posts about damper wiring:
4-Terminal and 8-Terminal Damper Wiring

If the motors you have are not compatible with SmartZone, you still don't have to replace the whole damper.  You can replace just the motor (actuator) on just about any standard residential damper with the SmartZone / Belimo motor.

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Zoned climate control in your car… why not your home?

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dual climate control

For many years, lots of car manufacturers have been putting separate passenger/driver/rear climate controls in cars.  In such a small space, this could be seen a “silly” feature because the passenger & driver are in very close quarters.  In most homes, however, heating and air conditioning systems still tend to have only ONE climate zone (one thermostat).  Dual or multiple climate zones for a home makes much more since than in a car but is not nearly as often implemented.  With SmartZone most existing heating & air conditioning equipment can be upgraded to have multiple climate controls (thermostats) in different areas.  You could have a thermostat in the kitchen, bedroom and living room… comfort everywhere.  Additionally, with SmartZone, areas that are not being used can be turned OFF to save energy.  All the parts you need shipped for free from ZoningSupply.com Zoning experts standing by to answer any questions you have or help with system design.

multiple climate control in home smartzone

Light switches don’t save energy… turning the light switch OFF saves energy

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Zoning Return on Investment – Payback?

There is no short answer to this question with Zone Control.  Energy CAN be saved with zoning but it is also capable of increasing the comfort of a home.  Because of this, a zoning system can both save and cost energy depending on how the homeowner uses it.  User habits of operating the system primarily determine how much energy will be used or saved.

What type of damper is best Spring or Power?

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smartzone damper sizes.png
smartzone 8 inch spring damper.png

Damper Type Selection

There are two basic types of dampers available in mass today.  Although, there are other damper types such a “balloon” type and pneumatic controlled dampers (used more commonly on DDC systems not included), for this context we will discuss these two main types of dampers:

  • Spring Open or Close (Spring Damper)
  • Power Open & Power Close (Power Damper)

Power Dampers

Power Open /Power Close dampers use three wires to either power open or power close.   They zone panel is responsible for supplying a 24VAC signal to either the PO (Power Open) or PC (Power Closed) terminal of these dampers.  This type of damper was traditionally reserved for “higher-end” or commercial applications because of the cost.  In recent years, however, motor prices have decreased and power dampers have become much more affordable (often no more expensive than the spring equivalent especially when labor and reliability are factored in.)  Primary advantages of Power Dampers include lower power consumption, quiet operation and more reliable parts.  Given the choice, Power Dampers, are almost always preferable.  The only exception to this is when code requires Spring Dampers.

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Spring Dampers

The way Spring Dampers work is they have a motor that, when energized by the zoning panel, it closes the damper.  When the damper is ready to open, the motor stops powering the damper closed and a spring opens the damper blade back up.  Spring Dampers have been used in an “economy” application for many years.  The two primary advantages of a Spring Damper are: 1. If the system loses power they “fail” open… but if the system loses power, the equipment isn’t going to be running either and therefore will not matter in MOST cases.  2. They only require two wires for operation.  One of the negative arguments against Spring Dampers has historically been reliability.  This mostly a result of one of its benefits… the cost.  The inherent lifecycle of any spring actuated mechanism (even if it is in the millions) is less reliable than a system that doesn’t include this potential failure point.   In addition to this, the motor that is used has to be a very specific model that allows for running backwards without damage yet still has to be powerful enough to overcome the spring trying to pull the blade in the opposite direction.  This leads to probably the BIGGEST downfall of using a Spring Damper - the power consumption.  Most Spring Dampers on the market use 3 to 4 times the power of the equivalent Power Damper (10-12 VA vs. 2-3VA).  This could be the difference in using a standard sized transformer and having to go to a very large (and expensive) over-sized transformer.   In summary: spring dampers are NOT recommended unless absolutely necessary for some reason.

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BEST Spring Open Dampers Now Availble

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ZoningSupply is now offering the BEST quality Spring-Open damper available.  If you have had any experience with SPRING type dampers you already know that they have been known to have a lower reliability than SUPER-DUTY power dampers.  However, the Spring dampers that we are offering have been designed with precision and heavy-duty parts.... they are NOT the typical low-cost damper available from other companies.  If you are not sure that this is the best spring-damper you have every used, send it back and we will refund your purchase price.

  • MADE IN THE USA
  • ALL-METAL GEAR MOTOR
  • FULLL-SEAL GASKET
  • CAPTURED SHAFT (Prevents blade "sticking")
  • 5 YEAR Replacement Guarantee

REPLACES:
Honeywell ARD
EWC RSD
ZoneFirst RDS
DuraZone NSPRD
Braeburn 129 ***
AprilAire AVD 66**
& MANY MORE... ANY 24VAC 2-Wire Damper can be replaced with the ECOJAY SmartZone DSUS.

Also available SUPER DUTY POWER DAMPER

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