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HVAC Zone Controls & Zoning Dampers

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Ashrae 62-2 Ventilation (Fresh Air) sizing & calculation

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Many homes these days have such tight seals around doors, windows, and even closed-cell foam insulation... they are almost air-tight.  You can think of an old house like an antique metal or wooden ice box where modern homes are more like Yeti coolers.  While this is great for keeping temperatures steady inside the home, it also can trap moisture and toxic gases inside.  Fresh air ventilation is necessary to keep a healthy and efficient home.

But how much fresh air is needed?  If you bring in too much, you will make your HVAC equipment work too hard and loose efficiency.  If not enough fresh air is brought into the home, the air can become humid and allow mold growth or VOCs and other toxins can build up.  Luckily, the national organization ASHRAE has a specific recommendation for the amount of air based on occupancy and square footage of the home.  See table below.

However, this table should not be taken as gospel.  Just like other HVAC calculations and estimations, many factors are not really being taken into account with this rough estimate based on # of bedrooms (occupancy) and square footage.  Some adjustments may be needed based on factors such as climate, ceiling height, other air-leakage, etc.  To comply with 62-2 is the baseline & adjustments can be made in the field by setting run-time.

Learn more about how SmartZone-4X can control fresh air more efficiently than a separate fresh-air controller in the Install Guide

Zoning for comfort and / or economy... basics of HVAC Zoning

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We have explained in other posts on ZoningSupply.com, when it comes to HVAC zoning, each application must be evaluated individually.  Situations vary widely from building to building, but, in all cases HVAC Zone Control puts the user (homeowner, building manager, etc) in control of comfort.

Let's rewind, what is zoning?  Homes and buildings that have "central" heating and air conditioning typically have 1 thermostat that controls the whole house temperature.  With zoning, multiple thermostats can be placed throughout the house to better control temperature throughout.  SmartZone connects to all of the thermostats & automatically controls dampers (air valves) installed in the air ducts.  These air ducts direct air from the heating & cooling equipment to the different areas or "zones" of the home/building.  The dampers allow SmartZone to direct air only where needed.

Once a SmartZone has been installed, you will have the ability to set each of the zone thermostats to whatever temperature or settings you desire.  SmartZone will, within reason, keep each zone at the correct temperature by running the equipment and directing hot or cold air into the zones only when necessary.  This achieves the purpose of comfort control to manage hot or cold areas of your home. 

As for energy savings, if some of the zones are rarely used and can stay off for a sufficient amount of time, the equipment will run for a shorter time to heat or cool the rest of the building.  This and other applications that allow the user to turn off or set-back one or more of the zones can, in some cases, result in energy savings.  Some sources have published % energy savings possible with zoning, however, this is too arbitrary to have any real meaning.  Like stated at the beginning, every application is different & the real possibility of energy savings is in the hands of the user and how the thermostats are set. 

Zoning is an amazing solution to comfort issues and gives the user ultimate control over comfort throughout the home or building.  However, zone control is NOT a magic bullet for energy savings.  HVAC Zoning only puts more control in the hands of the user & it is ultimately the thermostats and how they are set that determines potential energy savings.

Use Wifi thermostats with SmartZone for ultimate control over comfort and energy use.

Use Wifi thermostats with SmartZone for ultimate control over comfort and energy use.

The reality is that in a normal home with one thermostat, the only way to get more "comfort" is to spend more energy (ie run the AC or heat).  With zoning, you can stay more comfortable in some areas while reducing run-time by not heating/cooling other areas.

SmartZone is the best hvac zone control for upgrades or new-installs.  Order today and install yourself of call any HVAC contractor in your area for installation.

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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What type of damper is best Spring or Power?

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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

Spring Zone Damper
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