Angie's List: Creating comfort zones in your home

Air conditioning zones can keep some rooms cooler than others

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Imagine a home where all lights are tied to one switch, so if you turn on one, they all come on. Well that’s how most homes are heated and cooled – with one thermostat. Adding zones to your HVAC system can change that.

Some rooms in your home stay warmer or cooler than others. A zoning system – the combination of a zone panel, thermostats and a series of dampers – can 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,” says John Mills of Appel Heating and Air.

Zoning an average two-story home costs around $2,500.

“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,” Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks says.

Two zones with their own thermostat works best for most homes. Having more zones doesn’t mean greater efficiency or savings.

“Installing a zoning system isn’t going to make your home more efficient,” Angie says. “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.”

Some people try to zone by closing registers in different rooms, but experts say 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,” Mills says.

Angie says most homes benefit from zoning, especially those with vaulted ceilings, a room above the garage or many large windows. She also recommends programmable thermostats for maximum efficiency.

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