(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-5pm Eastern

HVAC Zoning Header

HVAC Zoning for Your Home

By Maria Saxton Rise Writer
Jul 6, 2021

First, let us start with the basics. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is the technology that provides thermal comfort and improved air quality to your home. HVAC is a crucial component of our built environment, especially in climates with extreme temperatures. The size and efficiency of HVAC units can significantly impact a building's environmental impact. 

Zoned HVAC Trane
Zoned HVAC. Photo Credit: Trane

What is HVAC Zoning?

A zoned HVAC system (referred to as an HVAC zoning system) creates custom areas (or zones) throughout a home that can heat and cool differently. 

HVAC zoning allows a homeowner to control the temperature in multiple home sections to accommodate varying needs. For example, a homeowner can keep the main areas of the home at a comfortable temperature year-round, and relatively unused rooms - like a guest suite - less conditioned. This approach improves the energy efficiency of one's home and can significantly reduce utility costs. 


How Does HVAC Zoning Work?

In the ductwork of your home, there are typically balancing dampers installed near your air conditioning unit, furnace, or heat pump. If they are not installed, this is a relatively low-cost addition to your home. These dampers can be used to both regulate and redirect air to certain parts of the house. A sensor sends temperature data to the overall system within each zone, and you can control each zone's temperature with a thermostat or smartphone app. 

Nest Zones Google
Nest Zones. Photo Credit: Google

What Homes Benefit Most From HVAC Zoning?

Virtually every home can benefit from HVAC zoning. In particular, homes with extremely hot or cold rooms can incorporate zones to increase thermal comfort without breaking the bank on utility costs. Likewise, a home in an extreme climate can save a lot of money on utilities with HVAC zoning.

In addition, large homes that have key rooms in separate parts of the house can benefit from the convenience of zoning. In an unzoned home, if your thermostat is in the living room and your bedroom is upstairs (and you have yet to invest in a smart thermostat), you'll have to walk downstairs if you want to adjust the overnight temperature in your bedroom. 

In terms of design, homes with large windows or high ceilings can significantly benefit from HVAC zoning. These spaces can heat up very quickly, and with a zoned house, you can cool just this part of the home instead of the entire home.

Honeywell Zone Control
Honeywell Zone Control. Photo Credit: Honeywell

Is HVAC Zoning Worth It?

While most homes do not have HVAC zones, we think they should! Think of your home's HVAC like your home's lights. In terms of energy efficiency, you wouldn't want to leave on all your lights in the house when you are just in the kitchen. Likewise, you don't need to heat and cool your entire home if you don't use each room regularly. 

It is straightforward to operate a zoned HVAC system. A smart thermostat can make this easy. Multiple applications allow you to adjust the temperature in each zone from your smartphone, even if you are not at home. 

HVAC zoning can be an excellent option for households that have individuals with different temperature preferences. Does your partner like much cooler temperatures than you? HVAC zoning might be worth considering for your home! 

EcoJay Smart Zoning
EcoJay. Photo Credit: Smart Zoning

How Much Energy Can HVAC Zoning Save?

Estimates vary based on the size of your home and level of insulation; however, the US Department of Energy estimates that zoned HVAC systems can save up to 35 percent in energy savings.

Home HVAC Zones NRCan
Home HVAC Zones. Photo Credit: NRCan

Can You Zone An Existing HVAC System?

The good news is that, yes, you can zone an existing HVAC system. However, not all existing HVAC systems are as easy to zone as others. According to experts, the ideal existing HVAC systems are two-stage or variable-capacity systems. 

Suppose you are thinking about zoning your existing HVAC system. In that case, we recommend speaking with a professional who can inspect your current system and provide you with recommendations on the most cost-effective and energy-efficient zoning system. We recommend thinking about how you use your home and what spaces you would like to group. For example, if you spend a lot of time in your living room and bedroom but not much time in your home gym or guest bedroom, you may consider grouping these rooms accordingly. 

How Many Zones Can an HVAC System Have?

Most homes have two to four zones, although you can implement as many as you wish. Some options, like Mitsubishi's Zoned Comfort Solution, are designed for up to eight zones.  

How Much Does It Cost To Install Multi-Zone HVAC?

The cost of a zoned HVAC system can depend on multiple variables, including the state of the existing HVAC unit, the size of the home, and the number of zones preferred. For the zoning equipment and installation labor, it could cost between two and four thousand dollars. Each additional zone in an existing home typically costs $335 to $500 per zone, in addition to the labor and materials. 

It is important to note that for new construction homes, HVAC zoning is less expensive upfront. If you need to replace your existing HVAC equipment, it will be more expensive. 

Despite the upfront costs associated with a zoned HVAC system, the good news is that it can pay for itself in a matter of years with its energy savings. And the more extreme the climate is where you live, the quicker it will pay for itself. 

Photo Credit: PickHVAC

More Resources On HVAC Zoning

While we hope we have answered many of your questions on HVAC zoning, there is an abundance of valuable information out there! We wanted to share some additional resources with our readers if you would like a deeper understanding of HVAC, zoning, and the energy impacts associated with each. 

  • Zonefirst's Zoning Design and Application guide
  • United States Department of Energy's report, titled Energy Savings Potential and RD&D Opportunities for Commercial Building HVAC Systems
  • PickHVAC's Cooling and Heating guide, which provides a cost breakdown for associated costs of HVAC zoning 
  • HVAC Zoning 101: This video provides a deep dive into the technical aspects of HVAC zoning. 
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-21T15:55:38+0000
Maria Saxton

Article by:

Maria Saxton

Located in Roanoke, Virginia, Maria Saxton holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning from Virginia Tech. She works as an Environmental Planner and Housing Researcher for a local firm specializing in Community Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation. Her dissertation explored the environmental impacts of small-scale homes. She serves as a volunteer board member for the Tiny Home Industry Association.