The logistics of heating your home probably aren’t something you think about very often. You simply set the thermostat where you want it, wait until the house reaches a comfortable temperature, and forget about it. That is, until you see your energy bill.
While you may not spend a lot of time considering the ins and outs of home heating, the fact is that it’s a fairly complex process, and there are many factors that affect the overall energy efficiency of a building. It’s this energy efficiency—or lack thereof—that can make or break your yearly budget. As you might expect, the larger a home is and the more rooms it has, the more difficult it is to heat efficiently. This is especially true of homes with two or more stories.
One relatively simple way to improve the energy efficiency of multi-story homes is to get separate thermostats for upstairs and downstairs, which are known as dual-zone thermostats.
The Thermostat: HVAC’s Unsung Hero
The thermostat is one of the smallest components of your HVAC system, but it’s also one of the most crucial. It’s the part that allows you to interface with your home heating system, setting the temperature to where you want it. It’s the thermostat that tells your heater when to cycle on and when to shut off. It may only be a small electrical gadget, but the thermostat is your HVAC system’s unsung hero: much of the home’s overall energy efficiency depends on it.
There are several types of thermostats that may be employed in your home. Nowadays, most houses have electronic thermostats. These computerized systems can detect the temperature of a room using sensors. When the temperature drops below your preferred setting, the thermostat communicates to your HVAC system that it’s time to start generating more heat.
Some houses still utilize a more analog method of regulating temperature, but they are no less effective: by utilizing mercury, the method used by old-fashioned thermometers, they detect temperature changes and can then signal to your heating system to turn on or off.
Important though they may be, thermostats are not without their drawbacks. Primarily, the fact that whatever method they use to detect the temperature can only detect a given room or area, not the entire home. This means that if there are other parts of the home that are far removed from where the temperature controls are—often due to being higher up, as in a second story—they will not heat as evenly, and this can ultimately lead to increased energy costs.
What Is a Dual-Zone Thermostat?
Achieving the proper comfort level in a multi-story home has historically been difficult, to say the least. Even an advanced modern HVAC system is no match for the laws of physics. The reality is that warm air will always want to rise, and it will take the path of least resistance when cycling through a home. This means that when you achieve your desired temperature upstairs, it may leave the downstairs area freezing, or vice versa. Or you may get your living room the way you want it, but only at the cost of a dramatic increase in your energy bill.
Dual-zone thermostats go a long way toward circumventing this common problem. You’ll begin by contacting an HVAC professional from a trusted company like Entek. One of the services offered by HVAC companies is to divide your home into multiple zones, which can be heated and cooled separately as needed.
A traditional thermostat works by cycling your HVAC system on and off, depending on the need. A dual-zone thermostat does this as well, but it also controls the flow of air into the different zones of the home. This means that, rather than setting the temperature and hoping for the best, you can actually control how much heating a given area receives.
The flow of air is controlled by mechanical elements called dampers, which can close off or open up a vent as needed. If an area needs more heated air, it will be allowed in. If it needs less, that area can be blocked off.
Of course, this also requires the use of multiple thermometers or sensors in different zones. This is why you have separate thermostats for upstairs and downstairs. These thermostats can detect the different temperatures in different areas and adjust the heating accordingly.
The Benefits of Dual-Zone Heating
The United States Department of Energy has a lot to say on the subject of thermostats since they make such an important contribution to the overall energy efficiency of a building. The largest benefit of dual-zone heating is in increasing this efficiency. Rather than spend a lot of money forcing your furnace to generate energy that won’t be used, you can simply shut off the flow of heated air to an area that isn’t currently being occupied. In doing so, you’ll find yourself burning less fuel every year, resulting in significant savings on your energy bill. There’s also the environmental benefit: less fossil fuel being burned for heat means fewer harmful pollutants entering the atmosphere.
There are other major benefits to utilizing dual-zoned heating too. Have you ever argued with another member of the household about what temperature the thermostat should be set to? With dua-zone heating, this is no longer an issue. You can set the thermostat in your room to your preferred temperature, and other family members can set their thermostats where they wish.
Dual-zone heating also has a benefit for your HVAC system itself. By reducing the amount of overall energy used, the system doesn’t have to work as hard. Burning less fuel and circulating less heated air means your HVAC system will wear out more slowly. Essentially, by installing dual-zone heating you are increasing the lifespan of your HVAC system.
If your home is multiple stories and you’d like to discuss dual-zone heating and installing separate thermostats for upstairs and downstairs, contact HVAC experts like Entek. They’ll consider your needs and the layout of your home and provide an estimate for the best system for you.