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HOME IMPROVEMENT : Creating Temperature Zones

April 03, 1993|From Associated Press

Some people aren't as cool as others. The opposite is true, too: One person might be hot, while another reaches for a sweater. It's rare when everyone in a household agrees on the optimal air temperature. Many people even like to vary temperatures from room to room. Unfortunately, most homes have a single thermostat to control the heating and cooling for the entire house.

What to do? Install electronic zoning, an advanced heating and cooling system allowing independent control of temperatures in each room or group of rooms. Though the concept has been used in commercial buildings for many years, affordable equipment (usually about $2,000 more than standard equipment) for homeowners has only recently reached the market.

The idea is simple. A thermostat or temperature sensor is installed in each zone, along with motorized dampers in the air ducts serving these zones. Activated by the thermostat, a duct's dampers open to allow heated or cooled air into a zone. When the temperature reaches a preset level, the dampers close. Each zone can be temperature tailored to fit you.

These systems are a practical solution in homes of more than 3,500 square feet, where maximum comfort has often required installation of two heaters and two air conditioners.

A typical two-story house might have four zones: the living room and dining room; kitchen and family room; upstairs master bedroom suite and additional upstairs bedrooms.

Though electronic zoning is usually installed in new construction, it can be fitted to an existing house. Cost will be determined by how difficult it is for installers to gain access to a home's duct system.

Other advantages:

* Effective zoning can save as much as 30% in fuel costs by heating or cooling only those zones that need it.

* Some utility companies offer rebates for installing a zoning system.

* More efficient use means longer life for heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment.

* Larger homes may not require expensive tandem furnaces and air conditioners.

* Thermostats can be programmed to cool or heat at those times of the day when rooms are generally occupied.

* Some systems are so sophisticated, they will draw solar-heated air from one side of the house to the other without turning on the home's furnace.

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