Smart Vents vs. Zoning

Consumers today choose from touch screen thermostats, energy monitoring smart plugs, smart fragrance machines, smart HVAC vents, and even smart heat pumps that masquerade as art gallery pieces. But are all “smart” products really smart buys? For example, consider smart vents. Salespeople market these tools as smart; however, heating and cooling professionals do not recommend smart vents.

Let’s examine a smart product which claims to “zone” rooms in the home for energy savings – yet its method is discredited by the residential heating and cooling industry. When it comes to efficient zoning methods, should you turn to smart home products or trusted heating and cooling solutions?

The “Smart Vents” Zoning Method

So-called smart vents promote a simple and supposedly effective way for homeowners to cut heating and cooling in unused areas of the home. Products such as Keen Home’s Smart Vents offer Nest Learning Thermostat connectivity. They use the Nest app and interface to zone a home. Each vent’s sensors communicate with one another. This detects if an area is in use and will redirect airflow as necessary.

The Myth of Closed Vents as a Zoning Method

Although many believe it is a smart way to save energy, closing off vents in unused areas of the home is not recommended. Your HVAC system was designed to reach all the rooms in your home. When you close off a vent, your system’s efficiency is compromised and the energy intended for that room is redirected, causing an unbalanced and uncomfortable environment in other areas of your home.

Furthermore, closing vents can lead to a damaged or broken system, which means costly repairs and possibly going without heating or air conditioning entirely until you can get an appointment with a professional.

Approved Zoning Methods

Instead of closing vents in the home, installing a whole-home zoning system is preferred. A zoning system works with your home’s heating and cooling equipment, rather than against it by closing vents. Contractor-approved zoning methods use a network of dampers and thermostats, along with a zoning panel. Zoning allows independent control of temperatures throughout the home.

Why is this method preferred?

Contractors prefer whole-home zoning systems over closing vents in a room because this strategy works with your home’s heating and cooling systems. Zone dampers installed within the home’s ductwork control airflow into a zone. The zone damperschannel conditioned airinto the right areas. Bypass dampers eliminate the buildup of pressure which can occur with closing vents to prevent system damage.

Why Stick with Traditional Zoning Methods?

Unlike the “smart” zoning method mentioned above, traditional zoning produces the desired comfort and energy savings, and more!

Customized Zoning for Your Home

Traditional heating and cooling zoning methods can be customized to the needs of your family and your home. The right heating and air contractor can design a zoning system which addresses the specific comfort and energy efficiency challenges faced by your household. These may be due to usage, construction type, or another cause.

Smart vents do not address the specific causes that can throw off balanced comfort within a home. The vent has the capacity to close off rooms and areas, rather than adjust heating and cooling system use.

Smart Zoning Methods

For those attracted to the “smart” element of certain comfort system products, you don’t have to sacrifice innovative technology when utilizing traditional zoning methods in your home. Today’s zoning systems include of a variety of smart products, from automated zone dampers, wireless panels and components, and even smart thermostats in each zone. Gain the technological advances you seek while still creating a practical and functional zoning system for your home.

Traditional Zoning Methods Save Energy

In addition to improving comfort, one of the main objectives homeowners have when installing zoning is to save money and conserve heating and cooling energy. Traditional zoning methods can save homeowners an average of 30 percent on annual heating and cooling energy usage. Homeowners can improve the efficiency of their zoning systems by using programmable thermostats effectively, programming accurate setback schedules, and being diligent about addressing seasonal changes.

Zoning FAQs

Why are smart HVAC vents a bad idea?

Experts have serious reservations about smart vents. Problems such as device compatibility issues and installation challenges may make you think twice about smart vents. However, the larger issue is the possibility of ruining or reducing the life of your HVAC system. Smart vents block airflow in your HVAC system. Healthy airflow is critical to the system’s performance. Blocking airflow can damage your system’s compressor and evaporator coils. Additionally, because of the blockage, your system may force itself to work harder, leading to higher electricity costs.

How much does zoning an existing HVAC system cost?

On average, you can expect to spend $2,000-$3,000 to zone an existing HVAC system. The more complex a system is, the more you will be charged. 

What is ductless HVAC zoning?

Since each indoor unit is its own system with ductless HVAC, the number of zones depends on the number of indoor units. Fortunately for families with different preferences for indoor temperature, each ductless zone has its own controls. The maximum number of zones per house is 5.