can you add zones to an existing hvac system

Can You Add Zones to an Existing HVAC System in Brick Township, NJ?

It’s a hot summer day on the Jersey Shore, and you go upstairs to change so you can hit the beach. When you reach the top of the stairs, a wave of warm air hits you. Even though you have the air conditioner running, the upper story of your home is many degrees warmer than the lower level. 

One of the many questions we get as Brick Township’s trusted HVAC contractors is, “Can you add zones to an existing HVAC system?” Here, we explain what such a project entails — and why adding zones might not solve your problem. 

What is Zoning, and Why Is It Important?

In the realm of HVAC, zoning refers to different sections of your home. Depending on the design of the HVAC system, you can control the temperature in each of these zones individually for your own comfort. Each level of the house can be its own zone, for example, which allows you to turn down the heat on the lower level at night while keeping the upstairs bedrooms cozy and warm.

With a single-zoned HVAC system, the system works to make every room the same temperature. However, this doesn’t always work because of the unique elements of the room (for instance, a room with large windows is likely to be warmer in the summer than one with smaller windows) and the natural properties of heat. Because heat rises and cool air sinks, a single-zone HVAC system is likely to struggle to evenly heat or cool every space in your home.

A zoned HVAC system helps solve this problem by making it possible to control the temperature in each space by changing the ductwork. Adding zones can also help reduce your energy bills and wear and tear on HVAC equipment by giving you more control over the temperature in different sections of your home

How to Improve Comfort by Adding Zones

Although the answer to “Can you add zones to an existing HVAC system?” is “Yes,” how Brick Township HVAC professionals approach the project varies depending on the existing HVAC equipment. In either case, we add zones by installing dampers in the ductwork; these will direct airflow to regulate the temperature in different zones. However, depending on whether you have single-stage or variable-speed equipment, additional work might be necessary.

Single-Stage Systems

If you have a single-stage air conditioner, the blower has a single-speed fan, which means that the air conditioner is either blowing at full speed or not at all. Unfortunately, this often means that in order to cool the upper story, you need to set the thermostat lower, which can make the first story feel like the Arctic. 

Adding dampers to create zones for a standard HVAC system also requires installing a bypass duct. Because the blower only has one speed, when you direct the air to a single zone rather than the whole house, it will create too much air pressure inside the ductwork. The bypass duct redirects some of that air back to the air return, protecting the ducts.

However, the cooled air from the bypass duct causes the evaporator coil to get colder, reducing its efficiency. The extra air can also force the air handler to work harder, causing more wear and tear and driving up energy costs. 

Variable-Speed Systems

Adding zones when you have variable-seed systems is easier and more efficient. The blower fan can adjust speeds to accommodate the load in any zone, so there’s no need to add a bypass duct. There’s no cold air to return, so the evaporator maintains efficiency. 

Why Adding Zones Might Not Solve Your Issues 

Before adding zones to any HVAC system, have an HVAC professional inspect your home to ensure it has adequate insulation and there aren’t any air leaks. Sometimes, uneven heating and cooling are the result of air leaking from individual rooms, and addressing that issue can increase comfort and efficiency. Speak to an HVAC professional to get a better assessment of your property.

Get Help from the HVAC Experts at Eastern Shore Heating and Air Conditioning 

If you have additional questions about “Can you add zones to an existing HVAC system?” call Eastern Shore Heating and Air Conditioning in Brick Township at (732) 800-9416 to learn more and request an estimate. We’ll show you how to take advantage of the New Jersey Clean Energy Program to make your home more energy efficient and comfortable without breaking the bank.