Zoned Heating

In this guide, we discuss zoned heating, what it is, the types of systems available, how their energy-efficiency is measured, and the benefits and costs. This overview of zoned heating not only helps you learn more about HVAC zone control but also which zone heating system is right for you.

What is HVAC zone heating?

Sometimes referred to as “zoned HVAC,” an HVAC zone control system uses dampers in the ductwork for directing and regulating air to precise areas in your home. In doing so, this heating and cooling system allows you to customize temperatures in different parts of the home. Through that precise temperature control, zone heating and cooling increase your home’s comfort and efficiency.

Types of zoned heating systems

Here, we detail information about the four different types of zoned heating systems.

Ductless mini-split heat pumps

If your current heating and cooling system don’t have ductwork, a ductless HVAC system is an excellent solution. If you do have ductwork running through your home, a ductless mini-split heat pump can supplement your existing system. An HVAC professional installs these systems directly into your home’s zone where you want heating and cooling.

Hybrid heat pumps

Hybrid heating and cooling systems consist of an electric heat pump alongside fuel oil, natural gas or propane furnace. You’ll also see them listed as a dual-fuel system. Even though you’re using a heat pump, this system also cools your home. Hybrid systems use technology to automatically select the most economical fuel source as a way of increasing efficiency.

Packaged systems

Packaged systems contain a condenser, evaporator and compressor in a single unit located near your home’s foundation or on the roof. If your home doesn’t have room for separate units available in split units, packaged systems are ideal. These systems break down into four options, including packaged air conditioners, packaged heat pumps, packaged dual fuel and packaged gas-electric system.

Split heating and cooling systems

Split heating and cooling systems have indoor and outdoor units. The indoor unit contains a blower and evaporator coil. The outdoor unit is where you find the compressor and condenser. If you have individual rooms that are challenging to heat or cool, split systems are a good solution. Split systems don’t require ductwork and typically connect to a heat pump or furnace.

HVAC zone heating energy efficiency

Knowing the energy efficiency measurements, the meaning of ratings and what counts as an energy-efficient unit help ensure you pick the best and most cost-effective unit for your home.

For example, when you see SEER, that stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. SEER measures a cooling unit’s efficiency by calculating its cooling output and dividing it by its energy use. You’ll also see HSPF, which stands for the Heating Season Performance Factor. That number indicates a heat pump’s heating output during a typical heating season.

  • Ductless mini-split heat pumps: According to the Department of Energy, all air-sourced heat pumps must have a minimum SEER rating of 15 and HSPF of at least 8.5.
  • Hybrid heat pumps: High-efficiency hybrid heat pumps have at least 22 SEER and 10 HSPF.
  • Packed systems: These HVAC zone control units include a heat pump and central air conditioner. The minimum HSPF for split systems is 8.5 and, for single packaged systems, it’s 8.2 Central air conditioners have a minimum SEER of 15 for both split and packaged systems.
  • Split heating and cooling systems: The Department of Energy indicates that split-system air conditioners must have at least 14 SEER. Split-system heat pumps must have at least 15 SEER and 8.8 HSPF.

Benefits of a zoned heating system

Ductless mini-split heat pumps

One useful feature of a ductless mini-split heat pump is that it’s small, allowing flexible heating and cooling within specific zones. Many models accommodate up to four zones or rooms that connect to a single outdoor unit. These systems are also simpler to install compared to other HVAC zone control systems.

Hybrid heat pumps

Hybrid heat pumps work by heating and cooling in a single unit like standard heat pumps. However, the difference is you can set up a hybrid heat pump to pair with a secondary heating source. That’s beneficial because, when temperatures drop, a hybrid heat pump switches to that secondary heat source. These systems are also beneficial for energy efficiency. For example, hybrid heat pump systems cost between 30 and 50% less in fuel expenses.

Packed systems

The benefits of choosing a packaged system include saving interior space, straightforward maintenance, simple installation, utility bill savings and zone control. Packaged systems with an Energy Star logo save between 15 and 25% monthly.

Split heating and cooling systems

The benefits of a split heating and cooling system include straightforward installation, no need for ductwork, less contact between inside and outside air because inside and outside units work separately, increased energy efficiency and zoning.

HVAC zone heating costs

Ductless mini-split heat pumps

  • The price of the unit: Prices range between $1,900 and $7,500 for single-zone systems.
  • The costs of installation: Installation could cost between $700 and $5,000.
  • The costs of operating the unit annually: Operating costs depend on the size of the unit. For example, a unit with 17 SEER costs between 4 and 17 cents to run per hour. Maintenance includes changing air filters, which could be anywhere from $12 to $80 depending on the unit’s size.

Hybrid heat pumps

  • The price of the unit: Prices range between $2,500 and $5,500.
  • The costs of installation: Expect to average $7,000 if there’s existing ductwork. If you need to install ductwork, that will run you between $35 and $55 per linear foot.
  • The costs of operating the unit annually: The annual energy cost for hybrid heat pumps is approximately $1,800. It costs around $100 annually to maintain the heating system and approximately $200 to maintain the heat pump annually.

Packaged systems

  • The price of the unit: Prices range between $2,000 and $5,000 for packaged systems.
  • The costs of installation: Expect to pay between $1,200 and $3,000 for installation depending on if it’s ground or rooftop.
  • The costs of operating the unit annually: Operating costs range between $900 and $1,200 annually. Maintenance costs vary depending on what you need. For example, a new thermostat starts at $40.

Split heating and cooling systems

  • The price of the unit: Prices range between $1,600 and $1,800.
  • The costs of installation: Expect to pay between $1,200 and $1,500 for installation.
  • The costs of operating the unit annually: Annual operating costs range between $900 and $1,200. Service calls are usually a flat rate of between $50 and $140. If you need to replace your thermostat, expect to pay between $90 and $120 for labor and materials. The price for air filters run between $12 and $80, depending on the size you need.

FAQs

What does zone heating mean?

Zone heating means you’re using an HVAC zone control system that controls temperatures in a specific area of your home.

How much does zoned heating cost to install?

Pricing for HVAC zone control systems depends on how many rooms you want to heat and cool. For example, if you want temperature control in one room, expect to pay less than $3,000. However, if you want heating and cooling options for multiple zones, that could cost $15,000 or more.

Does zoned heating save money?

HVAC zone systems lower utility bills because you’re not heating or cooling the entire house. Instead, you’re controlling temperatures in specific zones. If you’re not using a room, save money by shutting off or turning down that zone.

Can you add zones to an existing HVAC system?

An HVAC professional can retrofit your existing HVAC system with zone heating and cooling so you don’t have to buy a new air conditioner or furnace.

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