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Monitoring HVAC Zones: Thermostats and Dampers

ThermostatA HVAC zone refers to a precise area of a building that is heated, cooled, or ventilated by a HVAC system.  Zones may be specific rooms or whole floors of a home.  Commercially, a zone may be one office, a section of offices, or a story of a building.  Today’s residential homes are generally built with three to five HVAC zones.  Each zone has its own thermostat to monitor different areas for desired temperature and comfort level.  Most homes are fitted with standard dial thermostats that may compromise energy consumption.  However, there are specialized “smart” alternatives for the modern homeowner.

Digital Thermostats
Simply put, digital thermometers have buttons instead of a dial for controlling HVAC zones.  Many have the option of presetting temperature, with “home” and “away” buttons, and timers.  These are called “digital programmable thermostats.”


Digital Contact Closure Thermostats
Using “smart” activation, these are digital thermostats that can be activated and controlled through certain security system commands, or a phone transponder.  Using any remote phone, the homeowner may control the HVAC zones in his home.

Digital Communicating Thermostats
These are highly specialized control gauges.  Each thermostat in every zone of your home are connected at a centralized “controller.”  Often the “controller” is a hardware or software system that is programmable to your computer.  It is ultra-convenient and eco-friendly.  Digital communicating thermostats give the homeowner control of all the zones, any day of the week, any time of the day, throughout the seasons, as long as the homeowner has access to the central controller.

A “damper” is what technically controls the air channeled into a zone.  Using a HVAC damper is more energy-efficient than the old-school method of simply closing a vent.  The damper is set up at the mouth of a pipe that distributes the air, expanding or constricting, depending on your desire.  Manual dampers work at the simple twist of a screw.  Motorized dampers may be an attachment to the screw, or they may be sophisticated and computerized.  The homeowner may choose a specific percent that the damper should be constricted, from 0 to 100.  A 100% damper would be completely open for maximum airflow.

Dampers work at the source to monitor hot or cool air release into different zones of the home.  When a vent is simply closed, the treated air still has to travel to the zone.  This is not a HVAC energy-efficient method.

Different thermostats and dampers are compatible with different HVAC systems, so it’s important to research.  Know whether your home uses gas, oil, or Heat Pump systems.  Most of the “smart” thermostats will be connected virtually the same way as your old thermostat.  However, additional wiring will be needed for connection with remote communicators and alternative control options.

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