Miswiring can lead to callbacks on zoning system
installations. This has made contractors reluctant to install them. However,
changes in products (like Honeywell’s TrueZone) have made wiring much more
Zoning controls are pretty standard in commercial HVAC
systems; why hasn’t it caught on more in residential work?
According to several manufacturers, there has been a certain
amount of contractor trepidation about the technology, related to callbacks and
such, that really goes back to the design and installation of the systems
These manufacturers have started taking notice of the
Dan Joyce, channel marketing director, Homes North America,
Environmental and Combustion Control, Honeywell, agreed that there is a big
opportunity for residential zoning. “We zone the electricity and the plumbing,”
he said. “Zoning is light switches and faucets for HVAC.”
“As manufacturers, zoning has been too complex for too
long,” said Joyce. Three years of contractor research eventually resulted in “a
product by our customers, for our customers.
“Complexity leads to lack of confidence,” he said.
“Miswiring is the No.1 reason for callbacks. Setting DIP switches is No.2. It
hasn’t been intuitive. We have very talented people, but it shouldn’t have to
be rocket science. They also need a standard checkout process.” Screw terminal
stripping can lead to warranty issues, or they can break off at the panel, he
said. “It’s no wonder zoning isn’t being used.”
ZONES VS. MULTIPLES
During operation, data shows that “one system operates more
efficiently than two,” said David Arneson, Honeywell’s product marketing
manager for Residential Forced Air Zoning.
“There are two ways to zone, by equipment or by damper,”
said Joyce. “It tends to be less expensive to install a bigger system and zone
it, rather than two smaller systems.”
“When we talk to homeowners,” said Joyce, “three zones are
what people really want at a minimum.” According to the 2006 American Home
Comfort Study from Decision Analysts, 67 percent of people are uncomfortable
due to hot and cold spots.
Honeywell’s TrueZone panel controls up to four zones. “We
tried to make it as intuitive as possible,” said Arneson. “It’s a simple design
with no exposed electronics. All electronics are concealed.”
With its 8-inch-wide footprint, “it’ll mount anywhere,” he
said. Robust push terminals and wire channels have been modified to address the
contractors’ needs. “A complaint we heard is that it’s too cramped to run
“It makes a big difference to solve the pain points,” said
This Mr. Slim indoor unit applied in a classroom allows
specific rooms to be zoned according to their times of use.
An installer challenge held in 2007 showed that the
contestants could run panel wires up in one-half the time with an intuitive
installation checkout, Dan said. A configurable time limit offers switching to
an optional fuel for up to three hours. The panel is rated up to 165°F for
attic installations. Its network zoning system satisfies demands with fewer
numbers of equipment cycles.
Some ductless manufacturers offer their products as zoning
solutions. “It’s tying into the homeowner’s dissatisfaction with the
homeowner’s ducted system,” said Mike Smith, senior marketing manager,
Mitsubishi Electric HVAC. On the high-end ducted system front, we’re seeing
sophisticated damper control systems and additional condensing units
controlling specific zones; or window units added for on-demand conditioning
for space, with the added benefit of on-off operation on the low end.
“From our standpoint, we’re offering a better alternative as
this applied ductless system for control of zones,” said Smith. “It’s a better
investment in your home compared to window units, with better zone control
delivering true comfort to each zone.” Home office and bonus rooms, he said,
are ideal applications for ductless systems - “also bonus rooms, home theaters,
in-law suites, special rooms, and zones created within homes. Homes are very
diversified in the zone usage. There is specific climate control relative to
the zone conditions or desires.”
The company’s products specialize in matching specific zone
requirements and maintaining a desired set point. “Because we’re delivering the
air from the indoor unit directly to the space, there is no need for ductwork,”
said Smith. “It is applying a direct solution to an immediate customer need. In
a few hours, a contractor on a routine service call for a central system can
ask a homeowner if there is a room in their home that is never comfortable,
like a Southwest-facing room. It’s pretty easy to offer this solution.
“When you zone a home and take each individual zone
separately, it becomes more manageable to accurately size the HVAC equipment
and deliver much more efficiently for each zone,” Smith said. “A ductless
system can react quickly to the increased load applied to the space.
Temperature is measured at the unit in the zone. There are not only Manual J
considerations, but also diversity of usage.”
The company’s City Multi® system’s indoor fan on wall-mount
systems runs continuously “with the power of a 40-W light bulb,” he added,
“circulating air across the thermistor and coil, constantly monitoring and
maintaining temperature. There’s also quite a plethora of options with filters,
For contractors, this zoning solution offers “stability and
growth in business, maximizing labor. The solution is minus the ductwork
issues, accessories, and parts necessary for a forced-air ducted system,” Smith
said. “A contractor looking for growth in his business is considering ductless
because of the ability to differentiate his business, becoming part of an
industry that is growing, on average, 17 percent.
“Contractors like the option of using this to direct
business back their way. It puts room unit business back to the installed
Dan Joyce of Honeywell demonstrates the more robust
construction of the company’s TrueZone system. Three year contractor research
eventually resulted in “a product by our customers, for our customers.”
MARKET AND TECHNOLOGY CHANGES
Residential zoning is being driven in new construction,
Joyce said. “When homeowners are educated in the building options, people are willing
to spend and invest more. In retrofit, analysts say people want zoning
solutions. In retrofit, labor can make it not quite as advantageous.” He said
there has been four times the growth in the company’s zoning business.
“We have seen many changes within the zoning market in
recent years,” said Kurt Wessling, director of sales, Jackson Systems, LLC.
“The first trend is that most of the major manufacturers of equipment are now
offering their own brand of zoning that can be paired with their equipment.
Most of these systems are proprietary in nature and have become more
sophisticated as well.”
Integrated microprocessors have allowed the creation of zone
control panels that are more flexible, he continued. “The panels are capable of
handling all types of equipment, from single-stage units, multistage units,
heat pumps, and even heat pumps with dual-fuel backup. Many zoning systems are
also incorporating communications as well, so that the end user or contractor
can communicate with the systems from remote locations,” he said.
“The complexity of the systems have grown; however, the
controls to use the systems have become increasingly more user friendly.”
Changes in the technology “have made it possible for the
manufacturers and contractors to meet the rising wants and needs of today’s
educated consumers,” said Wessling. “Consumers want more features for less,
while still demanding the highest of quality. The new zoning systems are able
to deliver superior comfort for less cost than traditional methods, such as
installing an additional unit.”
“Also, many consumers are asking for individual temperature
control in many different areas of the home. Zoning tends to solve most of
those issues and wants.”
Carrier’ Corp.’s Infinity System uses a single control to
integrate and manage temperature, humidity, airflow, ventilation, IAQ, and
Rick Roetken, director of marketing, Carrier Residential and
Light Commercial Systems, said hot and cold spots in a home can be eliminated
through zoning. Up to eight different zone settings can be managed by the
Infinity system (see the feature article "Technology Gives Homeowners Control" in this issue). “The Infinity System gives homeowners
peace-of-mind with regard to system operation, energy savings and maintenance,
and comfort like you never thought possible,” he said.
Zoning can also be achieved through individual systems
linked together, like the City Multi ductless system applied to this exercise
“Education of the contractors from the zoning manufacturers,
equipment manufacturers, and wholesalers is allowing contractors to become more
comfortable with zoning systems,” said Wessling. “The manufacturers and
wholesalers are doing an incredible job of taking the mystery out of the zoning
systems by holding detailed training sessions.
“Also, many of the functions of the zoning systems are now
able to be handled by the control panels that were not possible before. The
more the contractor has learned about the system’s setup, sequence of
operation, wiring, and components, the more the contractor realizes that zoning
is not that difficult to deal with. Education promotes confidence and
confidence opens many doors for selling opportunities.”
Consumers are also becoming more comfortable with zoning, he
said. “Automobile manufacturers have been zoning their newer model cars for
years now. Consumers are used to having controls available to deliver different
temperatures of conditioned air to the driver and passengers. The concept is no
different for residences or commercial buildings.
“Our products have changed over the recent years to
incorporate microprocessors in our control panels,” he continued. “This has
allowed for more flexibility to change from one type of equipment to another.
Also, we have been able to use a single discharge-air sensor for our limits to
protect the equipment. We always had to use separate accessories to protect
against exceeding high- and low-limit temperatures prior. This means less
wiring for the contractor, and less cost.
“We have also been able to keep the boards from becoming too
complicated,” Wessling added.
“Resistors and jumpers have been replaced with dipswitches
that the contractors can merely throw into position. The boards have also
shrunk in physical size to allow contractors to install them in smaller areas.
We have also incorporated the use of ‘air brakes’ to quiet the operation of the
zone dampers. This eliminates callbacks for noise issues from consumers.
“Overall, advances in technology, education of contractors
and end users, and demand have propelled the growth of the zoning market in
recent years,” Wessling said. “The key is to provide simple, reliable, quality
products with outstanding technical support for the contractors. I feel it is
the duty of the zoning manufacturers to provide cost-effective channels for the
contractors to promote our products.
“A great partnership between contractors, their technicians
and sales staff, and the manufacturer can provide an almost endless stream of
mutually beneficial opportunities. We are excited about the future of the
market and look forward to helping contractors with their future control
“When you start offering systems that can safely address
more than three zones, say up to an eight-zone application, you’re really
talking about a whole-house application at that point,” said Smith. “That’s
getting us into the arena of providing whole-house solutions.”