Technology, in many ways, has helped save the average person time, money, and hassle. And, when it comes to zoning an HVACR system, technology has helped make zoning a more accessible option for consumers and contractors.

Technological Advances

“So many homeowners have a need for zoning, but not enough contractors do zoning because it takes a little bit of education,” said Stan Zywicki, product marketing director, IAQ, zoning, and water, Honeywell. “In the past, technology hasn’t been available to make these jobs easy enough for the large mass of contractors to be really good at zoning. Products that are easy to setup and don’t require a lot of adjustment, and products that reduce the risk of a callback, are often the most beneficial technologies.”

Zywicki and Honeywell, along with a number of zoning manufacturers, continue to research and develop technology, designed to make the technology more accessible for consumers, and easier for contractors to install and service.

According to Zywicki, Honeywell’s new TrueZone Bypass Damper can “significantly cut installation time by replacing the old weight system with a simple handle.”

“You can mount it in any direction, easily set it, and there’s no dumb weight to adjust,” he said. “Every single time it’s going to bypass the right amount of air to keep the static pressure below the maximum setting. It solves a lot of problems for zoning, and is a simple, affordable, easy-to-use technology that everybody can benefit from.”

In an increasingly wireless world, ZoneFirst is taking an old wired technology and making it new again. The company’s ZDSP & ZDBP Rectangular and Square Zone Dampers offer plug-and-play technology using phone cords, which has really helped simplify the wiring of dampers, said Dick Foster, president, Zonefirst.

“You can control multiple dampers off of the same zone very easily by daisy-chaining them,” he said. “The motors draw very little power and they virtually last a lifetime. Plus, they have an LED on the damper to tell you whether it’s open or closed.”

Zonefirst’s system allows up to 10 dampers to be daisy-chained together at once, Foster said, with each motor featuring two telephone jacks. Each damper includes a 25-foot telephone cord. Because of the use of the telephone cord, a contractor’s job becomes easier when dealing with the wires.

“The wire’s already plugged in,” Foster said. “They don’t have to cut, strip, or buy wire, and it’s a clear plug and play. … With us, you just unclick the telephone jack and move it to the next zone.”

Jackson Systems recently introduced the Barometric Zone Damper (BZD), a damper that has quickly become one of the company’s signature products.

“The BZD has been wildly successful,” said Tom Jackson, CEO, Jackson Systems. “It’s definitely what we’re focused on.”

The BZD is like any normal zone damper, but with one notable exception: It has a built-in static-pressure relief mechanism that eliminates the need for a bypass damper.

“We know the archenemy of the contractor is the bypass damper and it’s always the area that causes the most questions,” Jackson said. “If a contractor has to work within the confines of a closet because that’s where the equipment was installed originally, they don’t have a lot of room to add the bypass damper. If they are trying to add an additional level of comfort for their customer by offering zoning, sometimes that bypass damper became a big obstacle to overcome because they just didn’t have the room to install it.”

The idea for the BZD came from Tom’s father, Ron, who woke up in the middle of the night in late 2011 with the idea. “It was getting fairly close to Christmas, and he came in and started tinkering away in our R&D shop. He came up with the idea of accomplishing the pressure relief at the zone damper itself,” Jackson said. “He’s a very focused, single-minded individual, so when he starts a project, it becomes his passion. He literally worked 80-90 hours a week on this, and it was the only thing he was doing for about six months until he got it to the place where we were ready to start producing them.”

Richard Bluestone, president, Alan Mfg., said his company is most pleased with its retrofit-style zone dampers, which can be installed in the existing ductwork without having to tear any of it out.

He said this is part of a concerted effort by the company to make this easier for the contractors installing their products, especially with wireless thermostats becoming more and more of a trend.

“We’re trying to find something that a contractor can understand easy enough to sell to the homeowner or the apartment building manager,” Bluestone said. “We’re trying to find easier products and wireless technology is making it easier.”

Dennis Laughlin, president, Arzel Zoning, believes his company is ahead of the rest with its CoolMizer, a residential economizer and fresh-air intake system.

“We pioneered a residential economizer that allows us to put some entropy controls outside, so when air conditions are proper, we can bring in outside air instead of starting equipment,” Laughlin said. “So if there’s a cool morning, and we can delay bringing on the condensing unit for a few hours, we’re saving a lot of energy. And a lot of people love fresh air, but we live in a world where nobody wants to leave their windows open, so putting the fresh-air capability back in the hands of the homeowner without having to leave a window open is a big event for them. By using the regular air movements, we’re still taking that outside air and putting it through the filtration that exists on the current system.”

The CoolMizer was inspired by those who yearned for fresher indoor air. “There was really a need to figure out how to bring in outside air,” Laughlin said. “We kept looking at what was going on commercially and asked why we couldn’t do that residentially. So we developed an adjustable damper and now have the ability to bring in a lot or a little air.”

As zoning evolves further, so will the technology, but the main principle will likely never change.

“Most people only live in three rooms of the house: the bedroom, kitchen, and TV room,” Bluestone said. “The rest of the house is vacant. There’s no reason to put fresh air into those rooms as immediately as you would the three main rooms. The key is to provide comfort where people are, not where they are not.”

Publication date: 5/20/2013 

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