CHICAGO — Zoning has been around for way longer than some of the newest, most popular technologies, like ductless systems, Wi-Fi thermostats, and Alexa; however, its adoption has been slow, comprising only about 5 percent of the market.

“The concept is yet to be accepted,” said Dick Foster, president, ZoneFirst®.

Despite the fact this concept is capturing just a small percentage of the market, Foster sees a strong future for the company, which he refers to as “The King of Zoning.”

“We started zoning forced air over 50 years ago when no one else was doing it,” he said. “We’ve made zoning easy and continue to lead the way in innovation with the simplest products on the market.”

According to Foster, AHR is “the” show for the industry.

“The show continues to grow, and it’s where the industry comes,” he said.

The company has been exhibiting at the show since 1963, and Foster has been attending since 1974. ZoneFirst comes to experience industry trends, network, and meet with both potential and existing customers. Though it may not feature a new product every year, this year, ZoneFirst displayed more than one new offering in addition to announcing a joint venture with Ecovent.

“The trend is smart and AI [artificial intelligence], and this is exactly what we’re showing,” said Foster.

ZoneFirst announced an alliance with ConnectM Technology, parent company of Ecovent Systems Inc., to provide the industry with a combined product offering that will digitize zoning.

“Zoning’s a very simple concept,” said Foster. “You have a light switch in every room of your house but only one thermostat. What does it cost more to do, heat and cool your house or turn on the lights? Think if you had one light switch for your entire house what your electric bill would be.”

Ecovent’s system of individual room sensors and registers are directed by the Control Hub to monitor room climate and control airflow throughout the home.

“What we’re doing is putting your zoning system in the palm of your hand,” said Foster.

With the room-by-room zoning system, room sensors plug into existing outlets in every room. Likewise, the battery-powered modulating registers replace the current registers and can be installed with a screwdriver. The Control Hub plugs into an existing power source as well as the Wi-Fi router. Registers and rooms sensors will self configure once installed. Both use Wi-Fi to report back to the hub, which can be monitored and controlled through the app on any smart device.

“It’s product intensive, but you don’t have to touch the duct system,” said Foster. “We’re eliminating the thermostats. We’re still going to have one, and then we just plug these [room sensors] into every outlet. These become the sensor, and now my app is technically my thermostat.”

According to Foster, almost the entire population is paying more for heating and cooling than they need to be.

“Everybody has a room in their house that’s too hot or cold,” he said. “This is the trend that’s going to solve that problem for homeowners. People want smart homes.”

The Freshex® 1 (FX1) Ventilation Control was also featured in the ZoneFirst booth this year. It is a low-cost control designed to meet the minimum ventilation codes required by many state and local building codes.

It also meets ASHRAE 62.1 Ventilation Standard of controlling outdoor air by controlling the opening of an intake air control damper in conjunction with the HVAC system.

The FX1 can be set to automatically bring in outdoor air for various times during the day and be activated when the HVAC unit is operating to condition the outdoor air.

ZoneFirst also introduced the new Static Pressure Adjustable Damper, model (SPAD). It takes the guess work out of adjusting by-pass dampers by pressing down on the adjustable knob, dialing to the desired static, and releasing.

The SPAD is adjusted to begin opening to relieve excess air when the pressure reaches the static set.

“We created the SPAD to be the most simple and most economical by-pass damper on the market, and we succeeded,” said Foster.  

Publication date: 2/26/2018