Dennis Laughlin of Arzel Zoning
Dennis Laughlin is a happy man. After preaching the value of zoning for years, the founding member of the Zoning Marketing Alliance (ZMA), and general manager of Arzel Zoning Technology is thankful the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) welcomed zone control system manufacturers to its newest product section. ARI's board of directors recently approved the product section.

"ARI's reputation in establishing industry standards and upholding the industry's integrity is well-known. The commitment from companies joining the newly established ARI product section further demonstrates those commitments," said Laughlin.

Arzel is one of many manufacturers beating the drum for zoning technology. In fact, Arzel was part of the ZMA, a group of companies whose goal has been to reach contractors with the message that zoning technology can be profitable and beneficial to businesses.

In Laughlin's estimation, the move to ARI for ZMA is a significant event.

"Up to this point, the zoning industry has been somewhat an overlooked part of the business," he said. "While the technology has been around for many years, many contractors have not been trained on zoning concepts. It is difficult to be an advocate of technology you are not fully comfortable with.

"The ARI platform will help us convince contractors of the validity of zoning as a part of the comfort solution in today's marketplace."

Pure and simple, said Laughlin, the move to the ARI product section gives the zoning industry some legitimate standing.

"The track record which ARI has built in service to the industry is a great asset," he said. "They have a proven model to help manufacturers create market segment standards, awareness, and bring current topics to a general forum which is beneficial to the industry."

In The Zone

Zone control systems are in-line duct dampers and controllers for the purpose of multiple-zone control with single-zone unitary HVAC equipment. Zone control systems are secondary control technology that allow multiple distinct temperature patterns to be established within a conditioned space. Generally, zone control systems are applied to forced-air heating and cooling units, but may be interfaced with hydronic systems or radiant systems, providing comfort control utilizing one thermostat per zone for multiple mode applications. Dampers utilized within these systems control the flow of conditioned air and may be utilized in fresh air intake and economizer applications.

"This is an exciting opportunity to bring together manufacturers of zone control system equipment to address issues of common interest in this growing market, and to establish a dialogue among industry leaders," said Henry Hwong, ARI's director of product sections.

For some time, zoning has been a hard sell for both contractors and consumers. But, according to Laughlin, the tide is beginning to turn, and more people are becoming convinced that zoning is the key to achieving optimal indoor comfort.

"I believe we are getting close to the point where the word on zoning is getting out," he said. "There are a number of manufacturers making reliable products, and we are all trying hard to get the message to contractors."

Laughlin believes that contractors have been reluctant to sell zoning for several reasons, and he asserts that training is one of the biggest ways to push the benefits of the application.

According to Laughlin, trainers from Arzel are out on the road every week. These trainers help to answer technical questions about the installation and troubleshooting of zoning systems.

"Once contractors see the ease of installation with zoning, they become a lot less apprehensive about it," said Laughlin.

Publication date: 09/26/2005