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“Smart Vents.” Not so smart.

If you stay on top of HVAC products the way we do, you might have seen a lot of information about smart homes. After all, they’re all the rage. There’s a great example of them in the hit show, “Mr. Robot.” The house cools and warms based on your mood and activity. The lights go on and off as you enter and leave rooms and the home is always well lit and comfortable.

“Smart” is a new and innovative development in the HVAC industry but like all innovations, sometimes caution is advised. Smart vents or smartphone-controlled dampers that fit into a duct system to control airflow into individual rooms is a case in point.

Smart vents promote a simple and efficient way for homeowners to cut heating and cooling in unused areas of the home. Some product’s “smart vents” offer an app and an interface to zone a home. Each vent’s sensors communicate with one another. While the idea of closing vents in unused areas and rooms in the house may seem logical, it’s not necessarily advised. Many homeowners think that closing the vents in guestrooms, dens, hobby rooms, and a college kid’s room will save costs and improve efficiency. The problem with closing vents is that each home’s heating and air system are designed with the particular floorplan of the house in mind. The system in each home is designed and created to efficiently heat and cool the total square footage of that house. This means that shutting down or closing off rooms or areas may actually cause your system to work less efficiently.

Also, shutting vents to restrict heating and cooling in certain areas can cause significant problems. When airflow doesn’t exit through a vent, it backs up into the duct system. An increase in the air pressure in the ducts can cause leaks

Conditioned air that remains in the ducts and is unable to exit can cause the furnaces to overheat and air conditioners to freeze up. This will lead to your home feeling less comfortable and may require professional service. All of which could have been prevented with proper zoning.

An alternative to closing vents in the home is to install a whole-home zoning system that works with your home’s heating and cooling equipment, as opposed to against it by closing vents.

Contractor-approved zoning methods divide your home’s ductwork into specific zones that can be controlled independently, whether heating or cooling allowing independent control of temperatures throughout the home.

When zoning is set up, you have a home that’s environment is based on your individual needs and the needs of the rest of the people in the home. Maybe you like it a little cooler in your office and warm in the bedroom, or vice versa. Maybe your kid likes an arctic chill or an Amazonian rain forest – we’ll let you have that discussion. The point is, that with proper zoning different areas of the house can be regulated independently and in the most efficient way possible.

Aside from comfort, the main objective homeowners have when installing zoning is to save money and conserve energy. Traditional zoning methods can save homeowners an average of 30 percent on their annual energy bill. Homeowners can improve the efficiency of their zoning systems by using programmable thermostats effectively, programming accurate setback schedules, and being diligent about addressing seasonal changes.

To find out more about whole-home zoning reach out to your trusted HVAC technician. Don’t have one? We put together a list

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