HVAC Zone Systems

In Katy, Texas HVAC zone systems can play an important role at delivering the comfort you want in the area of a structure you spend the most time in. Example: The master bedroom suite in your home, 1/3 of your life is spent in that room on average. If it’s not comfortable, that’s going to feel like an eternity of restless nights.

This Katy Texas air conditioning blog post is primarily for the reason that more people are inquiring about such options. This information is provided in addition to a page on this website devoted to this topic. (You can read that information here.) This is a more complex HVAC subject that sometimes ranges from a long list of gadgets that try to mimic such systems and on further up the chain from the dizzying array of garbage that has come to market over the past several years from the so called gadget makers of the world.

This add on gadget niche market is a billion dollar market and primarily it’s mostly a waste for a climate like Katy, Texas. The reason is: Humidity.

If you live in a less extreme climate than Katy, Texas a gadget might be all you need. As an example: the plain states. Summers are typically 3 months long there. Humidity is there one minute and gone the next. No real problem to the extent we have it in Katy, Texas.

HVAC is a location dependent market. What is recommended for one climate is spendthrift spending for another. If you choose a low end gadget for a solution in an extreme climate it won’t be long until you find this air conditioning blog again or maybe wished you had found it sooner. (This is another reason why the internet is a dangerous place to search for things HVAC for an extreme climate. Most websites do not separate the various climate conditions across the USA. I am in Katy, Texas and this topic is devoted to that location. Your location could be similar or vastly different with entirely different concerns.)

What Is A HVAC Zone System

If you have a single HVAC system in your home, it is zoned for the entire area of your home. If you have 2 HVAC systems in your home, it is zoned for 2 specific areas of your home.

Another way to picture zoning is to think about light switches in your home. You have a light switch in every room of your home. If you only had one light switch all the lights would be on in your home by turning that single light switch on.

So using that example compared to your HVAC system(s) you have a single thermostat or ‘switch’ in which the HVAC system is turned on or off. When the HVAC system is on, it cools the entire zone in which it was designed to heat or cool. (In most cases this means the entire house.)

But if you don’t have but a few people in your home you can only be in one place at a time. So in many cases the cooling and or heating is merely wasted to areas of the home that are largely unused.

To clarify this more I include a few embedded videos on the subject below. Realize these videos were made in 2013. I have installed zone systems at my own home over 10 years ago that still works and is used quite hard today (2019). I am in this business to do it right, this is what I do for a living. If you are looking for some ‘cheap fix’ stop right here. There is no need for you to continue, because if this is your intent you are more interested in wasting money on junk that if it does work, will not work for long — temperature constantly changes does it not? You can not have it both ways in my opinion. My opinion is based on 24 years of doing this for a living.

Note: The videos embedded above were made in 2013. Newer better advances have been made in HVAC equipment efficiency since these videos were made that when paired with a HVAC zone system are better capable to achieve monetary efficiency savings. Pairing a HVAC zone system that consists of a single speed air conditioner will only give you better control of temperature in your home. Any efficiency gains will be minor, when it comes to single speed AC equipment. I keep these older videos to show I have been doing this a long time (24 years) and I know what I am talking about because of doing, not just talking about it.

Will A HVAC Zone System Save Money

This answer is complicated. As an example lets go back to the light switch example. You buy a house that has a single light switch. That single light switch turns on all the lights in the house.

So you add switches to all the rooms of the house, but the switches while they are now zoned to every room any single switch you turn on still turns on all the lights at once. It’s more convenient because you now have a light switch in each room.

That’s preposterous! Who would do such a thing? Someone who is cheap, that’s who. Because to ‘properly’ zone each light switch would entail ‘more work & materials’. You get what you pay for.

So how does this relate to a HVAC system? Most air conditioners are single stage units. They are either on or off. So if you add a zone system you are merely redirecting the same amount of cooling used to cool the whole zone. That doesn’t equate to monetary savings. Because the system is still doing the same amount of work.

The zone you are only wanting to cool in most cases is typically around a ton of cooling (12,000 BTU’s) Typically most home systems are 3 ton to 5 ton.

So if this is your goal this situation isn’t going to work as well as you think it will in terms of monetary savings. HVAC zone systems are more or less niche specialty products. Anyone can do it, but extremely few get the kind of life out of them that I do with only minor problems after the install is complete. Why? because I (Ray Austin) am a hands on guy, in a world decorated with subs, installers, under achievers and manufacturer’s of junk. I don’t sub out install work. The name of my company is my last name. It’s not made up. I want to be known for solutions that work.

Design is critical and the person doing the work is responsible for the design. If you don’t view things in these terms for our climate (Katy, Texas) Failure will be the result, and the other con in all of this is that the system is designed to work in hot weather, just as much as cooler weather. We run our systems 2200 hours per year with set points of 75 degrees. If you run your system at temps lower than 75 degrees you could easily be approaching 3000 hours a year!

With that said, HVAC zone systems are not a magical cure to an otherwise failing system. HVAC zone systems are a tool in the tool bag for specific situations. The home (your home) must be viewed in person to make these kinds of conclusions. If your home is not a good fit for a zone system I will tell you. I am only here to do it right. If you want something other than ‘done right’ by me then you and I will not be a good fit.

I fix air conditioning & heating systems for a living it’s what I do. I do not fix people or their expectations. I am one guy servicing hundreds of previous customers plus new customers on a fairly regular basis. I don’t have time to go back and ‘play around’. Experience is the invisible thing you are paying for here. If you don’t like these comments: I have a song for you, it’s titled ‘I can’t make you love me’.

Anything I sell you, I have one condition. It has to work. That is what a solution is. A solution is something that fixes a problem and doesn’t create new problems. I don’t think I can make this any more clear.

So why don’t you go out and hire some help? LOL. What? So my job will consist of going back and solving dumb mistakes. I can’t be all things to all people. So if this is your view, we again will not be a good fit.

Why You Won’t Save Money With A HVAC Zone System

If HVAC zone systems are the Lamborghini’s of the AC world then certainly if you poked around the engine compartment you probably would like see some incredible engine capable of delivering results. Right?

GIGO is an acronym for garbage in / garbage out. If you put garbage into a system you aren’t going to get anything but garbage out. So because air conditioning is quantified in tons (12,000 btu’s is a ton of air conditioning) over supply of conditioned air is paid for regardless if you merely redirect it to a smaller part of the structure.

Efficiency is a often confused term. Many think this term is related only to dollars. It’s not when it’s talked about in HVAC land. Efficiency can relate to what is wasted versus what is used.

So in that sense it’s not completely about money saved via operational cost, necessarily.

As an efficiency example: a gas furnace is inefficient compared to an electric strip heat furnace or air handler. Why? because a gas furnace generates waste that goes up a flue pipe, heat is lost in that waste. Electric resistance heat there is no waste. 1 BTU in = 1 BTU out. Now that’s efficient! But you get the bill for your electric furnace (AH) and you pass out because it’s $500 for one month. Because gas rates are cheaper than electric rates. This is why efficiency doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does in the land of HVAC.

Efficiency is not gained in terms of dollars saved if you take a single stage air conditioner rated at 3 tons or more capacity and then redirect that cooling to cool an area of the home that only requires a fraction of that capacity.

In this situation it’s more about comfort, than savings. Because you are still paying for 3 tons of air conditioning. If the compressor is running that work (3 tons, 4 tons, 5 tons) whatever it is you are still paying for it.

You don’t magically create monetary efficiency by merely redirecting air flow. Efficiency in terms of dollars saved is what I am referring to here.

How You Can Save Money With A HVAC Zone System

In terms of the Lamborghini example given above the zone system is a part of the system, but system design and equipment selection are just as important. In order for a Lamborghini to be a Lamborghini you buy the whole car, not just part of it. If you took the tires from a Lamborghini and put them on your car imagine the laughter that would ensue if you challenged a sports car to a race with your shiny new Lamborghini tires fastened to of all things a 1979 pinto.

The best HVAC system for delivering the best over all efficiencies in terms of monetary savings are those that have the ability to ramp up and down as the cooling load dictates.

Cooling loads vary, due to climate conditions and structural characteristics that can vary widely from one home or other structure to the next. If you match an air conditioner capable of delivering the required capacity of a single room in a zoned structure you will save money that way. Because the system is designed for it. Realize that as summer heat comes the load of the structure changes. What once needed 9000 BTU’s of cooling may require 12,000 BTU’s or more. This is why a fully variable inverter AC system is the better choice for an extreme AC climate like Katy, Texas.

Because the less work the compressor has to do, the less your electric bill will be. Most air conditioning compressors are single stage. The next equipment grade up is 2 speed. Years ago there were dual compressor models. Today (2019 and beyond) there are fully variable or inverter compressors.

While a 2 speed air conditioner would be better than a single speed compressor your savings will not be that significant because in 1st speed the 2 speed unit will run in roughly 70% of capacity of the rated capacity of the system.

In most cases 70% rated capacity is still too much to get much pay back from in terms of monetary savings when paired with a HVAC zone system. If designed properly it will give you better performance but in most cases the pay back in monetary terms aren’t significant.

No Free Lunch In HVAC Operation Costs

So you live in Katy, Texas and decide to try to cut your energy costs, namely the good old electric bill. This year (2019) the rates have been going up again. Problem is utility rates can be largely determined by how many kilowatts of power you use every month.

If you’re lucky enough to only use 1000 kilowatts per month your electric bill is lower but the price you pay per kilowatt is often times higher than those that use 2000 kilowatts or more per month. Why is this important?

Because if you’re at 2000 kilowatts now and you find a way to drop down to under 2000 kilowatts by upgrading your AC systems you may wind up increasing your electric bill instead of reducing it. How’s that for irony?

Solar is not necessarily the answer either. In Texas there is a strong power lobby. The power lobby doesn’t want people generating their own power. So if you go down the road of a solar system you certainly do not want to generate any excess electricity and in some cases your choices may be extremely limited to a grid tied provider. You will need a grid tied provider other wise the cost of such systems can be not worth the trouble. The main reason is that power is for the most part too cheap for solar to be a real option for Texans.

You May Not Need A HVAC Zoned System

Every house has it’s own unique set of challenges in regards to comfort. Some people like 80 degrees, some people like 75 degrees and a few like it 70 or a few clicks below that.

But you know what the biggest problem for this climate in Katy, Texas is? Humidity. So when you mix hot plus humidity what do you get? Hodity. Maybe you watched the video in which I joke around about such things. There are reasons I do such things. It’s not just about cracking jokes.

Lots of people that live in this climate ‘DO NOT’ realize the role of humidity and how much havoc it brings you in terms of the comfort level you desire in your home. Air conditioning provides some dehumidification. But in a high humid climate like ours a single stage air conditioner doesn’t deliver enough dehumidification in most cases.

Given my experience of 24 years solving these types of problems and more I know that if I drop the humidity level in your home a mere 5%, the comfort problems you were having up to 95% of them disappear.

If you chose a properly designed and installed inverter AC system 100% of those problems would disappear. Because these systems are designed to run longer, they dehumidify the air better thus reducing humidity in the home.

By reducing humidity in the home, you will feel more comfortable even at higher temperatures.

For our climate in Katy, Texas, humidity control is the name of the game. The better your HVAC system dehumidifies the air, the better your comfort will be. The bonus is you will save money on operation costs too. (Provided you don’t fall in between the cracks of usage amounts determined by your utility provider.)

Thanks for visiting with me today, I hope your day is comfortable.

About the author of the #1 Katy, Texas Air Conditioning blog:
My name is Ray Austin. I am the owner and operator of Austin Air Companie, a HVAC Service Company serving Katy, Texas | Cypress, Texas | Richmond, Texas and some surrounding areas. I am a ‘SKILLED’ Texas Licensed HVAC Contractor with 24 years experience in Air Conditioning and Heating Systems as of June 2019. I hold an AOS degree in HVAC/R, EPA universally certified to handle any refrigerant and NATE certified in HVAC installations and repairs.

Whether you need zoning, single stage, 2 stage, inverter AC or even just a regular old fashioned air conditioner repair, you can be assured you are in the right place. Call Ray Austin today!

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