Proper insulation and energy-efficient windows can do a lot to improve a building’s thermal performance and reduce its heating and cooling costs. However, these factors are mostly meant to retain heat or cold after it’s been produced. The HVAC system is still responsible for heating or cooling the air to the desired temperature. In commercial heating or cooling especially, what constitutes a “desired temperature” is likely to differ from one part of the building to the next. It might make sense to heat one room to a comfortable 70 degrees, but less sense to heat another area to the same temperature if it isn’t in use or would be more comfortable at a cooler temperature. Therein lies the importance of zoning and zone control throughout a commercial building.
Zoning: How It Works
The basic idea of zoning is that you can have multiple different temperature settings throughout a building. Instead of the temperature for the entire building being controlled from one central thermostat, you would have various thermostats spread throughout the building—whether on different floors, in different rooms, or in different sections of the premises. Each separate thermostat controls its own climate zone in the building. The thermostats are all linked to the same HVAC system, but can essentially demand heating or cooling in different measures. As a result, the people in those climate zones can all select their own preferred temperatures, rather than making do with a single standard temperature for the entire building.
In more technical terms, a professionally installed system for zone temperature control in a building will consist of a different thermostat and damper for each zone of the building. The thermostats and dampers are each wired into the central control panel for the entire HVAC system. Dampers are valves that slow, block, or otherwise regulate airflow in the ducts. They allow the HVAC system to distribute air more efficiently throughout the building, or to prevent the hot air called by one zone from leaking out into the adjacent zone. The zone thermostat issues this call to the central thermostat, which then controls the dampers based on which other zones might be calling.
The Benefits of Zone Control in Commercial Heating
Many HVAC systems, even in a residential setting, come equipped with some sort of zone control. Even in a medium-sized house, this type of control can have significant benefits. Let’s say you live on the main floor of your home and have a second floor where guests stay when they come to visit. Usually, it’s fine to keep the upper floor significantly cooler than the main floor, because no one is going up there most days. Zone control can make this kind of temperature zoning possible, thereby saving money on heating that isn’t going to have a huge impact on comfort.
In commercial buildings, this kind of benefit is amplified tenfold—if not more. Since commercial buildings are larger than houses, they break apart into more zones and more sections. You might have a lobby, an office wing, and a shipping warehouse or manufacturing floor—all in the same building. Each of these areas is probably going to demand a different heating or cooling setting. For instance, in the lobby, there are doors leading outside. When these doors get opened, it can throw off the temperature equilibrium of the lobby space. As such, you will probably want to set the temperature in the lobby accordingly to counteract these effects.
In the office upstairs, meanwhile, where there’s no outdoor access, you can probably set your heating temperature a little lower. There aren’t any drafts from outside affecting the temperature, which means it is easier to maintain a comfortable temperature in those rooms. You can set the thermostats in these zones accordingly, to save energy and avoid an excessively hot work environment for your employees.
Finally, with the shipping warehouse or factory floor, you are probably going to want the temperature to be a little bit cooler. People who work in these areas are typically moving around a lot or doing heavy lifting. They don’t need it to be as warm as the employees who are working in the office upstairs and mostly sitting behind computer screens all day.
Create a More Comfortable Workspace with Temperature Zone Control
As you can see, zone control in commercial heating can do a lot to make the workspaces throughout your business more comfortable for your employees. At the same time, you can save energy by not overheating (or overcooling) certain areas, or by configuring your zones so that less-used parts of your building aren’t using as much energy. From lower energy bills to higher company morale, the advantages of temperature zone control in a commercial building will be felt by everyone. Don’t overlook this vital facet when purchasing a new HVAC system.