Central heat and air are gradually starting to seem like the old coal furnace. Back in the day, it was state-of-the-art: A large blasting furnace in the basement or garage with tubing and piping and registers to move air through the home. No air conditioning, of course. That would come later in the 20th century.
It’s fairly obvious now that the system had flaws. One, ducts were expensive, labor-intensive, leaky misconveniences. Two, the single furnace had to be large enough to accommodate the frigid room at the end of the house, and we burned a lot of unnnessary fuel. Three, it wasn’t comfortable. Grandma’s house had warm spots where everyone congregated during the winter. As for air conditioning, well, she could only dream . . . .
Now multi-zone systems are taking over the market. Ductless mini-splits are the wave of the future. Each zone has its own controls and you can have as many as five zones around the house. You might be surprised how much this lowers your fuel bills and enhances comfort!
No Central HVAC bureau-crazy!
Multi-zone systems run independently off a single outdoor condenser. Each zone has an indoor air handler, as well as a thermostat, wi-fi enabled, and other features. The air handlers can be mounted on the wall or installed in the ceiling. The beauty of the system is that each zone operates as an independent nation, and there is no central bureaucracy, so to speak. If you decide to shut down part of the house while you go north in the summer and keep one room cool for your plants . . . no problem. All that’s lost is the cost of cooling those rooms.
Pros Endorse Ductless HVAC
To make the most of multiple zones, you need professional consultation. A good contractor will perform a Manual J to decide how much heat and cooling is needed in each area of the home. This is a statistics-based analysis designed to factor in the size of rooms, height of ceilings, typical occupancy, exposure to sunlight, and other variables. (If you’re considering a DIY, keep in mind that many warranties don’t kick in unless you have HVAC products professionally installed.)
Just focus on how much trouble you avoid by skipping the ducts. With a ducted system, a contractor would have needed to do a Manual D— an assessment to ensure that all of the plenums and supply ducts are properly sized. You also would need to have the right number and placement of registers. And that’s just for the ductwork! It’s little wonder that older homes are notorious for leaking conditioned air.
Welcome to the age of room-sized comfort! Welcome to the zone.