When we moved into our house one of the things we noticed was that things didn’t quite heat or cool evenly. Certain rooms would be hotter than others. If you set the thermostat (downstairs) to a specific temperature, in winter the master bedroom (upstairs) would still be freezing; in the summer it’d be boiling. We were able to do a little bit of control using a complex trial-and-error system involving closing down various heat registers and tweaking dampers in the garage.
Besides that, the system wasn’t terribly efficient. When the heat kicked on, it was full-on. Same for the air conditioning. It’s no surprise since the furnace and A/C units installed were the bottom-end versions that usually get installed with new houses.
Eventually we got tired of that and last year I had Sky Heating install a brand new system. We got a Trane XL20i heat pump and a Trane XC80 furnace. One of the key reasons I picked those, besides the efficiency, was the ComfortLink system they support that allows them to communicate with each other. It allows the system to know, for example, when the heat pump is at the end of its efficiency and the furnace needs to kick on - rather than just being based entirely on outdoor temperature. A bit smarter than the average system.
After the install, we did notice a much more efficient use of natural gas and the temperatures evened out a bit… but we still had some pockets of heat (or cool) and I really wanted to be able to fix that.
Luckily, the ComfortLink system also allows support for the new Trane zone system that allows you to set up automatic temperature control in specific areas of your home. Rather than having one temperature for the “whole house,” you can have a different temperature in each zone. (This thing is so new, Trane doesn’t even have a page for it on their web site.) I had heard it was coming out at some point and was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor. A couple of weeks ago, Sky Heating brought one out and installed it.
It is awesome.
First, you get a new thermostat that’s capable of dealing with the more complex programming of the zones - the Trane XL950. This thing is a monster (in a good way). Wifi-enabled. Touch screen controls that let you see everything from the current zone temperatures/schedules to the weather forecast. Stick an SD card with some photos in the side and it’s also a picture frame. Really slick.
Your manual dampers in the system then get replaced with electronic dampers that are wired into a “zone panel” that attaches to the furnace. The zone panel is responsible for dealing with the dampers and monitoring air flow.
Rather than tell you… here’s a video I made that shows you a bit more:
And another one, a testimonial I did for Sky Heating:
Temperatures in the house are way more consistent now. I can heat or cool just the rooms I’m in, and to the temperatures they should be. Note that it does take a week or so to “dial it in” and get it set up just the way you want it - adjusting the schedule, the temperatures in each zone, and so on. It’s well worth the effort, though, and I highly recommend it. If you’re in the market for something like this, or if you want your house to feel the way it’s supposed to - comfortable - look into it. If you’re in the Portland, OR area, give Sky Heating a call. You’ll be glad you did.