Zoning in on Home Automation



LAS VEGAS — Home automation is no longer a thing of the past. Customers are seeking ways to intelligently control their homes in more ways than ever before, as evidenced by the number of new products displayed in this sector at the AHR Expo. And, while zoning still remains a small percentage of the HVAC market, it offers numerous benefits contractors may or may not recognize. Zoning manufacturers showcased these benefits, and a number of other new components, in Las Vegas.


Connectivity is the biggest trend within home automation and zoning. Various products are going to great lengths to keep customers connected and cued in on their indoor comfort levels.

Trane introduced the XL-1050 color touchscreen Wi-Fi thermostat and zone controller that joins the XL-824 and XL-850 controls as the only thermostat with a built-in smart home gateway.

“The Nexia smart home bridge is built right into every XL-1050, so consumers can build out a complete smart home solution at their own pace with no required additional gateways,” said Matt Barga, portfolio leader, product management, Trane.“The smart home market is moving beyond connected thermostats, which deliver real benefits to consumers in both comfort and convenience to integrated systems where HVAC equipment acts in concert with other devices and systems.”


Many manufacturers were excited to unveil their smart zoning equipment at the AHR Expo.

According to Belimo Americas, “Smart thermostats can’t satisfy the additional HVAC control requirements to effectively deliver the designed air volume to the thermostat’s location in a home. Smart zoning is the control system that operates between the thermostat and the HVAC equipment and it’s needed to deliver on comfort and efficiency.”

Therefore, Belimo debuted its Constant Air Volume (CAV) damper assembly for the residential market. The CAV actuator with embedded logic and air volume sensor automatically adjusts the damper position to maintain the configured set point. The cfm set point can be configured with the Belimo CAV application and any near-field communication (NFC) Android device.

Wireless zoning is an emerging trend within the zoning market, and Arzel Zoning Technology Inc. has capitalized on this trend, creating their Haven wireless zoning system that creates and stores energy to power itself using the air moving through the duct.

“This translates to no wiring for contractors and can cut installation time in half over old-fashioned, conventional, 24-V systems. Contractors also use an app to configure the system, which further reduces the installation time. Haven is controlled by a consumer app. This makes it very convenient for the building manager or homeowner to control the temperature in any zone from anywhere in the world,” said Rick Wilson, director of sales and marketing, Arzel.

Haven eliminates the need for a thermostat, as it has temperature sensors in each zone, so the user can monitor and adjust as needed using the app or a push button on display.

EWC Controls Inc. has come up with a solution to tie the thermostat and zoning technology together. Combining the two technologies, they feel it eases the installation process for contractors to install a complete comfort package that also interacts with each component.

“Our newest control board, the UT-3000, is built on a protocol that will allow the communication of the equipment, the thermostats, and the zoning system to all talk to each other and create a plug-and-play setup for installing contractors. Once the items are installed and wired together, the setup process is automatic. Contractor do not need to set switches or change any dials as the equipment will function on their own,” said Mike Reilly, president, EWC Controls Inc.

With Wi-Fi thermostats, homeowners may now control their HVAC systems from miles away. While this is convenient, many homeowners are asking about options, such as zoning, that allow them to customize the temperatures in the individual rooms of their homes.

“Not only can they control the temperature and monitor how much it’s being used but by seeing and touching it more often, they are thinking about how to make it better. They are thinking about the rooms being too hot or too cold and questioning why they are conditioning un-used rooms. That leads them to think about how to solve these problems and that leads to zoning,” said Dick Foster, president, ZoneFirst.

ZoneFirst’s new By-Pass Eliminator (BPE) automates the old, standard, manually adjustable by-pass dampers in a separate duct and eliminates them. The BPE control fully automates the zone dampers to adjust based on air pressure and bleeds excess air into closed zones to avoid back pressure in the supply ducts as the zone closes. The BPE’s digital static pressure control provides accurate air pressure monitoring versus barometric or spring-loaded dampers commonly used for by-pass.

Furthermore, Duro Dyne Corp. is working to provide fresh air into the home, which eliminates moisture, bacteria, carbon monoxide, and household odors. The Dyna-Fresh Air Quality Control System brings outdoor air inside to make a comfortable and healthy environment. The key factor is the control panel that draws air in at pre-determined intervals with a 24-V timer or manual override for continuous, fresh airflow.

“Tight construction of new homes requires that fresh air be brought in. Duro Dyne’s AQC fresh-air intake systems meet these new requirements. The feature most unique to the AQC is that our system activates an existing exhaust fan. Activing an exhaust fan allows fresh air to be introduced while stale air is exhausted. This ensures a positive flow of fresh air into the space,” said Pat Rosetto, president, Duro Dyne Corp.

“For a new customer or a current customer interested in bettering their HVAC system, they can do so with zoning,” said Foster.