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Zoned Heating vs. Central Heating

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What’s the Difference and Which One Is Right For Your Home?

When you’re choosing a new furnace for your home, there are a lot of different decisions to make.

One decision that falls into the last category is whether or not to install a zoning system. Today we’re going to help you with that decision by talking about the differences between zoned heating vs. central heating and how to decide which option is right for your Coachella Valley home!


First, let’s get some terminology out of the way. Technically, zoned heating is a form of central heating. Both styles of heating systems use a single, central furnace that heats all of the air that’s delivered to your home. The difference, as you’ll see below, comes down to how each type of system delivers air to your home’s floors and rooms. So when we talk about zoned heating in this post, we are talking about central furnaces that use a zoning system to deliver air. When we talk about central heating, we are talking about a central furnace that uses traditional methods to deliver air.

How each delivers warm air to your home

When a traditional central furnace is running, every single room in your home that has a supply vent will receive warm air. In other words, central heating is always in one of two states: either every room in your home is receiving warm air or none of the rooms in your home are receiving warm air. The only way to get around this would be to manually close off the supply vents in some of your rooms, which we don’t recommend.

With zoned heating, every supply vent has a mechanical damper that is either open or closed. When your furnace is running, only the rooms with supply vents whose dampers are open will receive warm air. This means that zoned heating can be in many different states: either none of your rooms are receiving warm air, every room is receiving warm air or only some of your rooms are receiving warm air. The decisions of which dampers are open at what times are made by separate thermostats, which we’ll talk about next.

Differences in Thermostats

A home with a central furnace only has one thermostat. This thermostat is typically located in the middle of the home on the ground floor, and it is supposed to represent the temperature of every single section of your home. When the area surrounding the thermostat gets too cold, the thermostat sends a signal to the furnace and tells it to turn on, and every part of your home will receive warm air indiscriminately. Once the area surrounding the thermostat is adequately warm, the thermostat will tell the furnace to shut off and every room in your home will stop receiving warm air.

The problem with the approach above is that different parts of your home tend to have different temperature levels. For example, upstairs rooms might be warmer than the main floor. Or there might be parts of your home that warm up faster due to a lot of windows and sunlight. As a result, your central thermostat likely doesn’t accurately represent the temperature of every part of your home, and certain sections will always be either too hot or too cold.

With zoned heating, you can section off your home into individual zones, and each zone will get its own thermostat. For example, you might choose to turn every level of your home into its own zone, which can be heated separately from the rest of your home. This allows your furnace to focus only on warming the zones that require heat at any given time. Every thermostat can tell your furnace to turn on at any moment, and only the zones that require heat will keep the dampers in their supply vents open during each heating cycle.

Which one is right for your home?

Zoned heating can significantly improve your home’s comfort and efficiency levels, and it can eliminate hot and cold spots in your home. As a result, we recommend zoned heating for anyone with a mid- to large-sized home, especially if your home has multiple levels. The only time that we wouldn’t recommend zoned heating is if you have a smaller, ranch-style home where the central thermostat can accurately represent the temperature of every room.

If you have any questions about zoned heating vs. central heating, or if you’d like a heating system serviced or installed in your home, contact Hydes, your Indio, CA, furnace installation and repair contractor.

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