NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

Commercial Installations, Residential Installations

Zoned AC System: Improving Comfort While Lowering Energy Costs


zoned AC system

Too hot? Too cold? Just right?

When it comes to air conditioning, individual preferences for what temperature is “comfortable” make pleasing everyone a huge challenge. (It’s enough to make Goldilocks seem low maintenance.)

If maintaining the “right” temperature in every area of your building has been a headache this summer, it might be time for a change — and a zoned AC system may be just the solution you need.

Meet different needs with zoned cooling

Different areas of a building typically have different cooling requirements based on how and when they are used. Apartments, offices, computer rooms, storage areas, lobbies, kitchens, dining rooms, retail spaces, warehouses — they all have their own specific needs throughout the day (and night).

With a zoned AC system, you can precisely control cooling functions in different areas (zones) of your building according to their requirements.

For example, you can set the temperature lower on the upper floors to compensate for naturally rising heat. Or adjust for level of activity — say, to keep a workout room cooler than office spaces.

In addition to making the people in your building more comfortable, a zoned AC system also offers improved energy efficiency and cost savings. It allows you to target cooling to the zones that need it while avoiding other spaces that don’t need to be so cool (or cool at all).

Zoned AC system options

The simplest way to implement a zoned AC system involves creating zones and installing programmable thermostats to monitor and control the temperature in each zone. The thermostats control dampers in the ductwork to regulate the flow of cooled air to the different zones.

Rather than having the same temperature setting for the entire space, this type of zoned AC system allows you to set (and change) the temperature in each zone according to time of day.

In addition to making occupied spaces more comfortable and creating cool zones for uses such as IT closets, the system helps you avoid wasting energy (and money) cooling other areas unnecessarily.

You can also opt for a system that uses a multi-zone thermostat, with sensors in each zone to monitor and relay temperature information back to the main thermostat. This allows you to control the entire system from one thermostat rather than having separates controls in each zone.

Zoned cooling with a VRF system

Another method that is gaining popularity in the New York City area is Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF), a zoned HVAC technology. If you’re thinking about replacing your entire HVAC system, VRF might be the solution for you.

Much like a traditional central air conditioning system, a VRF system is typically air-cooled and refrigerant-based, using an outdoor condenser unit and indoor fan coil units.

However, rather than using a single large, noisy central unit to pump air to the entire space, a VRF system controls the flow of cooling refrigerant to multiple smaller indoor air handlers. These smaller units are ideally suited to creating a zoned AC system for individually controlled areas within a building.

VFR cooling advantages

What’s more, a VRF solution offers a number of advantages as a zoned AC system:

It precisely controls temperatures for more consistent comfort.

A VRF system has the ability to gauge the temperature requirements of each zone and deploy just the right amount of coolant needed. The result is a more consistently comfortable temperature, without the hot and cold spots that can plague some systems.

It’s energy efficient.

Because a VRF system is designed to provide each air handler with the exact amount of coolant needed to cool a zone under the current conditions, the system can run less frequently and at lower capacity — which in turn uses less energy.

It’s highly reliable.

A zoned AC system using VRF technology is designed to run only when needed and under partial load conditions. This helps to reduce the stress on parts and the chance of system breakdowns.

It’s quieter than traditional AC.

For residential and business use, the variable capacity of a VRF zoned AC system means it can keep the whole building cool without running at full blast — making the system quieter than a traditional split system. Plus, the indoor air handlers are smaller and quieter with VRF.

It’s compact.

With its small air handlers and (with a ductless VRF system) no requirements for ductwork, shafts, or a mechanical room, a VRF system is flexible for use in small spaces or spaces where you want to preserve architectural details.

It’s smart.

As with many state-of-the-art systems, VFR technology lets you use a mobile device to track system performance and manage settings from any location. With smart built-in system controls, you might not even need to buy pricey building management software.

VRF technology is not just for AC!

A VRF system offers both cooling and heating. In fact, it even allows you to cool and heat at the same time based on different needs in different areas of your building.

Capturing residual heat as part of the cooling process, a VRF system can redirect the heat to building zones that may need heating. For instance:

  • Heat offices on a cool day while cooling computer rooms and crowded meeting spaces
  • Cool exterior spaces where the sun beats in while heating the basement or interior spaces that are chilly
  • Depending on the season, heat or cool the lobby to make up for people constantly coming in and out the door
  • Cool a restaurant kitchen while keeping the dining space warm

It is important to note that with a climate such as that in NYC, a VRF system might not be able to provide adequate heat during the coldest months and may require some supplemental heating source, such as a radiant floor heating system.

Is a zoned AC system right for you?

Arista provides complete HVAC services, from assessing usage requirements and designing a system through installation and ongoing maintenance. Our HVAC experts can help you assess the benefits and do a cost-benefit analysis to determine what type of zoned AC system will give you the best cooling (and if desired, heating) comfort and energy efficiency for your needs.

Contact us to get started today. Or, to learn more about what AC system might be right for your building, check out our free guide: The Ultimate Guide to NYC Light Commercial Air Conditioning.


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