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You walk in the front door of the office and the hallway is warm. However, when you get to your cubicle, everything is suddenly cold. One of the largest factors for this phenomenon comes from how the building’s climate is controlled.
Traditional HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems operate by having a single thermostat read the temperature at one location and sends a signal to adjust the building temperature until the desired measurement is achieved. The problem is, since temperatures naturally vary in a building, only the part close to the central point will be cooled or heated sufficiently, while the rest will be thrown out of balance.
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This setup can cause numerous problems. Having improper temperatures can impede worker productivity and living conditions. If these temperatures get out of hand then individuals with pre-existing health conditions can be put at risk and have their lives in danger. The lack of any intelligent control in a building also leads to more inefficient energy usage, not only harming the environment but also driving up costs for the owning party.
So how can we use our engineering mindsets to solve this problem? Well, let’s look at the fundamental issue, the fact that the HVAC system is governed by only one thermostat.
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Pros and Cons of Multi Zone Heating and Cooling
So what if we were to simply introduce multiple thermostats into the system and divide the building into multiple zones? Well, this is actually how a real technology known as multi-zoning works.
Multi-zone systems work in a very smart yet simple way. Inside the ductwork of a building, there will be multiple dampers. A damper controls how much air is let in through the duct by changing the angle of its faceplate. When a thermostat senses that a room needs more air from a heater or AC, it will open, and when it needs less, it will close. This way, everything can be controlled remotely and efficiently.
Multi-zoning has a plethora of advantages over traditional HVAC systems. Their more granular control allows for superior comfort, enabling a better work and living environment, as well as protecting health. Multi-zone systems also save energy, and can be controlled remotely, removing the need for having to change all of the settings manually.
However, these same advantages can come with a steep cost. Specifically, multi-zoning systems cost more upfront to install and the intricate damper systems make it more prone to break downs.
Despite these small shortcomings, multi-zone systems are a modern marvel of HVAC engineering. Their more direct control allows building owners to take control of how they want to structure their environment, and save energy in the meantime. The next time you are thinking about how uncomfortable the temperature is at work or home, you may want to look into implementing a multi-zone system.
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About the Author
Isaac Gendler is a Junior Mechanical Engineering Student at San Jose State University. You can keep up with him at his blog, isaacscienceblog.wordpress.com.
- Andrus, S. (2016, September 27). The Pros and Cons of Multi-Zone Heating and Cooling.
- Seppanen, O., Fisk, W. J., & Faulkner, D. (2004). Control of Temperature for Health and Productivity in Offices. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
- What You Need to Know About Zoned HVAC Systems. (2014, August 11)