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New Building Codes for Air tightness, Ventilation, and Moisture Control- Article brought to us by IE3 Business Intelligence for Professional Contractors

New Building Codes for Air tightness, Ventilation, and Moisture Control

IECCmap_Revised-ASHRAE-climate-zones

New residential energy efficiency building codes are trying to tackle the challenge of how the home’s flow of energy, heat, air, and moisture will affect the indoor environment, including attics and crawlspaces. These codes are requiring homes to meet specific air tightness and indoor air quality standards, both of which are driving the need for dedicated dehumidification and mechanical ventilation.

Click here to create a do-it-yourself classified right in this article. Reach everyone reading this post!

The code item which addresses the tightness of the building sets ACH 50 standards based on location. Climate Zones 1 and 2 must achieve ≤5 ach50, and in Zones 3 – 8 ≤3 ach50. What does this mean? According to Kimberly Llewellyn, consultant at Austin based building science firm, Positive Energy, an ACH50 number is a standardized score which describes how tight a home is. ACH stands for Air Changes per Hour, which is the number of times in an hour that the volume of air in a house is replaced at the test pressure 50 Pascals, which is about equivalent to the conditions created by a 20 mph wind. The lower the score, the tighter the building, which means less “accidental air” gets in by uncontrolled means of infiltration or exfiltration (See Climate zone map above).

Build it Tight. Ventilate Right.

Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of the home through insulation, air sealing, and new windows and doors are some of the first steps when it comes to cutting heating and cooling costs. Such energy saving strategies can result in unintended consequences. If effective mechanical ventilation and moisture control methods are not implemented, the result could lead to uncomfortable living conditions, homeowner health issues, and in extreme cases, significant structural damage.

This is why if you live in an area that has adopted the 2012 IECC code (and there will be 20 states that have by the end of 2015), you must now also make sure that the home has a whole-house mechanical ventilation system to bring in the right amount of fresh filtered air to dilute indoor pollutants, and replenish oxygen.

R403.5 Mechanical ventilation (Mandatory).

The building should be provided with ventilation that meets the requirements of the International Residential Code, or International Mechanical Code, as applicable, or with other approved means of ventilation. Air intakes and exhausts should have automatic or gravity dampers that close when the ventilation system is not operating.

It is also important to know that even if your residential building code currently does not mandate a required amount of mechanical fresh air, there are recommended standards that help ensure a home’s occupants are getting the fresh air needed. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has developed the standard 62.2: The Standards for Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality.

This standard is used to calculate the MINIMUM ventilation requirement using ASHRAE 62.2-2013.

ASHRAE Airflow in CFM = [House Area in Sq. Ft. x 0.03] + [(Number of Bedrooms +1) x 7.5]

Example:

2500 sq. ft. house with 3 bedrooms, 4 occupants = [2500 X 0.03] + [(3+1) X 7.5] = 105 CFM

The ASHRAE 62.2 2010 standard would have required 55 cfm of fresh air for the same exact house. This is due to the assumption that a leaky house had some natural ventilation that helped dilute pollutants.

As you can see, our houses are getting tighter, and as a result we need to bring in more fresh air. Bringing in filtered fresh air from a known location into a tightly air-sealed home to dilute indoor air contaminants is absolutely necessary. Depending on what region you live in, you will also need to think about how to remove the humidity that you are bringing into the home. Dedicated dehumidification will almost certainly be necessary to maintain <50%RH in a house that meets these new building codes in green grass climates (areas where dew points reach above 60 degrees F).

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Traditional practice left it up to the A/C system to remove moisture in an attempt to keep it at an acceptable level. However, tightening houses limits the air conditioner running time, and oversized cooling systems can result in poor dehumidification. Also, the energy efficient, higher SEER A/C units do not remove as much moisture as the older, lower SEER systems. Keep in mind that an A/C system is only removing moisture when it is running. The shoulder seasons tend to be when dew points are highest, and temperatures are mild, resulting in high interior humidity levels with little to no moisture removal.

According to building science experts, in humid climates it is best to use a supply ventilation system to provide a slight positive pressure on the home in order to avoid the wet outside air being sucked into the home through the walls. During certain parts of the year (shoulder seasons), relative humidity will need to be controlled with a dehumidifier or the A/C system.

Indiana Soup- Story Courtesy of IE3 Business Intelligence for Professional Contractors

Date:
in: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

Image-DewPt-MapI thought I knew all about this topic, but I did not really get a grip on this until a few years ago while preparing to teach the subject. If you’re looking for the ultimate motivator for learning, I highly recommend getting hired to train a room full of experienced contractors so you can stand in front of them and preach, “This is how it is!”

The topic (this time), is moisture. Recall in the past we knew a home had a moisture load (or latent heat load) that needed to be managed, but we also knew our cold AC coil did a remarkable job of sucking the water out of the air. Even if you did not understand the psychrometric chart or read the AC manufacturer’s latent capacity specs, you still learned all about the great moisture removal abilities of an air conditioner the first time you forgot to hook up the condensate pipe. What a mess!

So what have I learned recently that makes me think I deserve your attention for the next few minutes? I now understand the potential water volume in air, and I appreciate the high levels of moisture we have in the Midwest for a large portion of the year.

Don’t stop reading because you have already read about moisture control. You are right, it is a topic frequently talked about today. However, I do not think many in our business are following through and helping the customer understand. It is time for all of us to sign up for a class on moisture. We can no longer ignore our professional responsibility to understand and control the humidity in our customer’s home.

Are you afraid of the psychrometric chart? Well, I am. Maybe not so much afraid as overwhelmed by how much information it reveals. Fortunately, you do not need to know it all. In fact, I do not even “work the chart” in my short class, but let’s remind ourselves on a few of the basics:

  • In the summer, in humid climates, we would like to comfort our homes to about 55% Relative Humidity. A dryer 50% RH is even better.
  • Outside air is beginning to feel uncomfortably humid at a dew point temperature of 60 degrees.
  • Outside air at 60 degree dew point brought inside an air conditioned home at 75 degrees will result in 60% RH. Too high.
  • Outside air at 65 degree dew point brought inside an air conditioned home at 75 degrees will result in 70% RH. Much too high. Bad things can start to happen, depending on how much of this moist air you allow inside.
  • Outside air at 70 degree dew point? Throw me a life jacket and snorkel!

So what? The air conditioner runs and we’re all fine, right? Two things are different now, compared to the past:

  1. Home Performance measures for existing homes (or building energy efficient new homes) helps our homes become more energy efficient, but now the AC runs less.
  2. Sometimes we deliberately suck in outside air that is above 60 degree dew point.

Either of these two actions on their own can cause moisture issues. Having both could be double trouble. Sometimes these measures simply affect the homeowner’s comfort. Sometimes there is so much moisture we cause health and structural problems. Who’s responsible? You. You are the expert. You must understand moisture.

What do you need to do?

The first step is to understand dew point and track it! This is an easy measuring stick for how much water is in the air, and you need to follow it. It’s on your weather app on your phone. Look at this number as frequently as you check the radar. Appreciate that some climates are very humid.

The summer so far in Indiana has been terrible. Wanna see it? Go to WeatherSpark.com. This is my favorite site to view historical Dew Point. The link below is for my city in Indiana, but you can change it to your city. This is a great resource when you learn to navigate through all the adjustments.

Weatherspark-image-f-DewPt

Note the dew point levels during the week I wrote this article. Those are serious moisture levels! Now notice the temperatures (Dry bulb) for this period. Not too hot, and especially if your home is energy efficient like mine, then there is not too much load on the AC.

My geothermal heat pump did not run too much that week, and not nearly enough for adequate moisture removal, but I was very comfortable thanks to my whole house dehumidifier. Fortunately, I did not let much of that Indiana soup into my home, other than a few, normal exhaust fan run times, clothes dryer exhaust, and normal door traffic. I condition to a very comfortable 76 degrees and 45% RH. Half my home is over a basement and the other over a sealed crawl space, and both are dry and odor free.

This is not the way it was in the past. I love the outdoors and in the past I kept my home open as much as possible. Odors grew downstairs, and spent portable dehumidifiers piled up in the basement.

Not so anymore! Once I condition my home in terms of temperature, humidity, and even pollens and dust, then I like to keep it that way. Sure, I still keep a lookout for “fresh” air and bring it in when it is available, but for some stretches of time in the Midwest, “fresh” is rare and I do not intentionally allow the Indiana soup to get into my home.

What about mandatory residential ventilation? (Oops, will you look at that. We are almost out of room for this article and we will need to cut it short.) Briefly, until we have more time, yes fresh air makes sense; lots of it for some situations, much less for others. But with what I know about moisture, I think we are blindly rushing into problems with indiscriminate ventilation. Ventilation timing and moisture knowledge is critical. In many areas, ventilation strategies must include a dehumidifier. And by the way: An ERV is not a Dehumidifier. (Related article http://www.ie3media.com/erv/)

Incidentally, I could go for a good dose of fresh air right now. Let’s see, checking the dew point map, I wonder what size duct I might need to bring in 100 cfm of fresh air from Ely, Minnesota to Indianapolis?

Jackson Systems Offers Solution for “Zoning the Impossible”

Zoning is becoming more and more popular in the residential and commercial markets. In residential applications, accessing duct work can present a challenge in existing construction. When bonus rooms and room additions are considered, there may not be duct work running to these areas.

The Motorized Zone Register (MZR™) from Jackson Systems is a low-cost, rugged, metal, motorized zone register designed to work with most forced air zone control systems. It can also be used as a stand-alone register with a wall-mounted thermostat to eliminate over-heating and over-cooling in bonus rooms, sun rooms, guest rooms and basements.

This easy-to-install zone register allows zoning to be installed in almost all residential applications. It is designed to fit most register boots and comes in many sizes, most in both tan and white. There is also a polymer version available for side wall installations.
The MZR is a standard register with a 24VAC spring open/power close actuator. It uses standard gauge thermostat wire (plenum-rated wire may be required if running through duct work.)

The MZR can be wired to a stand-alone thermostat for control of the register in single zone applications, or it can be wired to a zone panel and for multiple zone applications. Up to 6 Motorized Zone Dampers can be connected to a single zone.

The MZR is another innovative solution from Jackson Systems designed to make zoning easier and more profitable for HVAC contractors. For more information, visit zoningregister.com or call is at 888.652.9663.

Selling Comfort Through Controls

Selling zoning systems and smart thermostats is easier than you might think. Homeowners want to be comfortable and save energy. Zoning systems and smart thermostats provide both of these benefits. And just by observing and asking a few simple questions, you can easily sell comfort through controls.

When speaking with homeowners, analogies to other familiar home appliances and features can help them understand how it works. Explaining to consumers the two zones of a refrigerator, one for fresh food and one for frozen food can be helpful. Or ask them if it would make sense to have only one light switch that turns all of the lights in the house on or off. That is essentially what a single thermostat does with the HVAC equipment. One switch heats or cools the entire home.

When you are in the home, look for finished basements or room additions. These can be areas of comfort problems. Ask your customers if they are interested in lowering their utility bills. Independent tests have shown that zoning systems with programmable thermostats can save up to 30% or more on heating and cooling bills. And who is going to say no saving money?

Another revenue stream for your business is smart thermostats. According to the research firm Nielsen, the United States smartphone market is now 55% penetrated. Consumers are using their phones to control alarm systems and entry to their homes. They are viewing their favorite TV programs and movies. Some apps even allow control of television sets. And the list goes on. So much of our world is connected and consumers are hungry for more. So why not control their comfort from their smart device?

As technology continues to get more sophisticated in the smart device market, it is also happening in the HVAC controls market. There are many thermostats on the market that allow control through any smartphone, tablet or computer and most offer free apps to make this control even easier. And consumers are demanding more. In today’s market, there are so many options for smart thermostats. From basic Wi-Fi controlled thermostats that require no additional equipment to more sophisticated, feature-rich models that provide more control of IAQ equipment, there is an option available for nearly any budget and application.

Offering customers better comfort through HVAC controls is a smart business decision, but it is also a great service to your customers. Sometimes just asking a few simple questions can benefit you and your customers. Happy selling!

12 Technical Rules of Thumb for Installing Zoning

Z-300-HPS
1. In most cases, it will not be necessary to modify duct sizing when installing a zoning system.
2. It is a good practice to size the smallest zone to handle approximately 25% of the system CFM.
3. Never undersize the ductwork.
4. Upsizing registers in the smallest zone to the next larger size should be considered.
5. You can double the rated CFM of a register before it starts to become noisy.
6. Multi-stage equipment is always a better choice with a zoning system.
7. It is always better to slightly undersize the HVAC equipment than to oversize it.
8. Never locate a thermostat in a hallway.
9. Dampers should be installed at least 2 feet away from the plenum when possible.
10. Always use a separate 24 volt transformer to power the zone panel. Do not use the equipment transformer.
11. Always tag all wires, especially from dampers and thermostats.
12. Some basements may require setting the zone thermostat in the auto mode during the cooling season for the following reasons: basement walls are cold as a result of being underground, uninsulated ductwork located in the basement acts as a cooling radiator, ductwork leaking air, cold air falls.

For questions about zoning or for a quote on a zoning system, call us at 888.652.9663.

Zoning Selling Tips

zoning floor plan
1. Look for finished basements, add-on rooms or other additions where comfort may be a problem
2. Ask homeowners if there are particular areas in the home that are too hot or too cold.
3. If the homeowner is seeking a second system for their home, zoning may be a more cost effective option.
4. To help customers understand zoning, explain how their refrigerator has two separate zones, one for fresh foods and one for frozen foods.
5. Challenge homeowners to imagine a home with only one light switch that can only turn the lights on or off for the entire house. With a single-thermostat forced air system, they have to condition all of the air to condition any given space. Just like having one light switch to control all of the lights in the house.
Look for future posts on technical tips for installing zoning.

New E-Commerce Site Makes Ordering Easier

E-commerce ShotWe recently updated the look and navigation of our Web site to make it easier to find the great products you are searching for. A large part of this upgrade was improvements to our online ordering system. The new E-commerce tool is easier to use and contains more information about your account. With the new site, past orders can be viewed, quotes can be viewed and changed to orders and you can upload a CSV file of common or repetitive orders. These are just a few of the new features of the site. To help you better take advantage of the new E-commerce offerings, we have created a guide to navigating the site. We hope you find the changes useful and using the site a more enjoyable experience. Download the E-commerce User Guide

Introducing Our Newest Product Line – BACnet® Thermostats

The JS Series BACnet thermostat combines the power of a space-mounted equipment controller with the convenience of built-in temperature and humidity. The thermostats include a wide range of factory supplied programs for the following applications:

  • Two-pipe and four-pipe fan coil units
  • Roof top units
  • Heat pump units
  • Packaged and split unitary systems
  • appstat

    No special programming, software applications or setup tools are required to configure and commission a JS Series BACnet thermostat. All options can be set by using only the five front panel buttons and the easy-to-read menus in the full-color display.

    The attractive two-piece design is ideal for new installations or upgrades of older, less efficient thermostats. All models are native BACnet, Application Specific Thermostats ready to connect to a BACnet MS/TP network. Device instance, MAC address and baud rate are set from the password protected front controls. All models feature a hardware clock and BACnet schedule that can be setup from the front panel or as standard BACnet objects and properties.

    For more information, call us at 888.652.9663.

Performance Contracting

Tom Jackson visits with a contractor at the ACCA Building Performance Forum sponsored by "The News"

Tom Jackson visits with a contractor at the ACCA Building Performance Forum sponsored by “The News”

Energy savings is top-of-mind as we move into what could be a very harsh winter in some parts of the United States. This paired with the growing consumer demand for “green” products is driving many HVAC contractors to performance-based contracting. By viewing the house as a system, these contractors open up a new revenue stream while also doing their customers a great service. As energy costs continue to increase and the demand for “greener” products grows, performance-based contracting is sure to follow.

Here is a link to a great story in “The News”, explaining some strategies for getting into performance-based contracting and resources available to contractors. ACCA Examines Performance-Based Contracting

A Long Cold Winter Predicted

Jaymie Hunckler

This blog post is courtesy of Jaymie Hunckler, Account Manager at Jackson Systems.

Stock up on your hats and gloves now (or rather your hot surface igniters and thermocouples); winter is just around the corner! If you’re an advocate of the Farmer’s Almanac, prepare now – this winter is going to be a doozy!

Calling this winter the “Days of Shivery”, the Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting a winter that will experience below average temperatures for about two-thirds of the United States. While nationwide, last winter was relatively mild, less a few end of season ‘blizzards’, the nation’s coldest temperatures this year will stretch from the Northeast, through the Southeast, Midwest and Southern plains, with above average precipitation rates. What does all this mean? Batten down the hatches, boys, the snow is ON.ITS.WAY (although it is predicted the Pacific Northwest and West Coasts will experience a drier, warmer winter).

Now, it’s easy to challenge the Farmers’ Almanac prediction. The almanac claims an 80% success rate in weather predictions, though many, especially meteorologists refute the 80% success rate claim. Because the almanac doesn’t actually share its mathematical equation for weather prediction, instead indicating that the “top secret” formula is based off of past weather patterns, sunspot activities, and other phenomenon. Even more interesting, the Farmers’ Almanac will not disclose the true identity of its forecast predictor, identifying him simply as “Caleb Weatherbee”.

Regardless of whether or not you take the Farmers’ Almanac predictions to heart, colder weather is coming – and it’s coming sooner rather than later. Preparation is key in the HVAC industry, as system failures and other malfunctions are the only true predictables each winter.

The last thing any contractor wants is to find himself without critical supplies when on a jobsite. In order to serve as a stronger all-around resource for all our contractors, and help ensure all of our clients are as prepared as possible, Jackson Systems is proud to announce that we are now offering Honeywell Combustion products. Contractors may choose from a line-up of new products, such as hot surface igniters, thermocouples, fan timers, contactors, pilot controls and oil burner control units. For more information, check out the products page on the Jackson Systems website: Honeywell Combustion Products

Feel free to contact us anytime at 1-888-652-9663 for more information or to request a quote.

Product Submissions Available Online

ZoneOneSubmittalThumbnailWe pride ourselves in making it easy to use our products. Whether that’s ease of installation, great technical support or providing the tools you need at your fingertips, Jackson Systems is committed to excellent client service. To make it easier to specify our light commercial offerings, we have recently developed product specification sheets and posted these to our Web site. There are two versions for each product, PDF and Word. All of these specifications can be downloaded at http://jacksonsystems.com/submittals. These documents can also be located on each of the specific product pages within the Web site. The Word document version makes cutting and pasting the specifications into your proposal quick and easy, while the PDF versions are designed to be email friendly. Happy specifying!

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Top 25 FAQ Part Four

To continue of our mission to round up our 25 top FAQ we thought we’d pull from our in house experts and ask employees to give us the top 5 most FAQ’s with answers included. To help you get to know the wonderful talent that makes Jackson Systems run, we’re sharing their answers and introducing some of our talent.

Meet:

Ryan Feyeraband, Inside Sales Engineer

Favorite thing about working at Jackson Systems:

“What I like best about Jackson Systems is we take care of our customers.  This is something Jackson Systems believes in and makes us very successful as a company.”

FAQ #16: Does the Warning Watchdog™ monitor refrigerant pressure?

The answer is yes! Warning Watchdog™, an alarm system that monitors individual condensing units and immediately detects voltage interruption, tampering or refrigerant loss.

FAQ #17: How can my company get set up to purchase from Jackson Systems?

Easy, simply fill out an online credit application or use a credit card. To get set up for e-commerce access with Jackson Systems, request a new account and get online access for pricing and ordering.

FAQ #18: What are Jackson Systems business hours?

Our business hours are between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm EST. We would enjoy hearing from you. Please give us a call or send us an e-mail.

FAQ #19: Why should I buy Jackson Systems Zone Control?

It works, very reliable and we support our products. Zoning controls can be added to any forced heating or cooling system as an accessory. A zone controlled system allows you to adjust the temperature in various parts of your home independently, a luxury you might enjoy. Each area of the home will have its own thermostat, and you can set the temperature for what you like for heating and cooling for just that area.

FAQ # 20: What kind of warranty does Jackson Systems Zone panel carry?

The Jackson Systems Zone Control panel is covered under warranty for 10 years.

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort System 6-Zone Universal Zone Control Panel

The Comfort System™ Z-600™ is a versatile 6 zone control board for residential and commercial zoning applications.  The system can be expanded to as many as 12 zones by adding 3-zone expansion panels.  The Z-600™ can be used with single stage, multi-stage or heat pump equipment up to 3 stages of heat and 2 stages of cool.  The panel also has a built in duel capability to handle your challenging heat pump with fossil fuel auxiliary heat applications.  Simple slide switch configuration allows a wide range of system setup and control options best suited for each zoning application.  The Z-600™ is a position zone control system that can accommodate two wire or 3 wire dampers.  Additional features include fuse protected inputs and outputs, easy-to-read and access wiring terminals, LED status indication of all system functions, time delay override, adjustable on-board limits, outdoor balance point control for duel fuel applications, and selectable ventilation and purge modes.  Capacity control can also stage equipment based on the number of zones calling.

For more inforamation on Jackson Systems' Z-600™, please visit us at www.jacksonsystems.com or call 888-652-9663

The Green Zone – Green for the planet, Green for you

The Green Zone

Zone control can make a difference for a "greener" planet.

Residential living spaces are often challenging and costly to make comfortable with basic heating and cooling systems. The U.S. Department of Energy states that the typical family spends an average of $1300 a year on utility bills, with 44 percent devoted to heating and cooling expenses. This is a large energy waste that contributes to thousands of pounds of added carbon dioxide emission per household. Homeowners are becoming more environmentally conscious and are looking for ways of reducing energy consumption.

The Green Zone is a simple, high quality and competitively priced residential and light commercial zone control system that consists of a microprocessor based logic panel that can control two zones. The system is available in single-stage, multi-stage and heat pump configurations and is designed to eliminate the 8-12 degree temperature difference that exists between upstairs and downstairs in most two story homes, or between one end and the other in ranch-style homes. The system will also improve overall space comfort and lower operating costs.

How The Green Zone Works
The Green Zone panel is the “heart” of the zone control system. It receives the temperature settings from the zone thermostats and directs the right amount of conditioned air to the proper zone at the right time.

Comfort System™ dampers regulate the air to each zone or area. The zone control panel tells the dampers whether they should be open or closed, making sure that the conditioned air is only sent where needed.

Zone thermostats act as the “command center” for controlling the zone temperatures. The Green Zone system will work with most any equipment compatible thermostat, allowing for a wide selection of choices.

Learn more by visiting The Green Zone on our website.

Night Setback

Some customers, especially commercial customers, will want to use a night thermostat to set back all the zones in a zoning system to allow for occupied and unoccupied temperature scheduling of the building.

The components needed are a night thermostat, a 7-day time clock, and an override timer. Occupied and unoccupied scheduling can be accomplished with most zoning systems by interrupting the “R wire” between the zone control panel and the equipment. Other zoning system control boards like a Jackson Systems’ Z-2000 have terminals built into the boards for these connections. The time clock is set to open the equipment control circuit at night which will lower temperature in the case of heating (and raise the temperature in the case of cooling) to the set point on the night thermostat. The override timer is used to override the night thermostat and give control back to the zone control system.

As for wiring of the components, this depends on the control board used.  The time clock, night thermostat, and override timer must be in parallel.  Either the board must accomplish this, so you will see a separate terminal for each device, or you must physically wire the three devices in parallel.

Using these components will allow for even greater energy savings for the customer.

Troubleshooting Zone Control

By: Mike Holscher, Inside Sales Engineer at Jackson Systems, LLC

Although forced air zone control systems vary from one manufacturer to another, the principle of zoning is basically the same. A residential or light commercial zone control system uses multiple thermostats and motorized or pneumatic zone dampers along with a logic panel to control the air distribution from a single HVAC unit to individual zones. In most applications, a bypass damper is also incorporated to maintain the system static pressure as zone dampers open and close.

Typical Zoning System Layout

With proper test, check and start-up procedures, modern zone control systems require very little, if any, maintenance after the original installation. Unfortunately, not every system is thoroughly tested to assure that everything is functioning properly which usually leads to a user complaint after the fact.

If the service contractor is not the original installer of the zoning system, it is always a good practice to find out from the user what brand system requires troubleshooting as the original manufacturer can provide technical assistance, along with installation and operation manuals that will make the service technicians’ job a lot easier in diagnosing the problem. The zone thermostat on the wall is not necessarily the zone control brand. The user needs to confirm the manufacture of the logic panel which could be located on or near the HVAC unit, in a closet, garage or even in an attic. If they simply don’t know, or locating the panel is too inconvenient, then the technician is making a blind service call. This is where basic understanding of zone control systems can be a real plus in the troubleshooting process.

Before heading for the jobsite, the service technician should make sure to have the following in the tool kit:
Quality multi-meter
Digital thermometer
Small screwdriver that fits electronic terminal blocks
Flashlight
18-gauge thermostat jumper wires

Where to start:

Most user complaints come from not being comfortable. This could be related to multitude of things including zone thermostats, zone dampers, the logic panel or even the HVAC equipment. A good start is to find out if the problem is isolated to one zone or multiple zones. If it’s a single zone, the diagnostic process becomes less involved.  Typically a single zone problem can be traced back to a malfunctioning zone damper or zone thermostat.  Testing of the zone damper to see if it is opening and closing properly and replacing any defective parts on the zone damper can solve many problems.

Checking Zone Dampers for Proper Operation

Testing of the thermostat to see if it is operating normally by having it call for conditioned air would be the second troubleshooting step on single zone problems.  This can be accomplished by confirming that the zone control panel is receiving the correct corresponding signals from the thermostat. A jumper wire can come in handy here.  Disconnecting the thermostats from the logic panel and placing a jumper wire between the R terminal and the W terminal on one zone terminal can simulate a call for heat.  This can help confirm that the logic panel and the HVAC equipment are working properly.  Usually if a contractor can troubleshoot a thermostat that does not have zoning, they can troubleshoot a thermostat that does have zoning.
Multiple zone problems can be more complicated but the troubleshooting steps are similar to a single zone problem.  Isolating zone dampers and zone thermostats and testing each component individually should help you find the problem.
Troubleshooting the logic panel can more involved than troubleshooting individual zones.  The logic panel is where the thermostats, dampers and the HVAC equipment are tied together.

Trouble shooting Zone Panel

Testing the logic panel can be accomplished by using a quality multi-meter and checking for voltage or continuity at certain terminals on the panel.  If you are getting an input signal from the thermostat but you are not getting an output signal to the HVAC equipment the logic panel might need replaced.  Any and all fuses on the logic panel should also be checked to make sure they are in proper working condition.  It is best to have a separate dedicated transformer powering the logic panel in order to isolate the zone control system from the HVAC equipment.  Many logic panels have built in LED’s to help troubleshoot the zoning system.  These LED’s can tell the contractor when dampers are open or closed, when cooling or heating is being called for by the thermostat or when the fan is being called for.  The use of these LED’s can provide invaluable assistance in diagnosing zoning problems.
When testing any component, care is needed to make sure all wires are landed securely and that there is no break in any of the wiring.  If pneumatic tubes are used, make sure there are no leaks and the pump is functionally properly.
If the zone thermostats, zone dampers, and the logic panel seem to be in working order, then attention now needs to be focused on the HVAC equipment.  Disconnecting the R wire and the W wire from the logic panel and wiring these two together should bring on the equipment.  Testing of the HVAC equipment can follow the same testing procedures as if there was not zone control.  Sub-cooling, super-heat, temperature, and pressure readings should all be taken.
Forced air zone control technology has taken tremendous steps in the last decade.  Ease of installation, reliability of parts, and technical support from manufactures, are all areas that have improved that have allowed zone control to grow both in residential and light commercial markets.  Troubleshooting zone control systems is also an area that is seeing a higher level of expertise among contractors.  This expertise allows the end user to have a higher level of comfort than has been enjoyed in the past. 

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