The Best Thermostat for Multiple Zones
Daan Goossens, 2 years ago   |    41   |    7 min read   |    255879

Most homes in North America consist of multiple zones or spaces for different purposes. You probably have a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and maybe an office. All these zones have to be heated (or cooled) – but not necessarily at the same time. 

When you get out of bed in the morning to make your first cup of coffee, you want your kitchen to be warm and inviting. But you may prefer that your bedroom remains at a cooler temperature. Similarly, when you go to bed at night you don’t need your kitchen or living room to be heated at all. We all go about our daily lives living in multiple zones, but most people treat their home as one single heating or cooling zone, regardless of their heating setup.

There are many benefits to dividing your home into multiple zones. You can optimize a comfortable temperature when and where you need it, while also saving energy and eliminating wasteful heating.

In this blog post we will introduce:

  • The different ways you can set up heating for multiple zones in your home
  • The impact of your heating system on your ability to create various zones
  • The best thermostats to manage multi-zone heating

How to Create Heating Zones

In general, there are two ways you can divide your home into heating zones: sensor-based and system-based.

Sensor-Based Zoning

With sensor-based zoning, you use separate sensors to optimize the temperature in each zone. This works particularly well if you have one central thermostat controlling the temperature of your home (i.e. a central heating system). 

Typically, a thermostat will read the ambient temperature of a room that it is in and heat/cool the room until it reaches its set point. The problem with this approach becomes apparent when your thermostat is in one of your larger spaces – like your living room. It likely takes longer to heat your living room than it does to heat your bedroom since there is more space to heat. So, trying to create a comfortable temperature in your living room can lead to an overly heated and stuffy bedroom.

Consider this simplified example:

  • It takes 30 minutes to increase the temperature by one degree in your living room.
  • In your bedroom, it only takes 15 minutes to raise the temperature by one degree.
  • If you want to heat your living room by 1 degree, your bedroom will have warmed up by 2 degrees.

With sensor-based zoning, you place sensors in each zone you want to create. These sensors will measure the temperature of each specific zone and optimize it for your comfort, eliminating the stuffy-bedroom dilemma.

System-Based Zoning

By design, system-based zoning is a simple concept to grasp. In this scenario, you have multiple heating zones in your home because you have multiple heaters that you can control individually, creating their own effective “zones”. 

This means you have to have more than one thermostat. In fact, you’ll likely have at least one thermostat per heater or “zone”. This is by far the most efficient and precise way of achieving energy savings through zoning.

Setting Up Zones With Your Heating System

Generally, the voltage output of your heating system is the most important factor in determining your ability to create zones. Homes in North America typically run on one of two standards: low voltage and high/line voltage systems.

Low Voltage Heating

The Common Scenario:

If you have low voltage heating (furnace, radiator, forced air, etc.), you more than likely have a central heating system with just one thermostat to control your entire home. In this case, a sensor-based zoning system is likely your best option. If you did want to look into system-based zoning, it would probably result in a fair amount of construction since new circuits and fixtures would be required. You would also have to purchase a thermostat compatible with external temperature sensors. So, for low voltage central heating, a sensor-based system is a lot simpler to implement.

The Uncommon Scenario:

Sometimes, low voltage heating systems are broken up into multiple zones (through duplication of heat sources, or usage of dampers and ducts). Each of those circuits will require their own dedicated thermostat. If this is the case, we would recommend a separate learning thermostat for each zone. With this setup, you can save energy more efficiently without having to spend much time changing setpoints and temperatures for each zone.

High/Line Voltage Heating

The Common Scenario:

If you have high voltage heating, you likely already have multiple thermostats – as many as one per room. In that case, you’re already well on your way to system-based zoning. Simply replace your existing thermostats with WiFi or smart options that have zoning options and manually set your zones.

The Uncommon Scenario:

Even though a decentralized heating system is more common for high voltage heating, there are exceptions. 

Fan coil heating is a high voltage central heating system, and unfortunately, no smart thermostat exists for this type of system. Fan coil systems would require a sensor-based thermostat, as there is only one thermostat controlling the entire home.

The Best Multi-Zone Thermostat

Rather than doing an elaborate write-up of why each thermostat would be the best option for different scenarios, we’ll keep it simple. 

Use this decision tree to choose the best multi-zone thermostat for you – it takes into consideration everything discussed above.  If you’d like to know more about the smart thermostats included, check out this article for a detailed comparison of thermostats designed for high and low voltage heating systems.

a decision tree to choose the best thermostat from multiple zones

Ecobee 4 Nest Thermostat E Mysa Smart Thermostat for Electric Baseboard Heaters

The Top Zoning Thermostats

Ecobee4

The ecobee4 is best for when you have a central low voltage heating system with only one thermostat. You can wirelessly connect sensors to the echobee4 thermostat and it will make sure the rooms you are occupying are heated to your comfort level. The downside of this is that it won’t necessarily maximize energy savings. But it will maximize comfort!

Nest Thermostat-E

If you have more than one thermostat for your low voltage system (for example, one upstairs and one downstairs), Nest’s Thermostat-E makes the most sense. Your home is already divided into two zones, and the Nest’s learning features will save you energy and ensure comfort.

Mysa

Mysa Smart Thermostats work with high voltage electric baseboard and in-floor heating systems. As previously mentioned, homes with these heating systems typically have multiple thermostats and can have as many as one per room. Mysas allow you to control each thermostat individually, but also have the unique functionality of grouping thermostats together, easily creating individual heating zones. This is the optimal way to maximize energy savings and comfort for homes with high voltage heating.

Mini-Split Heat Pumps

We didn’t want to write this blog without mentioning mini-split heat pumps. If you’re not sure what they are, make sure to check out this article

Mini-split heat pumps move heat, but they don’t create it. This makes them efficient parts of many modern homes and a great way to build zones. They are, however, quite expensive. Depending on the structure of your home, the placement you choose, and the quality of the heat pump, you are looking at a few thousand dollars per heat pump installed. 

If you already have mini-split heat pumps (or are considering adding them), make sure to check out Sensibo or Tado – they’re currently the only smart thermostats that work with heat pumps.

In conclusion…

Creating separate heating zones within your home makes it possible to individually heat rooms to your preference and omit rooms that don’t require heating (like your unoccupied guest room). Using a multi-zone smart thermostat, it’s possible to not only create heating zones but also group zones that can be heated simultaneously with a single action or automation.

We hope you were able to determine the best multi-zone smart thermostat for your unique heating system and home. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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41 Comments

  1. edward podgorski

    I have baseboard line voltage heaters. 4 wires in the box. 1 main and 3 bedroom. What would be the best choice for me? Do I need 4 separate units or one main unit which would also control the 3 bedrooms as well/

    1. Rebecca Collins

      Hi Edward,

      You would need 4 separate units for that set-up you have described. I hope that helps!

  2. Heather L Strebel

    We have 7 rooms with heat control for radiant heat. The thermostats say high voltage. In addition, we have two A/C units (upstairs/downstairs). Any advice?

    1. Rebecca Collins

      Hi Heather,

      Unfortunately Mysa would not be an option for you at this time, though I think Nest might be an option if I’m not mistaken. I hope that helps!

  3. Jim St.Charles

    What is the best option for use with a geothermal unit? Thank you.

    1. Rebecca Collins

      Hi Jim,

      I do believe that Nest has an option that would work with a geothermal unit. I hope that helps!

  4. Mike Connolly

    I have a customer that wants to upgrade there 12 zone radiant heat boiler with indirect waterheater to high efficient boiler system. Also upgrade zones to WiFi capibilitys. Two wire system for each thermostat.. so I was thinking of a single thermostat and 12 sensors. Any ideas?

    1. Rebecca Collins

      Hi Mike,

      I did some research via Google and was unable to find any Smart thermostats that would be compatible, but I saw Honeywell might have a programmable thermostat that is compatible. I hope that helps and my apologies that I could not find any compatible smart thermostats!

  5. Cindy

    Can i keep the regular thermostat for my first floor and upgrade my second floor with wifi thermostat? Will that be ok to do or should I upgrade both. I have the low voltage system. Thanks in advance!

    1. Brad Pretty

      Hey Cindy, I’m sorry but Mysa is incompatible with low voltage systems.

  6. Natalie

    I have an electric heated home with currently 12 thermostats (one in almost every room) Is there a smart system that can go in that has sensors that can be hardwired to where there are thermostats? Any advice on the best way to do this without having to buy 12 nest units? Doing this to save on energy use so they can heat more overnight when the cost of electricity is lowest.

    1. Brad Pretty

      This is exactly what Mysa does. Check and see if you are compatible with our wiring!

      1. Delphine

        I am in a similar situation: with the Mysa option we would still have to buy 12 Mysa units, right ? I understand we can group them into zones, but the cost is still 12 * 139$, or am I mistaken ?

        1. Brad Pretty

          You would have to buy twelve, but after 5 units the price breaks to $119 per unit instead of $139.

        2. Paul

          I have two thermostats on the lower level. I floor heat. And I have three thermostats upstairs with radiation. All off hot water boiler
          Can I have one central thermostat to operate all via wifi ?

          1. Paul

            Sorry I meant in floor heat on lower level

          2. Alexander Chafe

            Hey Paul, Mysa is compatible with electric in-floor and radiant heating. To confirm that you’re compatible with Mysa, we would suggest completing our online compatibility checker: https://getmysa.com/compatibility

            You would need to replace each thermostat that you’re looking to control, but you can manage them all through the same Mysa app.

  7. Jameson Chapman

    Hello, maybe you can help, My house currently has a tankless boiler baseboard heat, with 3 zones on a zone controller by navien, i also have a mitsubishi mr slim with 4 separate cooling only units, i want to be able to control it all from one stat or one stat per floor. would this be possible with your system?

    thank you,

    1. Brad Pretty

      Jameson, unfortunately Mysa is not compatible with this system.

  8. Tireak C Tulloch

    What would be used for a older home that has natural gas powered steam heat, currently with two thermostats(one upstairs and one downstairs), and also a separate thermostat for the central air conditioning?

    1. Brad Pretty

      You should look into something like Nest or Ecobee. We would not be compatible with your current set up.

  9. Jody

    We have in floor hot water heating with 4 thermostat two downstairs to upstairs . Low voltage what is the best thermostat?

  10. Chris D

    Hi, i love the simple design. Your blog article states that only Sensibo or Tado support heat pumps. Actually, Ecobee does too. We have an Ecobee 3 for our NG forced air system in our house and we are going to be installing an air-to-water cold climate HP in our cottage this summer with an Ecobee there too.
    https://support.ecobee.com/hc/en-us/articles/115006077367-What-types-of-HVAC-systems-are-ecobee-thermostats-compatible-with-

    1. Brad Pretty

      Thanks for the input! I’ll make a note for future updates.

  11. Blaine McFadden

    My home has a Lennox Central Gas Furnace and only 1 thermostat that controls the entire house. Would this work with my setup?

    1. Brad Pretty

      Unfortunately Mysa is not compatible with Furnaces. YOur best best for a multizone experience would be something like Nest or Ecobee.

  12. Joel

    I have an ecobee 4 and current forced air heating and cooling system , our home is 3500 sf and I am now looking to get the system with 4 zones . Can my ecobee 4 be programmed for all zones or will I need to get multiple sensors and thermostats for each zone . Thx Jm

  13. Ramsey

    Hello, I have 4 baseboard thermostats and an additional one for the central A/C + central humidifier. The central A/C and humidifier thermostat only has 2 wires as a control module is installed in the same room as the machine. Any ideas that does not require pulling wires?

    Thanks!!

    1. Brad Pretty

      Sounds like a low-voltage central A/C, so you would need one of the low voltage options. If it is high voltage, we are not compatible with 2 wires 🙁

    2. Monique godbold sanchez

      I have a Lennox furnace/AC
      It’s can be turned on by 3 different thermostats – one down stairs one upstairs and one in a movie room not often used located over the garage.
      What type of smart thermostat device would I need to be able to remotely control my heating /AC.
      Also who could purchase and install this for me. Thank you

  14. Greg

    Home under construction is a centrally heated 3-zone system using dampers with a gas furnace. It has been wired for thermostats in each zone. Would it make more sense to go with a Nest thermostat in one zone and the Nest temperature sensors in the other two zones?

  15. Louann

    I’d like to find out more? I’d love to find out some additional information.

  16. Dale Sweeney

    I’m a Facility Director at a church that has 18 zones. I want to have something that is wi-fi enabled & that I can control all 18 from my phone. Any suggestions?

  17. Brett

    I have 3 furnaces, 3 zones (apparently) and 5 thermostats. Is it possible that 3 of the thermostats are on the same zone, or do I need to look for another zone board?

  18. Maya

    I have a large home. It is 3 hvac units and 5 zones. I want to upgrade the thermostats for 4 of the zones (2 hvac units). I really hate nest. It’s not quick to program and I find it constantly too warm (during winter). It’s not learning properly. Is there a system that would combine the zones so I wouldn’t have to buy so many units? I have central air and forced hot air system

    1. Maya

      I mean one thermostat for multiple zones? Maybe just sensors? I was looking at honeywell YTH6320R1001 focuspro

      1. Alexander Chafe

        Hey Maya, thank you for your interest in Mysa. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have a product that would be compatible with your heating and cooling system.

  19. Lorenzo

    I am building a new home, 3 story with hydronic heating with 4 zones. I would like to know if you know of any thermostat that can control all my zones from one location with remote sensors in the different locations. A smart thermostat would be nice.
    Thank you

    1. Alexander Chafe

      Hey, Lorenzo. Each of our thermostats are only designed to control the specific heater that it is connected to, so it wouldn’t be possible to have one Mysa controlling all of the heating zones in your home. As for the hydronic heating, we would need a little more info to assess your compatibility with our product, please reach out to support@getmysa.com and our customer experience team would be more than happy to help you out 🙂

  20. Kevin

    I have 3 gas fired forced air 97 EF modulating EC furnaces, one 120V radiant floor and a 240V radiant floor
    The radiant floor heaters are only to warm the toes not to heat the room.

    I was not able to locate a high efficiency furnace that was rated for 180K BTU and to be honest with a 3 story home at 8500 foot elevation in the Rocky Mountains a single furnace would produce 3 different climates one for each of the floors (central spiral staircase). I opted to go with 3 60K BTU furnaces. Removed all of the old duct work , installed new and added a bunch more. 24 registers and 9 returns in total. all but 4 registers have a 6″ duct.

    This has solved the multiple climates in the house and it also lowered my gas bill by almost 100.00USD a month and reduced the electricity bill by about 50.00USD a month. The issue with this kind of a system is there is no single point of control. The furnaces are communicating. There is also 6 returns at lead to outside the home. these returns have dampers in them that open when the “AC” turns on. Lots of big windows cause high inside temps in the summer, so by pulling air in from outside I am able to lower the temperature in the house by about 20 degrees. I would also like to keep that functionality as well. While I do know there is a vast assortment of “smart ” thermostats I have not come across one that allows access to the modulation and fan speed controls of the furnaces.

    Does something like this exist? commercial or residential. I would also like to have the ability to administer the system remotely.

    Any assistance would be appreciated.

    Thank You
    Kevin

    1. Alexander Chafe

      Hey, Kevin. Mysa for Electric In-floor may be compatible with your radiant floor heating, you can confirm compatibility here: https://getmysa.com/compatibility

      As for the gas furnace, Mysa does not currently have a product that would be compatible with this system, but Google’s Nest may be a good option to consider.

      I hope that’s helpful. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out.

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