Have you been looking for a multi zone thermostat? Most homes in North America consist of multiple zones or spaces for different purposes. You probably have a bedroom, living room, kitchen, home office, etc. 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 day living in multiple zones, but most people treat their home as one big thermostat zone, regardless of their heating or cooling setup.
Dividing your home into multiple zones comes with many benefits. You can optimize a comfortable temperature when and where you need it, eliminate wasteful heating and AC use, save energy, and lower your monthly electric bill.
In this blog post we’ll introduce:
The different ways you can set up multiple thermostat zones in your home
The impact of your heating or AC system on your ability to create various zones
The best thermostats to manage multi zone heating and cooling systems
What is Zoned Heating and Cooling?
Zone heating and cooling means that you can customize and control the temperature of each room or area of your home individually. Otherwise, your home would be controlled as one large zone using a whole house thermostat system. Using multi zone thermostats or sensors can result in significant savings.
This way, your bedroom can be a different temperature than your home gym, and you don’t have to worry about wasting energy in a room you’re not even using. If you’re wondering how to control the temperature in each room of your home, zone control is the answer. With multiple heating and cooling zones, you control each area of your home separately.
How to Get Multi Zone Temperature Control
In general, there are two ways you can divide your home into multi room heating control: sensor-based and system-based. Which one you use depends on your heating and air conditioning system(s).
High voltage or electric systems like baseboard heaters, window ACs, or ductless mini split heat pumps are naturally controlled in zones. Typically each room has a system that’s controlled by its own thermostat or remote. All that’s left to do to maximize savings is upgrade to WiFi-controlled smart thermostats. However, central systems like furnace heating, forced air, boilers, and ducted heat pumps are not zoned heating or AC systems. Typically, there’s only 1 or 2 thermostats that control a whole home. So, a smart zone thermostat that uses sensors is needed to create multiple heating and AC zones.
With sensor-based zoning, you can’t install multi zone thermostats in each room. Instead, you use separate sensors to optimize the temperature of different zones. This works particularly well if you have one central thermostat controlling the temperature of your home (i.e. a central heating or cooling system).
Typically, a thermostat will read the ambient temperature of a room and heat/cool the room until it reaches the set point. The problem with this approach becomes apparent when your thermostat is in a larger space – like your living room.
It likely takes longer to heat/cool your living room than it does your bedroom, since there is more space to control. So, trying to create a comfortable temperature in your living room in the winter 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’ll need a smart thermostat with room sensors, so you can place a sensor 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.
By design, system-based zoning is a simple concept to grasp. In this scenario, you have multiple zones in your home naturally because you have multiple heaters or AC units that you can control individually. Thus, creating their own effective “zones”. Electric heating or cooling systems commonly have this set-up.
This means your home has more than one thermostat. In fact, you'll likely have at least one thermostat for each heater or “zone”, meaning a separate thermostat for each room. This is by far the most efficient and precise way of achieving energy savings through zoning. After upgrading to a smart multi zone thermostat controlled from your phone, you can just watch the savings roll in.
Setting Up Multiple Thermostat Zones
Generally, the type of heating or cooling system you have is the most important factor in determining your ability to create multiple zones. Homes in North America typically run on one of two standards: central and electric HVAC systems.
Central HVAC Systems
As mentioned, a sensor-based approach is needed to have multi room thermostat control for central HVAC systems. Based on the set-up of your home, there can be a couple of different scenarios.
The Common Scenario:
If you have central heating or cooling (furnace, radiator, forced air, etc.), you likely have a ducted system with just one thermostat controlling your entire home. So, a sensor-based zoning system is your best option.
This helps avoid the large construction project that would be required to implement system-based zoning, since new circuits and fixtures would be needed. Instead, a simpler solution is to invest in a smart thermostat compatible with external temperature sensors.
For central HVAC systems, sensor-based zoning is much easier to implement. It can be done in three simple steps:
Replace your existing thermostat with a smart multi zone thermostat (a thermostat with remote sensors).
Purchase external sensors for each room and connect them to your smart thermostat via the app.
Place a sensor in each room you’d like to control as a separate zone. You can lay each sensor on a flat surface (like a side table) or mount it to a wall.
The Uncommon Scenario:
Sometimes, central HVAC 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’d recommend a separate smart thermostat for each zone. With this setup, you can save energy more efficiently, without having to manually control each zone. For additional control, you can add sensors to each thermostat to break up the area into smaller zones (if needed).
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 multi zone thermostat, as there is only one thermostat controlling the entire home. However, there currently is no smart solution on the market.
Electric HVAC Systems
If you have an electric HVAC system, you likely already have multiple thermostats – as many as one per room. In that case, you're already well on your way to efficient system-based zoning. To maximize savings, simply replace your existing thermostats with smart upgrades and set-up zoning in the app.
Having smart IoT thermostats means access to energy-saving features like Scheduling and Geofencing to control your thermostat zones. You can also track energy usage in the app, control your thermostats from anywhere, and much more.
Depending on your local regulations concerning electrical work, DIY smart thermostat set-up can be done in about 15 minutes.
Smart Thermostat Zones
With smart multi zone thermostat control, you can create smart zones for different scenarios. For example, you can create an entertaining zone by grouping thermostats in your kitchen, living room, and dining room together. And have a separate zone for your morning routine.
This allows you to control multiple zones in your home at once. Instead of scheduling or adjusting each thermostat individually in the app, you can change the temperature of many rooms in one tap.
For even more convenience, you can pair your smart thermostats with your Google Home, Alexa, or Apple HomeKit smart home speakers. This way, you can control your whole smart home with a single vocal command.
For example, if you have an Alexa compatible thermostat, saying ‘Alexa, set entertaining zone’ could simultaneously adjust your thermostat, lighting, and turn on your favourite playlist.
The Best Multi Zone Thermostat
Rather than doing an elaborate write-up of why each thermostat would be the best smart thermostat for multiple zones for different scenarios, we'll keep it simple.
Use this decision tree to choose the best smart multi zone thermostat for you – it takes into consideration everything discussed above. Whether you need a smart thermostat for a zoned system or a central HVAC system, there’s a recommendation for you.
The Top Zoning Thermostats
Here are a couple of the best smart thermostats with zone control, depending on your HVAC system.
Nest & Ecobee
Ecobee and Google Nest multi zone smart thermostats are probably the best options for central HVAC systems. Both allow you to wirelessly connect room sensors, so you’re always comfortable and saving energy by controlling Ecobee or Nest zones.
Do you need multiple Ecobee or Nest thermostats for multiple zones? That will depend on your HVAC set-up. It’s possible that you have more than one thermostat for your central system (ex. one upstairs and one downstairs). So, you’d need more than one Nest or Ecobee multiple zone smart thermostat.
Mysa makes smart multi zone thermostats for electric baseboard heaters, in-floor heating, window and portable air conditioners, and ductless mini split heat pumps. So, Mysa is a great smart thermostat for homes with multiple zones (ie. electric HVAC systems). Using the system-based zoning approach, you’d need a Mysa for each room you’d like to control.
Mysas allow you to control each thermostat individually, but also have the ability to group baseboard thermostats together, easily creating individual heating zones (this feature is soon to come for in-floor and AC). This is the optimal way to maximize energy savings and comfort for homes with electric HVAC systems.
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 mini split, you are looking at a few thousand dollars per unit installed.
So, it’s important to control your mini-split as efficiently as possible to help you save on your electricity bill. If you own mini split heat pumps (or are thinking about adding them), consider investing in a smart air conditioning control device.
Smart Multi Zone Thermostats for Mini Splits
Smart mini split thermostats or smart mini split controllers are a smart replacement for the remote you currently use to control your mini split.
In a few quick steps, you can have smart control of your mini split’s heating and cooling from your smartphone. So, you’ll be able to create custom schedules, enable geofencing, track energy use, and so much more. It's a device that gives you smart heating and AC control, all in one!
Generally, we would recommend investing in an external smart mini split thermostat, regardless of your other heating and cooling systems. While it is possible to get nest mini split control, it’s a bit of a complicated workaround.
Multi Zone Temperature Control
Having multi zone thermostat control makes it possible to heat and cool rooms individually, so each room is to your liking. You can keep your kitchen toasty in the mornings and stop wasting energy on rooms you don’t use regularly (like your unoccupied guest room).
With multi zone smart thermostats, you can also group zones to be controlled at the same time with a single action or automation.
We hope you were able to determine the best multi zone smart thermostat for your HVAC system and home. If you’d like to see more educational content about saving energy at home, sign up to our email list.