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A zoned system isn't as complicated as it might sound.

It's all about dividing your home into different areas – or ‘zones' – each with its thermostat for precise temperature control.

Zones can be separated by rooms, but the most common example is separating zones as the upstairs and downstairs.

Having two zones for different levels is important since during the winter, the upstairs can get warmer than the ground floors (even when the thermostat is located downstairs).

So with a zoned system, you can prevent the upstairs from overheating/freezing, while also making sure the downstairs remains comfortably warm.

Different Types of Zoned Systems

Essentially, there are three different types of zoned systems:

  • Zoning with separate HVAC equipment for each zone
  • Using a single set of HVAC equipment, along with the help of dampers to create multiple zones
  • Combination Zoning: Combining the above two options in a home

For water-based systems, zoned systems can be achieved with thermostatic radiator valves, which allows control over each radiator. There are smart TRVs dedicated to this type of system.

How Do I Know if My House Has a Zoned System?

If you’re just moving into a new home or just starting to get accustomed to the HVAC system in your home, there are several ways to easily tell if your home is multi-zoned. 

  • Check for more than one thermostat: If you have multiple thermostats in different rooms or levels, you definitely have a zoned system set up.
  • See if you've got different heating or cooling appliances. These can be the same type of equipment placed right next to each other or different heating and cooling equipment with varying capacities. 
  • Check the labels on these equipment to see if they mention any zoning capabilities. Also, try googling the model numbers on these devices.
  • Look for multiple ducts with dampers, all rooting from the same or different HVAC systems.
  • Also, see if the dampers connect to a control board. Typically indicating which dampers are open or closed

These simple observations can help you figure out if you’ve got a zoned system or not.

Nest Multi Zone: Can a Nest Thermostat Control a Multi-Zoned System?

Before we talk about “Control” in the traditional sense, we need to understand the two separate roles of a thermostat in a multi-zoned system. These are:

  • The ability to control all or multiple zones/thermostats via a single thermostat
  • The ability to only control the zone that’s directly wired to the thermostat. 

Many thermostats, including the Nest thermostat fall into the second category. And as such, they can only control the zone they are wired to. They typically cannot be set up to control multiple zones or be controlled by a “Master thermostat.” 

Besides that, the compatibility of the zoned system can also play a crucial role. So a couple of things to note down are:

  • The Nest thermostat is not compatible with proprietary systems that don’t rely on the conventional thermostat wiring configuration.
  • It also won’t work with certain zoned panels or damper systems unless it has a C-wire.
  • It may work with thermostats that can control multiple zones, either as the “Master Thermostat” or a sub-thermostat, but you need to check for compatibility with the help of a Nest Pro. 
nest multi zone
A Nest thermostat can control the zone it's directly wired to

Can I Install a Nest Thermostat in a Multi Zoned System

In most cases, you can easily install a Nest multizone thermostat to control a single zone in your multi-zone system or even install multiple Nest thermostats in different zones. 

And, they don’t have to be the same model either, you can set up a Nest thermostat regardless of the model, in several zones and consolidate them via the Nest or Google Home apps.

In that same regard, you also don’t need to remove the thermostats in the other zones just because they aren’t Nest thermostats. They can still function since the thermostat in each zone is isolated from each other.  

However, considering the factors mentioned above, you must make sure they follow the standard thermostat wire configuration. 

So if you have a proprietary system or find any wires labeled as “MISC” or “Damp,” it might not be compatible. In that case, it’s best to consult customer support.

Will The Schedules or Settings on a Nest Thermostat Conflict With Other Thermostats?

Fortunately, no. Each Nest thermostat acts independently, learning from your habits and preferences for the specific zone it’s assigned to.

  • So if you have multiple Nest thermostats for different zones or third-party thermostats, you won't run into schedule conflicts or any other issues. Except for the occasional delay.
  • The thermostats simply measure the temperature of their assigned zone and relay commands to the dampers or zone control board. 
  • The Dampers and Zone System panel handles the rest since they have their own protocols and priorities on how to manage the instructions received by each thermostat that's holding a zone.
  • So there’s no room for conflict. Even if you assign two different heating and cooling modes for different zones. The zone control panel will simply prioritize and fulfill one zone before moving on to the next.

This clever system ensures comfort while maintaining efficiency.

How Many Nest Thermostats Can I Set Up in My Home?

Since each Nest Thermostat operates individually, you can set up as many thermostats as there are zones in your home.

However, if you want to consolidate them via the Google Home app, please remember that the app only allows a single “Home” to have a maximum of 20 thermostats. 

Regardless, you can still control each of them manually and simply add another Home on the app to manage more than 20 thermostats.

Can I Use a Nest Temperature Sensor to Control Zones

The Nest temperature sensor is an external device you can set up anywhere to relay temperature information directly to your thermostat. 

  • Although it's effective in helping you get a better reading on a specific area of your home (such as the temperature difference between the upstairs and downstairs), the temperature sensor by itself doesn't act as a separate zone. 
  • So with the Nest temperature sensor, you have extra sensors that can measure the temperatures in different rooms around your home. 
  • You can then pick the sensor you want to prioritize as the thermostat reading and make changes as necessary. 
  • The thermostat will then reference this temperature as the main temperature and command the HVAC equipment to heat or cool as necessary.
  • Essentially, you pick which temperature the Nest thermostat chooses as it's own.

It may or may not improve the temperatures in a specific zone. That entirely depends on the ductwork and how well the HVAC system is performing. 

Do I Need A Zoning System in My House?

If your house enjoys even heating and cooling due to well-designed ductwork, you can give multi-zone systems a hard pass.

Zoning systems step in when temperature disparities turn different parts of your house into mini-climate zones.

So if the upstairs always feels like a boiler room, but your kitchen feels like a walk-in fridge, a zoning system might be your ticket towards climate control bliss.

Remember, it's all about comfort; if your house doesn't suffer from temperature differences, it's best to stick with your current setup.

Do Zoning Systems Improve Efficiency

Zoning systems prioritize comfort over energy efficiency.

They allow you to heat or cool specific zones in your space, and that doesn't specifically translate to lower energy use.

Therefore, a zoning system is not inherently a tool to help you save up on utility costs.

However, a well-designed zoning system—complete with independent ducts, heating and cooling devices, and a thermostat—might boost efficiency compared to your older system.

So suppose you partition your space into frequently-used and rarely-occupied areas, switching off the thermostat and HVAC equipment in the latter or letting it run on an energy-saving ‘eco' temperature.

That way, you're reducing the load on the bigger system, helping you cut back on a significant amount of energy costs, depending on your system and requirements. 

In this way, a zoning system could potentially enhance energy efficiency, compared to your older system that maintained the temperature throughout the entire square footage of your home.

Final Thoughts

A multi-zoned system isolates rooms or levels as different zones with their own thermostat. These can be powered by a single system with the help of dampers or they can have multiple HVAC systems catering to each zone. 

Although a Nest multi zone thermostat won’t be compatible with every multi-zoned system. You can set it up to control a single zone as long as the system follows the standard thermostat wiring. 

So make sure to go through this article and drop us a comment if you have any questions. 

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