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Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006 04:54 pm

Keep all rooms comfortable

A programmable thermostat helps keep heat in balance

This duct damper was just installed; the wires from the zone thermostat system are being attached to the damper-control motor.
During winter and summer, it is difficult to keep all the rooms comfortable for my family. They are either too warm or too cool, and it varies throughout the day. What is my best option to fix this?

This is a common problem in both one- and two-story homes year-round. In addition to being uncomfortable, this problem typically increases utility bills. What usually happens is, the most uncomfortable person sets the furnace higher to be warm (lower during summer to feel cool), and this causes the house to consume more energy.

First, make sure the furnace-duct system is working properly. Seal any leaky duct joints with duct tape. Black Gorilla Tape is quite durable. Check the air registers (outlet and return) to be sure they are open and not blocked by furniture or long drapes.

The simplest solution is to adjust the dampers in the ducts near the furnace leading to each room or group of rooms to balance the heated air going to each room. During the summer, readjust all the damper settings. If the above method does not help and you also want to lower your utility bills and get better comfort, a zoned control system is your best option.

These systems can easily be installed in existing homes with any type of ductwork. A room that is too cool in the morning may become too warm in the afternoon if the sun shines in windows. Zoning systems adjust to this. A zone is an individual room or a group of rooms with similar heating and cooling needs. Increasing the number of zones increases the cost and complexity of the system, so try to get by with as few zones as possible. For example, all of the bedrooms may be in one zone.

A zoning system has a wall thermostat in each of the zones. These thermostats operate the furnace and central air conditioner and also control dampers in the ducts. During the winter, if a zone gets too warm that zone’s thermostat will close only that damper. The dampers in ducts leading to other zones in your house will be open so that they get more heat.

The energy-saving beauty of this system is using programmable thermostat in the zones. You may want the bedrooms warm during early morning and at night, the kitchen warm all day, and the living room warm in the early evening. The heating schedule for each zone can be set independently.

Simple zoning duct dampers are designed to be either fully open or closed. For more steady zone temperatures, select modulating dampers, which vary the degree of openness, depending on the instantaneous heating and cooling needs.

These companies offer zoning systems: Aprilaire, 800-334-6011, www.aprilaire.com; Arzel Zoning Technology, 800-611-8312, www.arzelzoning.com; Durodyne, 800-899-3876, www.durodyne.com; EWC Controls, 800-446-3110, www.ewccontrols.com; and Zonex Systems, 800-228-2966, www.zonexsystems.com.

The storm door over my insulated steel front door sweats so badly that it actually freezes at night and I cannot open it. It faces south. What would be causing this, and how can I correct it?

If your primary steel front door is insulated, the glass on the storm door may get cold enough to freeze. Check the weatherstripping on the steel door. It sounds as if humid indoor air is leaking past it. Your outdoor storm door is designed to block the force of the wind. It should create a partial dead air space but allow some air circulation to vent moist air. Try drilling a few small weep holes through the bottom.

Send questions to James Dulley, Illinois Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or go to www.dulley.com.

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