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By James Dulley, Published December 25 2009

Zoning thermostat can help balance heating

Dear Jim: I cannot seem to keep all my family members comfortable. Some rooms are too warm and others too cold. I have tried installing register fans, but they helped only a little. What other things can I try? - Mike E.

Dear Mike: It can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep everyone comfortably warm or cool all the time in your home, but there are several things to try. Actually, if everyone is completely comfortable, you probably have the thermostat set too low during summer and too high during winter for acceptable energy efficiency and reasonable utility bills.

Using register booster fans, which mount over a register in a room to increase the heated or cooled air flow, can be effective, but not on their own. The entire duct system must be optimized first. Even though they have not helped much yet, don’t dispose of them. The booster fans can be the final step to fine tune your duct system for the best comfort.

It is important to make sure the conditioned air is getting to the rooms it is supposed to reach. One common problem in most duct systems is simply leaks in the sheet metal duct joints. Wrap all the joints with duct tape to seal them. Wipe off the dust first. Use either foil duct tape or the supertough black Gorilla Tape instead of the typical gray duct tape.

With the duct joints sealed as well as possible, start adjusting the dampers in the ducts near the furnace. A damper creates resistance to the air flow in a duct so more conditioned air goes into another duct to another room. Use the small damper handle on the side of each duct to close down the air flow to the rooms which are too warm (winter) or too cold (summer).

The best option to balance out the room temperatures and to reduce your heating and cooling costs is to install a zoning system. In some parts of the country, this consists of two smaller separate heating and cooling systems. This is more common in two-story houses with one system for each floor.

A more sophisticated zoning system uses automatic dampers in the ducts leading to various rooms of the house. Each damper communicates with a programmable thermostat in a particular room or group of rooms (called zones). This allows you to set different temperatures in different rooms.

When the thermostat in a particular zone calls for more heating, that duct damper opens and the furnace starts. The dampers in the other ducts stay totally or partially closed so the heated air goes to only the room which needs more heated air.

Each zone thermostat can be programmed with different temperatures at different times of the day. This results in a huge energy savings because a zone, such as the bedrooms, requires little heat during the day when not being used.

The following companies offer zoning systems: Aprilaire, (800) 334-6011, www.aprilaire.com; Arzel Zoning Technology, (800)

611-8312, www.arzel.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.


Dear Jim: Last summer, I had a problem with mold growing on my concrete patio. I hosed it off every several days, but the dark mold kept reappearing. What should I do next spring to stop the mold? - Robert C.

Dear Robert: For mold to grow, it needs moisture and some organic food source. Just small organic particles from the air provide the nutrition and moisture comes up through the concrete. Your constant wetting it probably did not help.

Next spring, wash off the patio with a solution of bleach and water. Use it sparingly and keep it off any plants. Once the patio surface is thoroughly dry, treat it with a good sealer, such as SaverSystems concrete sealer.


Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com