Handyman: Zone systems keep home at even temperature

Glenn Haege

It’s a temperature problem faced by many homeowners. In the summer, the main floor of your two-story home is perfect, the second floor is stifling and the basement is like an ice box. In the winter, those rooms or floors are always cold. Unfortunately, most heating and cooling systems and duct work were not designed to allow individual room or zone control of the temperature.

If you have already upgraded your insulation and sealed any drafts, the next step is to investigate new products and systems for your home that provide you a comfortable temperature no matter where you are.

According to Matt Marsiglio, operations manager for Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical, (888) 234-2340,, the cheapest and simplest solution to temperature changes on each floor is to start with your air duct registers

“Too many empty nesters shut the vents in the rooms they don’t use and close the doors,” Marsiglio said. “But that can really make it even hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.”

“You want to keep the air circulating in the house, especially on a second floor in the summer where it gets so hot, so it is best to open all the vents and the doors as well to keep that air circulating,” he added.

He also said you should shut basement air registers in the summer, and open them in the winter to alleviate the cold basement syndrome.

In the summer months, the sun can cause your attic to become very hot, adding to the temperature problem, especially in a two-story home. One way to lower the temperature in an attic is with an attic ventilation system from ATMOX,, that provides the proper ventilation needed to keep your attic cool in the summer, which helps lower the home’s temperature.

Another issue in a home is the placement of the thermostat, which is usually in a hallway. Since ordinary thermostats only measure temperature in one location, the hallway is comfortable but other rooms are not. But installing a “smart” thermostat from Ecobee,, enables you to have wireless temperature sensors throughout that home so the thermostat can adjust accordingly to keep the home more comfortable throughout all the rooms.

While these simpler solutions can help keep rooms and floors more comfortable, they won’t totally correct the problem, which Marsiglio said is due to the fact that most homes were built with 6-inch duct pipes running into each room of the house. Unfortunately, that sized pipe may provide too much heated or cooled air in one area of the house, and not enough in another, causing inconsistent temperature problems,

“You really only need 4-inch pipe for the basement, while you may need 7- or 8-inch pipes for the second story to provide the amount of air flow necessary to heat and cool those rooms,” Marsiglio said.

Redoing all the duct work obviously isn’t practical, but you can use smart vents from companies such as Ecovent,, and Keene Home,, that allow you to automatically open and close vents to get the right airflow and temperature in each room.

“There are also systems out there where you can coordinate dampers with thermostats in each zone to let you control the temperature on each floor or various rooms,” Marsiglio said. Companies including Arzel Zoning,, and Zonefirst,, offer them and they range from $2,000 and up depending on the size of home and number of zones needed.

To better control individual room temperatures, consider a ductless mini-split system. While comparable in price to a centralized HVAC system, these units have the advantage of individual thermostats to keep different rooms at a constant temperature. Some major manufacturers include Carrier,, Mitsubishi,, and Fujitsu,

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege" on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.