Is Zoned/Heating Cooling worth it?

hehatemeMay 24, 2011


We live in a 2 story home that is around 3900 sq. feet. It has a 2 story open foyer so only have 1 zone heating/cooling the main floor and uppper level.

Now I am finishing my basement. The finished area will be around 1300 square feet.

Right now when we walk down to our basement we have 2 doors. One goes to the utility area and the other goes to the unfinished area.

We were thinking of removing the door to the unfinished area. We felt that it will look nicer to walk into an open area and make basement look like a part of the home.

A friend of mine pointed out that removing the door will result in heat escaping up easily. He also recommended making basement a separate zone.

We live in MN so summers are not a problem. However winter heating costs can be high.

HVAC work is nearly finished. I am trying to determine if I should spending the money for keeping basement on a separate zone. How much should I expect to pay?

Will removing the door make things worse with our without a separate door?

I have to make my decision today so I will appreciate any thoughts you have on this.


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More info is needed. Your main level and second floor only have 1 thermostat controlling both floors - or does each floor have it's own tstat? Are there seperate heating and cooling systems for the main and second floor or do you only have a single system to drive both? Was your HVAC system in the basement sized so that it can drive all the floors (proper BTU's and air flow capacity)? Is you basement mostly below grade (walk up or walk out) or mostly above ground?

In your basement, did you tap off the main duct and just add registers to the basement rooms or did they add a separate trunk to service the basement spaces?

My last house sounds similar to yours - but I had a heating and AC unit that serviced the main floor and basement, and a second heater and AC unit that serviced the second floor. The units that serviced the main floor were sized to handle the added basement rooms when finished. I think I had a 3 ton AC unit for the main fllor/basement and a 1.5 ton AC unit for the second floor. Main floor was about 1500 sq feet, second floor was about 1200 sq feet, and basement was about 1000 sq feet finished and 500 sq ft unfinished. Basement was a walk out with 3/4 of the walls below or mostly below grade.

The tstat for the main floor was in the kitchen in the center of the house. The tstat for the second floor was in the master bedroom.

I found that the second floor was a real problem with both hot and cold spots (depending on season) and really would have benefited from zoning. The rooms that were facing south and west got much hotter in the summer than the rooms facing east and north. Had we stayed in that house longer, I would have added zoning on the second floor.

When I finished my basement in the old house, I did not add zoning becuase it was an open floor plan (except for the utility room) and I did not need that space zoned. The only issue of course is that the tstat was in the kitchen above, so the basement was always a little cooler in the summer time since most of the walls were below grade. The temperature in the basement seemed consistent from room to room in both summer and winter.

As far as expense, my new home has zoning but only on the second floor - each guest bedroom on second floor has it's own tstat. It cost me $1500 extra (new construction about 4 years ago) to add that feature.

In the new home basement, i paid a little extra to add a sperate trunk duct dedicated to the basement spaces - and I will add branches off of that duct to service each room. Right now there are a minium number of registers in the unfinished basement required by code and the HVAC for the basement is driven off the tstat on the main floor. When I finish the basement I will add a tstat down there with zoning for the basement space. I will not be zoning each brach to rooms in the badement - just a motorized damper on the trunk duct that services the basement.

I plan on doing all the work myself and if you are interested in doing that, check out and look under the Indoor Climate Control/ Zoning section. You can purchase everything you need there.

If you haven't added a separate trunk for the basement spaces, you would have to add zone dampers onto each branch line coming off the main duct and going to your basement rooms - and you would have to add a stat and zone contoller. It is doable but you will need to have access to those motorized dampers so that you can service them. If you have a drop ceiling, it can be added down the road but would be much easier to at least have them add mechanical dampers on each branch now to minimize re-work.

If you are adding a dedicated trunk duct for the basement spaces, they should already be adding a mechanical dampers onto that trunk line ( to balance the system) typically located in the utility room near the HVAC unit main ducts. If that is the case, you can easily add a motorized unit and controller down the road.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 11:26AM
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We live in the Chicago area, but winter not so much of a problem for us, regulating heat. We have 3 zones. We have radiant heat in the basement floor. Forced air on 1st and 2nd floors.
Heat rises. Have you noticed in the summer that the upstairs is warmer than the first floor? Makes your AC work harder. Don't know if the door open or closed will make that much difference. FWIW, We leave our basement door open all the time (finished) and don't really notice appreciable difference in the winter, but on a hot day we can feel a moderate change in temperature walking up from the basement.
2nd floor always seemed too warm in the winter, so we changed the damper and it seemed to help. Apologize for my ramblings, hope this helps.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 11:34AM
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