Alongside convenience and security, there’s one other key benefit automated homes can bring about.
If you think about cutting costs, a smart thermostat is probably the first thing that springs to mind.
There’s little doubt that in the right circumstances, automating climate control with an intelligent thermostat can help reduce your electricity consumption.
What about an air duct damper, though?
Well, since these nifty pieces don’t have quite the same recognition as smart thermostats, we thought we'd help change that. Installing air duct dampers can help you enhance the efficiency of your HVAC system, giving you maximum bang for your buck.
First up, a quick definition.
What Is A Damper and What Does It Do?
Air duct dampers are also commonly known as HVAC dampers and duct dampers.
These duct dampers are movable plates that you place in the ductwork.
An air duct damper allows you to perform two main jobs:
- Cut off the central air conditioning to any unoccupied rooms
- Regulate temperature room-by-room
Since your heating and air conditioning consume the vast bulk of energy in the average household, any tweaks you can make here count.
With a manual duct damper, there’s a physical handle located outside the duct for you to manipulate.
Automatic air duct dampers come with pneumatic or electric motors. You can control them with either a smart thermostat or a fully automated system throughout the whole building.
If you’re looking for a neat addition to your smart home, automatic HVAC dampers cut user input to the bone. You’ll still be able to use a physical solenoid to override automation, getting the best of both worlds.
So, since you’ll get such swift changes in temperature, your HVAC’s overall efficiency will be improved and run-times reduced. Keep in mind, this can translate to further savings on your part while prolonging the life of your system.
We’ll look now at how to incorporate air duct dampers into a multi-zoned HVAC system and what to look for when you’re on the buying trail.
We answered the question of "what is a damper?" so let's now take a look at zone dampers.
What To Consider When Buying Zone Dampers
Air duct dampers themselves are pretty simple pieces. However, when you’re looking to create zones in your connected home, though, you need to think of 3 things:
- A zone control panel
- A smart thermostat
- A bypass damper
1) Zone Control Panel
This central form of control allows the dampers, thermostat, and your HVAC system to communicate seamlessly.
As with all aspects of building out a connected home, compatibility is key. Since there are no unified protocols and smart devices, you need to check closely for interoperability before wading in.
The smart thermostat might be something you already have in place. If so, plan out the rest of your purchase around that making sure everything plays nicely together.
The thermostat will send back signals to the controller when no more hot or cool air needs to be present in a specific zone. This means the zone dampers are doing their job. The controller can then make adjustments as needed.
If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest route, opt for a wireless thermostat. You won’t need to concern yourself with rewiring and you shouldn’t need to call an electrician either.
3) Bypass Damper
You might find that your HVAC system is giving out an annoying volume of noise. This can be the result of static pressure building in the ducts.
How can you get around this?
With a bypass damper, excess air will be bled from the system when it picks up on surplus pressure.
With those foundations in place, you should be well placed to get out on the buying trail. We’ll highlight some of the best duct dampers on the market along with the extras you need to make multi-zone climate control a reality.
Multi-Zone Climate Control
Now, if you’re looking to automate your HVAC system as much as possible, first think about an air duct damper.
Two of the Best Air Duct Dampers
This pro-grade damper is one of the most dependable and popular models up for grabs.
The full-seal blade keeps any leakage to an absolute minimum. This HVAC damper will even serve a turn in commercial settings.
The Belimo motor serves up the optimum sweet spot of high torque and low power. 24 volts of power ensure the whole system will run efficiently.
With ribs for flex duct attachment and a crimped end for simple duct attachment, you’ll have all bases covered.
On the downside, you won’t get any form of thermostat or climate control onboard, so you’ll need to factor that into the equation separately.
Crowned by an unimpeachable 5-year replacement warranty, you’re in safe hands with SmartZone.
This 6-inch duct damper works with the majority of thermostats and allows you to automate opening and closing fuss-free.
If you’re looking to create zones, you can use this zone damper along with any of the controllers mentioned below.
If you’re already invested into the Insteon ecosystem, you’ll be able to control your HVAC damper by plugging it into an on/off module, then using any of your Insteon controllers to take the helm. To make this happen, you’ll also need the Insteon Hub.
You’ll get a 24-volt hardwired power supply bundled, so you can hook up this duct damper with a multi-zone thermostat, and an HVAC zone controller.
Also, if this sizing doesn’t make the right fit, Suncourt also offers a range of other options including:
Three Great Zone Controllers
If you’re looking to take command of your air duct dampers, here’s a trio of HVAC zone controllers ideal for two, three and four-zone systems.
This powerful 2-zone controller makes a neat fit with pretty much any type of HVAC system. From single-stage to multi-stage, gas to electric, heat pump to duel-fuel, your options are diverse.
You’ll get the same flexibility when it comes to thermostats and HVAC dampers, so you don’t need to agonize over compatibility.
Installation is straightforward with a color-coded guide and push-terminal wiring serving to streamline things wonderfully.
You’ll keep all your tech protected thanks to a supply temperature sensor. You will also enjoy incredibly efficient staging.
Covered by a solid 5-year guarantee, this product demonstrates the stranglehold SmartZone has over this segment of the market.
If you got a regular single-stage HVAC in your smart home, the TrueZONE from Honeywell allows you to interface with up to 3 zones.
LEDs give you feedback on system performance, and RedLink tech promotes robust communication with most smart thermostats.
If you have a heat pump system, the Honeywell is not for you.
The panel is designed to blend in rather than stand out, which is exactly what you want from a zone controller.
As with all the tech, we suggest here for zone controlling, make certain of compatibility before buying any component. With proper planning, you can avoid any expensive mistakes.
Despite the name, the 4X can cope with anything up to 20 zones, making this zone controller ideal for sprawling smart homes with multiple zones.
Gas, heat pump, and electric HVAC systems are all supported for your complete convenience. The same compatibility extends to thermostats, so you should have no snags getting everything working together smoothly.
There’s an onboard economizer along with fresh air control that makes for nice extra touches.
Easy to install and equally simple to use, this zone controller is one of the finest up for grabs, so what are you waiting for?
If you’re torn between which smart thermostat would make the best bet for a multi-zone system, the answer is simple: the mighty fourth-generation ecobee.
Alexa Voice Service comes baked in so you can control the temperature in your connected home with no need for a third-party smart speaker. With far-field technology, you’ll be able to make yourself heard at a distance, too.
Compatible with both Google Assistant and Alexa, HomeKit, and IFTTT as well as Samsung SmartThings and much more, interoperability is first-class.
If you want to get even more from your climate control, you can add in up to 32 ecobee sensors to eliminate those hot and cold spots.
Compatible with almost all HVAC systems, this is a standout winner, but it does come hardwired, so it might not make the best fit for renters. You’ll also need to make sure you have 2GHz WiFi since the ecobee doesn’t support 5GHz networks.
So, with your air duct damper, thermostat and zone controller all in place, it’s time to get to work and install everything.
Before that, though, some simple preparation.
Preparing to Install Air Duct Dampers
First thing’s first, you’ll need to establish the most appropriate locations for the dampers. If you’re unsure about this, don’t hesitate to call in an electrician for guidance.
If you already have manual dampers, and you’re looking to upgrade them with electric dampers, you’ll need to make certain the right electric source is in place.
First, clean all the ducts before you get to work with the installation. Ducts are a breeding ground for allergens, dust, and dander along with other unsavory contaminants. After that, do yourself a favor and blitz the ducts so you can keep airflow optimized along with the quality of the air in your smart home.
With cleaning out of the way, you’re ready to grab some simple kit and get going with the installation.
Installing Your Air Duct Dampers in 10 Easy Steps
Don’t panic here, you really don’t need too much by way of equipment, and there’s every chance you’ll already have some in place anyway.
- Aluminum duct tape
- Cordless drill
- Safety goggles
- Tin snips
- Wire (18-gauge or 22-gauge)
- Wire nuts
- Measure up the length of duct you want to cut out and mark it with a Sharpie
- Take out this section of the duct
- Cut out the section where you plan to install your air duct damper with your tin snips
- Fix the section of duct you removed back in place
- Pop your air damper in between these duct sections
- Position the junction box, so it covers the electrical wires going to the power source per manufacturer’s instructions
- Make certain that all connections are grounded
- Secure the air duct damper firmly at each end
- Seal the seams using aluminum duct tape
- Fire up your system and enjoy fully optimized climate control the smart way
If you started today with no idea what an air duct damper is, hopefully, you now have a thorough working knowledge.
Drop us a line any time if you need further information on any aspect of home automation. We’re here to help in any way we can.
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