Zoning is often presented as part of central heating and cooling systems; according to this view the house is divided into different areas, each one with its own thermostat, controlling a system of ductwork dampers or radiator-baseboard valves, to provide different heating or cooling loads to the different zones.
But zoning can involve a simpler approach, and be more selective and based on sensors and space heaters – gas and/or electric… – instead of central furnaces, heat pumps and boilers.
These other zoning strategies involves electric space heating and gas space heaters in selected rooms/zones, and are briefly explained below. But to be effective they require some preconditions.
Zoning with space heaters
Ductless gas and electric space heaters are common in temperate regions, where heating needs are moderate and central heating and cooling systems rather unnecessary – conditions that make temperature zoning based on space heaters easy to implement.
Obviously, things are rather different in colder climates, unless in very energy-efficient homes… And that’s the critical point. We have to do it right, when building a new home or doing a big renovation. Otherwise it will be difficult or impossible to get reasonable levels of comfort with space heaters.
In other words: if you are building a new house or planning a big renovation, you should focus on the conditions that make zone heating and cooling an alternative to central HAVC.
And these conditions involve very high levels of insulation all over the walls, floors and ceiling, and high-performance windows. That will reduce your heating and cooling needs to relatively small levels, opening the way to the use of small space heaters. Or to the use of ductless gas wall furnaces, or ductless heat pumps.
Heating with gas heaters
Very well insulated homes, with proper design, can be comfortably heated with a couple of gas space heaters, even in cold climates.
There are now powerful gas wall units with sealed combustion chambers, able to draw outdoor air for combustion and safety, and to heat large parts of your house. You just have to choose the right heaters.
You can locate the gas heater (or heaters) in the living area, or in other selected or central part of the house.
Heating with electric heaters
Heating with electric heaters is typically expensive. But electric heaters are safe and inexpensive. And if used for short periods, to supplement other type of heating, they can be a cost-effective option.
You just have to use them in the right way and places, mainly as a supplemental source of heat.
Installing electric radiant panels, or heat lamps in bathrooms, or electric radiant panels (they are much more efficient than electric convection heaters) controlled by thermostats and occupancy sensors can also be a good option.
See: Space Heaters Guide