Some heating and cooling systems can regulate the way they work to control different rooms independently. This feature means you have more control over the temperature of each area, or zone, than in more simple systems.
ecobee smart thermostats control each zone of your heating and cooling system. To control each zone independently, you will need an ecobee in each zone. You can then log into the website to set up multiple ecobees as a group to function together and not work against each other.
If your home already has multiple heating or cooling zones, switching to ecobee is straightforward. However, you need to consider a few critical points, which we will cover below.
What are HVAC Zones?
Most homes, like those with forced air, usually have only one furnace that heats them. When the furnace turns on, all the rooms get more or less the same amount of heating.
This system is simple and works well enough. However, it can lead to unwanted differences in temperatures around the home. Most notably, this can lead to a second floor that is too warm and a ground floor that is too hot.
Some of the most common reasons for temperature differentials around the home include:
- The number of windows in each room
- Which level of the house the room is on
- Which aspect (North or South) does the room face
- Rooms with only interior walls vs. those with exterior walls
- And what appliances are being used in each room
A more effective system is like that of hotels, where each room can control the temperature independently. But, while this works in hotels, it is not cost-effective or convenient for most homes.
So, instead of controlling each room, some homes will be set up with HVAC zones. Each zone has a dedicated thermostat to control the degree of heating or cooling it experiences.
There are three ways that zones within a home can have separate heating and cooling preferences:
- The house has dampers installed to control the flow of air to only certain zones
- The house has multiple heating or cooling units, such as having two furnaces
- The house has a combination of dampers and multiple cooling or heating appliances
Dampers are the most common in heating systems, as having multiple furnaces is generally too expensive. This setup is also typical in forced air cooling systems.
The dampers are located within the ducts and work like a valve. When the damper is open, air flows freely from the furnace into the room vents.
So, for example, say we had a two-story house with two zones, one upstairs and one down. On a cold day, the ground floor needs heating, but not the second floor. So, the thermostat downstairs will trigger the furnace to run, but a damper will prevent the air from flowing to the upstairs zone.
If the upstairs zone becomes too cool, the thermostat will trigger the damper to open to heat both spaces.
Such a system can rely on only one furnace but requires a thermostat in each zone and a zone control board at the furnace to control which area receives the heat.
If you want to use ecobee thermostats to control multiple zones in your home, your home must already be set up in this way.
If you are unsure if your home has multiple zones, check how many thermostats it has. Your home will have as many zones as it has thermostats.
Can ecobee Control Multiple Zones?
Like any thermostat, ecobee can control multiple zones in your home by having multiple thermostat units connected to a zone control board.
However, a single ecobee thermostat cannot control multiple zones. Each thermostat controls a single zone. So, if you have three HVAC zones in your home, then you will need three thermostats.
But, unlike most other thermostats, ecobees can be grouped to prevent them from working against each other.
Essentially, what this means is that they can communicate together in ways conventional thermostats cannot. With ordinary thermostats, one zone can call for heat, while the other calls for air conditioning. Doing so would create a situation where they were working against one another and wasting energy.
With ecobee, the two thermostats can communicate and never waste energy by heating and cooling different zones simultaneously.
How Room Sensors Work in Multiple Zones?
The remote ecobee room sensors significantly increase the sophistication and function of your HVAC system.
The first way that they accomplish this is by monitoring the temperature in more areas than just where you install the thermostat. The only temperature reading taken is at the unit with conventional thermostats, usually in a hallway or the living room.
Remote sensors allow you to monitor the temperatures in various areas of the house. And in the case of multiple HVAC zones, throughout each zone.
But, another great feature they have is the ability to monitor your presence. So, if your home has multiple zones, you can also use the remote sensors to heat your areas.
Based on your setting, the system would recognize that you are upstairs and set that as the eating priority. So, the dampers would close off to the lower level and direct all the heat to the level you are on.
When you then move downstairs, it will adjust the dampers accordingly.
Will ecobee Remote Sensors Give My House Multiple Zones?
Contrary to what some people first think, having multiple ecobee remote sensors doesn’t create HVAC zones in your house on their own.
The reason is that most homes have only one furnace and do not have dampers (except manual ones at the vents.) So, although the remote sensors can monitor the temperatures in different rooms or areas of your home, all areas are heated simultaneously once the furnace turns on.
You can manually adjust this if your vents have dampers you can close. Usually, you do this when you notice that the upper level is always hotter than the lower by closing off some of the upstairs vents.
Doing this may help regulate how your home is heated, but this is not the same as having HVAC zones.
Having one furnace with no dampers is a bit like having only one light switch controlling all the bulbs in your home. A remote sensor might tell you it’s dark in the bedroom, but they will do so throughout the house once the lights come on.
Can You Have Two ecobee Thermostats in One House?
You can have as many ecobee thermostats as you have zones in your home. You need to establish these zones during the installation of your HVAC system.
Having two ecobee thermostats in your home will not automatically create two zones. To create multiple zones throughout your home, you must design your ecobee this way initially.
But, if your home is set up with zones, having two ecobees working together is very simple. Just make sure that you pair your remote sensors with the ecobee within the zone you place them.
This process is much easier if you use the phone app or simultaneously control the ecobees through the website.
Do I Need an ecobee for Each Zone?
If you have multiple heating and cooling zones in your home, you will need multiple ecobee units in each zone.
Going back to the lightswitch metaphor above, having HVAC zones is like having multiple switches. To have multiple stitches, you need multiple ecobee thermostats.
So, placing just the remote sensors in different rooms will not create zones. Instead, you need those sensors to be relaying information to other ecobee units.
- You would have a thermostat for an upstairs zone and pair it with all the sensors on that floor.
- You then would pair the lower floor sensors with the ecobee located on the first floor.
- Then wire both ecobees to the multi-zone control panel at the furnace.
Additionally, you can go on the website and link both ecobees as a group and give them shared settings.
How Do You Use ecobee With Multiple Zones?
Using ecobee to control multiple zones in your home is not any more complicated than using two conventional thermostats. The setup is relatively straightforward and will provide you with greater control, using the existing wiring in your home.
1. Remove Your Old Thermostats
You will need an ecobee for each zone, so purchase as many as you need to replace the thermostats already in place.
Remove the old thermostats, using the enclosed stickers to label each wire as you do so.
2. If Needed, Install the Power Extender Kit
If your old thermostat did not have the common wire (C-wire), you would need to install the ecobee power extender kit or PEK. You will do this at your zone controller, usually found near your furnace or cooling system.
Open the zone control board and find the wires for the zone where you are installing an ecobee. Remove all four thermostat wires from the board and insert them into the PEK unit.
Next, hook the PEK units to the control board, including the port for the C-wire. It should now supply constant power to the ecobee wall unit.
3. Install the Wall Mount
Now, go back to where the thermostat was installed and replace it with the ecobee wall unit. Use the enclosed fasteners to secure the plate to the wall, and then push each labeled wire into the correct port.
4. Set-Up the ecobee Smart Thermostat
Use the display, or the app, to set up the thermostat. Make sure that you name the units correctly to apply the proper settings for each one through the app.
You can also pair any remote sensors you have with the corresponding ecobee sensor for that zone.
5. Group Multiple Zones Through the Website
Log on to the website using the same credentials you do for the app. Look at the upper right-hand corner and click where it says “thermostat groups.”
Next, choose the setting you want to share with the group (all the ecobees in your home).
Doing so will ensure that the ecobees in each zone work and never against each other by heating and cooling simultaneously.
Will ecobee Control Zone Functions Without Wifi?
When you use ecobee smart thermostats without wifi access, they function just like a conventional thermostat.
Not being connected to wifi means that many of the features will not work, such as the home or away feature. The display will only show the temperature and time of day. So, you will not get the local weather or control them via the app or website.
In zoned systems, they will still turn on or off the HVAC system, but they will no longer function as a group. Then there is the potential for one area to be heating while the other is cooling.
Can ecobee Control Multiple Zones Without a Control Board?
ecobee works with zoned heating and cooling styles, those with multiple furnaces, and those with dampers.
If your system works with multiple furnaces, you most likely do not have a zone control board. Instead, each thermostat is connected directly to the furnace or air conditioning unit.
These are the most straightforward systems to connect ecobees to control. To do so, remove the old thermostat and label all the wires with the included wiring stickers.
If there is no common wire, then also install the included ecobee PEK. Next, install the ecobee wall mount, and hook up the wires to it.
Snap-in your ecobee unit and set up as usual. Repeat this process for the other units throughout your home. Once again, use the website to group these and keep your energy costs down.
After reading this article, you should now understand all you need to know to install your ecobee smart thermostats in a home with multiple heating zones.
You will find that replacing your old thermostat in this way gives you much more control and saves you energy each year.
My thermostat has only two wires. Am I compatible with ecobee?