4.5   Controls    

4.5.1    Thermostats    

Automatic setback thermostats can add both comfort and convenience to a home. Occupants can wake up to a warm house in the winter and come home to a cool house in the summer without using unnecessary energy.

§110.2(c), §150.0(i)

A thermostat is always required for central systems whether the prescriptive or performance compliance method is used. An exception is allowed only if:

1.   the building complies using a computer performance approach with a non-setback thermostat; and

2.   the system is one of the following non-central types:

a.   Non-central electric heaters

b.   Room air conditioners

c.   Room air conditioner heat pumps

d.   Gravity gas wall heaters

e.   Gravity floor heaters

f.    Gravity room heaters

g.   Wood stoves

h.   Fireplace or decorative gas appliances

When it is required, the setback thermostat must have a clock or other mechanism that allows the building occupant to schedule the heating and/or cooling set points for at least four periods over 24 hours.

If more than one piece of heating equipment is installed in a residence or dwelling unit, the set-back requirement may be met by controlling all heating units by one thermostat or by controlling each unit with a separate thermostat. Separate heating units may be provided with a separate on/off control capable of overriding the thermostat.


Note that thermostats for heat pumps must be “smart thermostats” that minimize the use of supplementary electric resistance heating during startup and recovery from setback, as discussed earlier in the heating equipment section.


Example 4-1


Am I exempt from the requirement for a thermostat if I have a gravity wall heater or any of the equipment types 'listed in the exception to §110.2(c)?


The answer depends on the compliance approach. Under the prescriptive approach, Exception to §110.2(c) exempts gravity wall, floor and room heaters from the thermostat requirements. However, under the performance approach, the exception requires that “the resulting increase in energy use due to the elimination of the thermostat shall be factored into the compliance analysis”. This means that under the performance scenario, if the building is modeled with a non-setback thermostat, any energy lost because of this will have to be made up using other efficiency features.

4.5.2    Zonal Control    

An energy compliance credit is provided for zoned heating systems, which save energy by providing selective conditioning for only the occupied areas of a house. A house having at least two zones (living and sleeping) may qualify for this compliance credit. The equipment may consist of one heating system for the living areas and another system for sleeping areas or a single system with zoning capabilities, set to turn off the sleeping areas in the daytime and the living area unit at night (see Figure 4-20).

There are unique eligibility and installation requirements for zonal control to qualify under the Standards. The following steps must be taken for the building to show compliance with the Standards under this exceptional method:

1.   Temperature Sensors. Each thermal zone, including a living zone and a sleeping zone, must have individual air temperature sensors that provide accurate temperature readings of the typical condition in that zone.

2.   Habitable Rooms. For systems using central forced air or hydronic heating each habitable room in each zone must have a source of space heating such as forced air supply registers, radiant tubing or a radiator.  For systems using a combination of a central system and  a gas vented fireplace or other individual conditioning units, the zone served by the individual conditioning unit can be limited to a single room. Bathrooms, laundry, halls and/or dressing rooms are not habitable rooms.

3.   Non-closeable Openings. The total non-closeable opening area (W) between adjacent living and sleeping thermal zones (i.e., halls, stairwells, and other openings) must be less than or equal to 40 ft². All remaining zonal boundary areas must be separated by permanent floor-to-ceiling walls and/or fully solid, operable doors capable of restricting free air movement when in the closed position.

Figure 4-20 – Zonal Control Example
Source: Richard Heath & Associates/Pacific Gas & Electric


4.   Thermostats. Each zone must be controlled by a central automatic dual setback thermostat that can control the conditioning equipment and maintain preset temperatures for varying time periods in each zone independent of the other.  Thermostats controlling vented gas fireplace heaters that are not permanently mounted to a wall are acceptable as long as they have the dual setback capabilities.

Other requirements specific to forced air ducted systems include the following:

1.   Each zone must be served by a return air register located entirely within the zone. Return air dampers are not required.

2.   Supply air dampers must be manufactured and installed so that when they are closed, there is no measurable airflow at the registers.

3.   The system must be designed to operate within the equipment manufacturer's specifications.

4.   Air is to positively flow into, through, and out of a zone only when the zone is being conditioned. No measurable amount of supply air is to be discharged into unconditioned or unoccupied space in order to maintain proper airflow in the system.

Although multiple thermally distinct living and/or sleeping zones may exist in a residence, the correct way to model zonal control for credit requires only two zones: one living zone and one sleeping zone. All separate living zone components must be modeled as one single living zone; the same must be done for sleeping zones.


Example 4-2


In defining the living and sleeping zones for a home with a zonally-controlled HVAC system, can laundry rooms and bathrooms (which are not habitable spaces) be included on whichever zone they are most suited to geographically (e.g., a bathroom located near bedrooms)?


Yes. For computer modeling purposes, include the square footage of any non-habitable or indirectly conditioned spaces, with the closest zone.


Example 4-3


I have two HVAC systems and want to take zonal control credit. Can the return air grilles for both zones be located next to each other in the 5 ft wide by 9 ft high hallway (in the same zone)?


No. Because of the need to prevent mixing of air between the conditioned zone and the unconditioned zone, it is necessary to (1) have the return air for each zone within that zone, and (2) limit any non-closeable openings between the two zones to 40 ft² or less. Unless these criteria and the other criteria 'listed in this chapter can be met, credit for a zonally controlled system cannot be taken.

Example 4-5


How do I model the energy efficiency of a gas vented fireplace for zonal control heating?


The efficiency of gas vented fireplaces places is described as an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) and is calculated by the manufacturer per the ANSI Z21.88-2009 Standard.  Gas vented fireplaces need to meet all of the other relevant requirements of zonal control.

Example 4-6


Does a gas vented fireplace with a handheld remote thermostat meet the thermostat requirement for the two-zone modeling credit?

Answer Yes, as long as the thermostat has manual on to start, automatic setback capability and temperature preset capability, it does not have to be permanently wall-mounted.