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Ask This Old House

Robert Hronek | Posted in General Questions on

I was watching Ask This Old House. They were helping a homeowner with a 2 story home in a warm climate- furnace was in garage. It did have a furnace/ac. The home has 13 rooms and the zoning system installed cost $5,000 -6,000.

To the product being installed. It created a zone system using the existing duct work. It consisted of balloons being installed in the ducts a couple of feet in from the register. A small diameter air line was fished from each register back to the furnace. All the air tubes were connected to pump that inflated and deflated each balloon individually. There was a master thermostat and small wireless thermostats in each room. If the upstairs was to hot the ac would come on. When a room reached its desired temp the balloon would inflate blocking air to that room.

Even deflated the balloons would have to restrict the air flow by at least 25%. It seem like this alone would hurt the efficiency of the unit. Then when multiple balloons were inflated the air flow would be severely reduced.

It seems like so many of these shows are more of a commercial for bad renovations or in this case an improper fixes to the real problem.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    I didn't see the show and it's the first I've heard of the system.

    My first knee-jerk reaction is, "That sounds like a lot of fussy parts that will need maintenance and frequent repairs."

  2. Steve El | | #2

    My first thought was that if I understood the scope of the work the price tag seemed mighty high. Did they have to tear into walls?

    I inherited a box of back issues of Family Handyman from w/in the last 10 years. I often think " I'm not a professional or anything but that seems unwise". It would be interesting to do a program on "Imperfections to live with" but maybe that wouldn't sell many ads.

  3. Robert Hronek | | #3

    They started off by cutting a 12" hole in the plenum above the A coil. Then they had a big fan to provide suction through the systems. Air in the supply side was being pulled from the registers to the hole in the plenum. They plugged each of the registers. Then they took fishing line attacked to the parachute made out of a plastic grocery bag, inserted in to registered and pulled back to plenum. The fishing line was attached to the air hose and pulled back to the register. The air was attached to the balloon. The balloon was then inserted a foot or 2 inside the air duct.

    There were 13 rooms. They didn't say how many registers. So they were at least 13 air lines that ran from the plenum to each of the registers. A pump and manifold assembly along with the central controller and 13 wireless thermostats determined where the air came out.

    For $5,000 a lot of air sealing, insulation and maybe window film could have helped with comfort and provided energy savings.

    Of course Ask This OLd House got a show and someone got a commercial.

  4. Dennis Brown | | #4

    I saw this episode and it was a lot of work. Seemed like it solved the client's "problem" so I guess that is ok. It always seems these shows go a bit over the top. I have looked for this episode online and have not been able to find it. It is season 7, episode 22.

    And Martin, just to crank you up a bit, another ATOH had an episode on this past season where their HVAC/plumbing guy was using reflectix for insulating some ductwork. I figured if you saw that, blood would of shot right out of your eyes. Sometimes the ATOH guys are really smart, and then there are times like these where I wonder. Apparently they do not read GBA. I think this was episode 12, season 9 (not 100% sure).

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