3 Diagnostic Steps For Cold Spots In Multi-Zone Heating Systems

Multi-zone HVAC systems can help keep your home comfortable while also improving energy efficiency, but it can be frustrating when you notice cold or hot spots within a zone. Your thermostat setpoint should provide reasonably even heating throughout its zone, so rooms that get too hot or too cold are usually a good indication that you have a problem.

Of course, diagnosing cold spots is often easier said than done. You may also wonder if it's worth calling an HVAC technician for a seemingly minor inconvenience. If you're currently experiencing this problem in your home, follow this three-step checklist to determine if your heating system may require professional attention.

Step 1: Is the Problem New?

Cold spots can sometimes be an indication of poor HVAC design. If you're the original owner of your house and you've always had cold spots, that can be a sign of poor thermostat placement, an undersized system, or even issues with your ductwork. While an HVAC technician can help you address these problems, they often require more than a quick visit to fix them.

On the other hand, you're probably dealing with a new problem or a failing component if you notice your heating system's behavior changing. In these cases, you'll probably want to investigate further and, if you can't determine the underlying cause of the problem, contact an HVAC technician to help you resolve it.

Step 2: Is the Thermostat Working Correctly?

If you've determined that this problem is new, it's time to look at your thermostat. A correctly operating thermostat should request heat when the temperature falls below its setpoint and stop heating once it reaches that target. Turn your thermostat up by a few degrees and see if your heat comes on. If it does, watch the thermostat to confirm that the heat shuts off at the appropriate time.

Look for signs of odd behavior, such as the heating system rapidly cycling on and off or the system failing to respond to changes in temperature. These issues may indicate a problem with the thermostat, the wiring, or even your furnace. An HVAC technician can help you conduct further diagnoses to find the problem.

Step 3: Are Other Zones Working Correctly?

If you don't notice any problems with your thermostat, move on to make sure there are cold spots or other issues in other heating zones. An issue with a single zone might point to problems with your ductwork or even poor thermostat placement. In some cases, zones can "fight" with each other, and hot air from one zone may cause another zone's thermostat to stop requesting heat prematurely.

Once you've gotten this far in your diagnostic process, you'll usually want to contact an HVAC professional to help you look into the problem. Since cold spots may indicate more severe trouble with your heating system, you should generally try to address them as soon as you can. Reach out to a professional for heating repair services at this point.