How Does HVAC work? A Guide to Home Heating and Air Conditioning Systems

Home Heating and Air Conditioning Systems

It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the crowning achievement of the last 100 years is the modern heating and air conditioning system. These systems have changed how and where we build our homes and have allowed us to increase our quality of living beyond measure.

These modern marvels are the sleeping giant in our buildings, the mysterious element that makes our day bearable. And the best part is, heating and air conditioning systems aren’t rocket science. Anyone interested can learn how they work, how to conduct basic maintenance, and when to call in the professionals.

In our handy guide, we give you a crash course in understanding your heating and air conditioning system and help you make informed decisions about the repair and replacement of your unit.

What is HVAC?

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. HVAC units are comprised of a heating system and a cooling system working together in tandem. They use ducts to move hot and cold air throughout a building and are controlled by a central thermostat.

Not all heating and air conditioning systems are HVAC however, as we explain further on. And in many cases, heating or air conditioning systems are installed by themselves.

Heating Systems

There are several main types of heating systems. Each one pulls heat from a different source:

Furnaces can rely on a number of types of fuel, including electricity, oil, propane, wood, or natural gas. Most modern heating systems are furnaces running on natural gas or electricity. They use what is called forced air heating to transfer heat into the air and push it through ducts throughout the building. These heating units are the most common type found in modern HVAC units as they can share ducts with air conditioning systems.

Heat Pump

Heat pumps transfer heat from outside the structure into the air inside. Once the heat is brought inside, it is distributed throughout ventilation systems and can be controlled through a thermostat or other control system. These systems are complete HVAC units, as they have the ability to function as both heating and air conditioning systems, though they generally only work in moderate climates.

Boilers, on the other hand, rely on heating water. The water is then pushed throughout the space through pipes and into radiators, radiant floor heating systems, or coils. These systems are generally only used in buildings without ducts and aren’t considered HVAC, as they only provide heat and don’t operate using a duct system.

Air Conditioning Systems

Air conditioning systems rely on a condenser unit (usually located outdoors) and an evaporator unit (located on the furnace or air handler), to remove heat from the system and cool the building.

There are several types of air conditioners, including central air conditioners, window or room AC units, and split systems. Central air conditioning systems rely on a distribution system of ducts. These are the type found in an HVAC unit paired with a furnace heating system. Other types of air conditioning systems are not centralized and don’t rely on building-wide ducts to push cold air.

HVAC Thermostats

The thermostat is the unsung hero of an HVAC system. It controls and regulates the temperature of your home and can have a huge impact on your experience. A malfunctioning thermostat can be the difference between the perfect temperature and living in a freezer.

We have created a handy guide to thermostats that you can find here. We cover the different types of thermostats available, including programmable smart thermostats, which let you program scheduled heating and cooling to meet your needs and schedule.

Simple Home HVAC Maintenance

In a system with so many working parts, the occasional problem is sure to arise. But these can mostly be avoided by following proper maintenance.

The most common maintenance need for your HVAC system is the replacement of air filters. By replacing a dirty filter with a new clean one, you can improve airflow, extend furnace life, reduce energy bills, and even improve indoor air quality. These are all big wins in our book.

Simple Home HVAC Maintenance

Replacing your filters is usually an easy task; so calling a professional isn’t always necessary. Since schematics vary wildly between different HVAC systems, it is important to consult you instruction manual to find the right access point and filter details. If you don’t have the physical instructions, most instruction manuals can be found online by simply searching for the manufacturer and model number.

An annual HVAC system cleaning can help extend its life and minimize the chance of larger issues occurring. This combined with regular filter replacement can reduce allergens in the air, and improve the efficiency and longevity of your HVAC unit. By completing basic maintenance, and getting regular professional cleanings, your HVAC system is sure to last for years to come.

When to replace your HVAC system

If your HVAC system develops a new problem, or simply isn’t properly heating or cooling your home, it may be time for a replacement. In some cases, replacing an older HVAC unit can save you money on your energy bills, even if it still works fine. In any of these scenarios, an expert HVAC technician will be able to review your system and recommend solutions.

If you think it’s time for a new HVAC system, it is also important to check and see if your HVAC is covered under a warranty. Many HVAC units are covered by warranties for long periods of time, and this can save you time and resources.

HVAC Repairs and Diagnosis

The most important thing to know about your HVAC system is when to call an expert. A trained HVAC professional will be well versed in the ins and outs of your unit, and will be the best option for diagnosing your problems and handling complex repairs. There may come a time when you will need to decide between replacing and repairing your HVAC system, and having the expert advice of a trustworthy HVAC professional will help make that decision easier.

The home HVAC system may be the crown jewel of modern engineering, but it’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t have to be a mystery. By learning more about your system, you can ensure that it’s running at peak efficiency, and even handle some of the minor issues that spring up. If all else fails, you can always rely on the professional help of a trained HVAC technician, like the ones available at Paragon Heating and Home Comfort Solutions.

We believe in helping you live in comfort. If your home HVAC system is in need of diagnosis or repair, or you’re considering replacing your unit, you can trust the experience and high-quality workmanship of our HVAC technicians.

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