This is a brief guide to help people understand what an HVAC system is and how it works. This is handy information to know because the terminology used will help you to communicate with your local HVAC specialist. This is important to keep your HVAC system working efficiently and schedule the servicing that you need.
Most HVAC systems are made up of two key systems, heating and cooling. Let’s take a look at each of them in a little more detail.
Heating systems require three key components: they are:
- A heat source: Furnace, heat pump, or boiler.
- The distribution method: Typically, circulation via a fan and ductwork.
- The control system: A thermostat.
The type of furnace you choose will depend on the fuel that’s available in your local area. If you have an oil furnace, you can replace it with a natural gas or propane furnace if you prefer.
If you have a boiler system, water is heated, and the heat is distributed via a system of radiators or a coil or a radiant under floor system. When you choose a residential boiler, there are three main criteria that you need to consider.
- The size: The local climate will determine the boiler size you need, but a good rule of thumb is 20 BTU per square foot for a moderate climate and 50 BTU if you live in a climate that’s colder.
- The efficiency: A boiler’s efficiency is measured in Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE. This measures the efficiency of the specific appliance in converting the consumed energy into heat over a typical year.
- Venting: Every heating system needs ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
A Heat Pump
A heat pump is a mechanical appliance that transfers heat energy from the source to a different location where the heat is needed. There are three main types of heat pumps; they are ground, air, and water, sources. Many homeowners prefer heat pumps because a single system can provide enough heat to warm an entire home.
Air Conditioning Systems
Air conditioning takes heat inside the home and moves it out of the home to make the indoor spaces cooler. Every air conditioner unit has two main components:
- A Condenser Unit: The outdoor component.
- An Evaporator Unit: Located on the furnace or air handler.
The heat is extracted from the home using refrigeration technology, and there are three main different types of AC system in regular use today:
- Central AC Systems: These circular cooled air through the home via a system of supply and return air ducts. This system has a typical lifespan of around 15-20 years.
- Room AC Systems: Also known as a window air conditioner, these units are installed in a window. They are a great option to remove heat from a single room, and they have a typical lifespan of 10-15 years.
- Mini Split: This is a zoned cooling system that doesn’t need ductwork. It’s a popular system for those using a boiler or to install in new homes. It has a typical lifespan of 12-15 years.
Many people ignore the need for regular HVAC maintenance, and this is a huge mistake. The typically projected lifespans of the equipment listed above are largely determined by regular servicing. If you want to get the best return from your investment in heating and cooling equipment, it needs professional attention.
Every heating and cooling system is made from a complex set of electronic, electrical, and mechanical components. Some of these are moving parts, and they can be expensive to replace. For this reason, you shouldn’t let unqualified people work on your HVAC system. After all, you wouldn’t let anyone work on your car, and if you’re smart, it gets serviced regularly by a competent auto mechanic.
Regular maintenance should occur before each cooling and heating season. That’s once in spring and again in fall to get your home ready for the season ahead. This will improve energy efficiency and performance during peak use periods. This maintenance will also reduce the chances of a failure when you need your HVAC system the most.
The HVAC system in your home is complex, so it’s not likely that you can avoid problems entirely. Let’s take a closer look at three common problems that you may encounter.
- Poor Airflow
If you’re not getting adequate volumes of treated air, it’s likely that your air filter needs to be changed or cleaned. This is an easy fix, the process is outlined in your owner’s manual, and if you’ve lost it, you can get a pdf replacement online. The air filters should be checked once per month and more often if you have pets. This is important to maintain airflow because the equipment will become overworked in an attempt to compensate. This can, in turn, lead to an expensive repair bill.
- Short Cycling
This is when the HVAC system turns on and off again in rapid succession. The usual cause for this is that the equipment is poorly matched to the size of your home. This is why it’s important to get a professional load calculation before you purchase and install an HVAC system.
- A Lack of Performance
This is usually caused by a lack of maintenance or a system that is too small for the home. A lack of performance is a waste of money because you don’t get the indoor comfort that you need, and yet you still pay for the energy expended. Check that your vents are uncovered, clean the air filters, and see if that fixes the problem. If you’re still underwhelmed by the level of performance, consult a local HVAC specialist and get them to inspect the system for you.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Many people believe that the air filter is sufficient to improve the IAQ in their homes. This is incorrect. The primary purpose of the air filter is to protect sensitive HVAC components from damage. But, if you have dirty ductwork, vents, and the air filter is clogged, it will affect your IAQ significantly. Let’s take a closer look at two ways to improve your IAQ at home.
- Schedule Duct Cleaning
It is possible to clean your registers and the openings of your ducts yourself. But, you can only reach into the ducts as far as the length of your arm, and a deeper clean is better. There could be mold, mildew, and animal carcasses lurking in your ductwork that affects the IAQ, and the only way to improve the situation is to schedule some professional cleaning.
- Install an Air Purifier
If you have people in the home that suffer from allergies and respiratory diseases, you may want to install an air purifier. Another option is to use an air filter with a higher MERV rating, but this can overwork your existing HVAC equipment. If you want to drastically improve your IAQ for health reasons, consult your local HVAC specialist for more information today.