After the stresses of buying your first home, you are no doubt ready to relax, but owning a home comes with some new responsibilities. Now you’re not a renter, you don’t have a landlord to look after the appliances and utilities in your home. You’ll need to care for them and one of the most complex is the HVAC system.

If your only experience with an air conditioner or furnace is adjusting the thermostat, you’re facing a learning curve. So, here we’ve compiled a new homeowner guide to the HVAC basics.

The Different Elements of Your HVAC System:

HVAC is an abbreviation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. This means that the system is designed to keep you feeling cool in summer and warm in winter. Since it has such a vital role to play in your home comfort, there are a number of elements. Some of the key components include:

The Main Unit:

The main HVAC unit includes the furnace, heat pump or air conditioner. These are the components where the actual heating and cooling occurs, but they cannot perform this function without other internal and external mechanics.

In traditional systems, the main units are usually the air conditioner and furnace, but a heat pump can be used for both of these roles. Heat pumps can heat or cool the air, working as both an air conditioner and furnace would.

There are also ductless systems, where a unit is attached to a wall and it can blow warm or cool air into the room. This type of system does not require vents or air ducts.

The Heat Exchanger:

Within the heater or furnace, you’ll find a heat exchanger, which is a crucial component that is needed to heat the air. In simple terms, the furnace pulls in cold air from outdoors and the heat exchanger heats it and blows the warm air into your home. Depending on the type of heater, heat exchangers can be powered by electric coils or gas burners.

The heat exchanger is made of stainless steel and it is combined with thermal resistant alloys to prevent cracking or damage. Unfortunately, if there is a problem with your heat exchanger, it can lead to serious problems such as a carbon monoxide leak. This has potentially fatal consequences, so it is a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector in your new home.

The Thermostat:

The thermostat is likely to be the HVAC component that you are already familiar with. It is one of the most visible parts and it acts as the brain of your HVAC system. The thermostat senses any temperature variations inside your home and triggers the furnace or air conditioner to adjust the temperature to the desired level.

Modern thermostats are programmable or smart, which allows you to tailor your home comfort and make your heating and cooling as energy efficient as possible. Your thermostat may also have zoning, which allows you to set different temperatures for different areas of your home. So, it is well worth getting to know all of the features of your thermostat.

Combustion Chambers:

The combustion chambers are where the heat is generated for your home. Inside the combustion chamber, the furnace supplies oxygen to the fuel to facilitate combustion. There is a pilot light or glow stick which is used to ignite the mixture to create a controlled fire. The heat produced in your combustion chamber is then absorbed by the heat exchanger where it heats the air for the home.

The Blower Motor:

The blower motor is a small, but important component within your HVAC system. After the air is heated to the desired temperature, the blower motor powers a fan to move the treated air into the ductwork.

Blower motors are typically variable speed, which allows effective control over the air flow. The motor gradually gains speed to limit the noise and operate efficiently. This component is also crucial for reducing the humidity levels inside your home.

The Condenser Coil:

The condenser coil or compressor is located outside your home. This outdoor unit siphons hot air from inside your home, releasing it outdoors. This is accomplished with compression and condensing of refrigerant, transforming the refrigerant from a liquid to gas state and back again.

The Evaporator Coil:

The evaporator coil is fitted below the blower fan and it is typically made from a metal with good heat conducting abilities such as copper or aluminum. When the system is switched on, the compressor draws the refrigerant into your evaporator coil, directing it through an expansion valve, which makes the coolant even colder by relieving the pressure.

Hot air is blown over the evaporator coil and the coolant absorbs the heat, condensing. The resulting water vapor is drained outside.

Essential HVAC Tasks:

Now you have a basic understanding of the components of your HVAC system, you should be able to feel more comfortable performing some maintenance tasks. These can help to keep your system operating and minimize the risk of breakdown issues developing.

  • Replace your air filters: The air filters inside your HVAC system should be replaced every 30 to 90 days. Clogged filters can compromise airflow and lower your indoor air quality.
  • Keep the outdoor unit free of debris: Once you locate your outdoor AC unit, you need to ensure that it is kept free of garden debris. Leaves, grass clippings and other debris can clog the unit and compromise performance.
  • Be alert for indications of trouble: Get to know the sounds and performance of your HVAC system. If you start to notice loud noises, the energy consumption goes up or there are any odd odors, it is best to err on the side of caution and have your system checked. Schedule annual maintenance: Although you can perform a few basic DIY maintenance tasks, you’re not likely to have the skills, expertise and tools required to perform thorough annual maintenance. A professional technician can check your system for any minor issues that could develop into serious faults, and ensure that the equipment is operating safely and at peak efficiency.

If you want to schedule some essential maintenance for your AC system, contact your local cooling specialist today.