Whether you want to feel cool in summer or cozy in winter, your HVAC system is vital to your home comfort. Unfortunately, many homeowners lack even a rough understanding of their HVAC system. While it may be unrealistic to expect to become an expert, a basic knowledge of the key functions can help you to get the most out of your HVAC system.


The heat component of your HVAC helps to keep you feeling warm in the colder months. The most popular form of heating today is forced air systems, but your home may use radiant heat or geothermal heat. While these systems do have differences, they are all based on heat being created centrally and distributed throughout your home.

Forced air systems use a furnace to create heat that can be sent into room vents through ductwork. Radiant heat relies on a boiler or heating stove to disperse the heat using hot water tubing or electric heating coils installed in your ceilings or floors. Geothermal uses the constant temperatures of the ground to generate heat via a heat exchanger. Regardless of the type of heating in your home, it is designed to make your home feel warm when the mercury drops a little low.


The “V” in HVAC stands for ventilation, and this important role should not be overlooked. Ventilation is important to help purify the air, remove unwanted odors, prevent stagnated air and control moisture levels inside your home. Depending on your HVAC system, ventilation may be achieved mechanically or naturally using windows and fans. Some systems use a combination of both methods for optimum ventilation.

Forced air heating systems also pass treated air through an air filter, which eliminates volatile organic compounds, allergens, and airborne particles to improve your air quality. If you don’t have a fixed air system, you would need to employ tools such as humidifiers, air cleaners or air purifiers to accomplish this effect.

Air Conditioning

For many of us, air conditioning is the only way to cope with the hot summer temperatures, and there are several different types of systems that can be used in homes. Central air is used in conjunction with a forced air system, ductless split units don’t require the installation of ducts and portable units can be moved from room to room as required. Whichever type of system used, they operate in a similar manner.

Air conditioners use refrigerant that circulates through the system changing from gas to liquid to collect and expel heat from your living area. The vapor refrigerant moves through the compressor to become hot and passed to the condenser. At this point, the vapor is cooled and reverts to a liquid state. When this liquid is passed through an expansion valve, it creates low pressure, cool liquid mist that runs to the evaporator coil. When the mist evaporates, heat is absorbed and returns to the compressor to restart the whole process.

Now you understand the basics of your HVAC system, you should feel a little more confident when discussing any issues with your professional HVAC technician.