HVAC Basics for New Homeowners

what is hvac

What is HVAC?

As a new homeowner, you may know that it’s important to keep your HVAC system updated – but what exactly is an HVAC system, and how does it work?

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. HVAC systems heat and cool the entire home and involve a range of different equipment such as furnaces, air conditioners, ductwork, and thermostats, to name a few.

These systems work by moving air between the indoors and outdoors to keep you warm or cool depending on the current season and personal comfort preferences. Additional benefits produced by your HVAC system that can sometimes be overlooked include:

  • Filtering and cleaning indoor air
  • Maintaining humidity levels
  • Energy conservation

The 4 Most Common HVAC Systems

  1. Standard Split Systems

    These systems have two components: one outside the house and the other inside. Split systems offer a variety of options to choose from and are typically the most affordable. The systems can be split in a combination of different ways:

    Furnace and air conditioner: The furnace portion is typically installed inside of your home while the air conditioner unit is installed outside. A furnace burns fuel and distributes it throughout the house while the air conditioner draws heat energy out of the house and transfers it to the outside air.

    Heat pump split system: Common in milder climates without freezing temperatures, this system includes a condenser or compressor component installed on the outside and an air handler in the interior of the home. During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from outdoors inside your home and during the cooling season, heat pumps remove heat from your house.

    Furnace and heat pump: This hybrid heat system contains a split system with two heat sources. Often used in colder climates, the heat pump operates during moderate weather and switches to the furnace portion when the temperature becomes too cold for the heat pump.

  2. Ductless Split Systems

    Unlike standard split systems which require ductwork, ductless split systems can be used in buildings that do not have ductwork. In its most basic form, ductless split systems include one outdoor unit and one indoor unit that are connected through refrigerant tubing and electrical wiring.

  3. Packaged Systems

    Packaged systems are installed entirely outdoors, with all components contained in one unit and connected to the ductwork through a hole in the outside wall. Different types of packaged systems include:

    • Gas/Electric
    • Heat pump
    • Hybrid
  4. Geothermal HVAC Systems

    Geothermal heating and cooling systems operate much differently from a traditional furnace. A furnace burns fuel to create heat, whereas a geothermal heat pump exchanges heat between the ground or water source and the air to heat the home. The geothermal cooling process is very similar to the way an air conditioner or air-source heat pump works, however rather than releasing heat into the air, it uses the ground as its heat sink. These systems offer excellent energy efficiency but are usually more costly than other systems.

How to Maintain Your HVAC System

When it comes to HVAC basics, it’s important to take care of your HVAC system on a regular basis. Ignoring HVAC maintenance can cause serious complications and costs down the road.

Below are 5 things all homeowners should do to maintain their HVAC systems:

  1. Change Your Air Filter
    Ideally, you should change your air filter every three months or so. This keeps your system running smoothly and improves the air quality inside your home.
  2. Clean Your Outdoor Condensing Unit
    At the start of every season, remove debris from your condensing unit and spray down the outside with water to clean off dirt and grime buildup.
  3. Clear Around Your Outdoor Unit
    Clear out any plant life around your outdoor unit to eliminate interference. Make sure bushes and trees provide a distance of at least two feet on all sides.
  4. Check Your Air Conditioner’s Drain Line
    Clear out any blockage that can build up on your unit’s drain line. A drain line that is clogged can cause a breakdown and interior leaks.
  5. Get Regular Maintenance
    Bring out a trusted HVAC technician at least once a year to check on your system. They will be able to perform inspections and address any problem areas. Regularly maintaining your HVAC system will extend its lifespan and potentially save you money in the long run.

Read Next: The Four HVAC Terms You Need to Know Now

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