Getting to know your HVAC system may seem like a daunting task, but just a simple understanding of your system is helpful. Your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system works hard for you and your family in your home. Your HVAC system heats your home in the winter, cools your home in the summer, and controls the ventilation in your home year-round. Basically, your HVAC system is all about keeping you comfortable and healthy.
In our area, most homes have a forced air heating system. This means there is a furnace that heats the air. Then ducts and vents distribute that warm air to the various rooms in your home.
Radiant heating systems and geothermal heating systems work a little differently than a forced air system. However, due to the relatively little need for heat in our area, we do not typically find these systems.
Whether heating or cooling, the ventilation component of your HVAC system is active year-round. Your ventilation system is what is responsible for making sure that air is the healthiest air possible for you to breathe with the system you have in place. Forced air systems pass the air from your home through a return air filter. This filter eliminates airborne particles, allergens, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air in your home.
Also, the ventilation system prevents air from stagnating, helps control moisture levels, and removes undesirable smells. Ventilation is often an overlooked portion of the HVAC system, but it contributes most to the overall health of your family.
The forced air systems that are most popular in our Houston area homes are typically associated with central air conditioning. This type of system circulates refrigerant. The refrigerant changes from gas to liquid as it collects and removes heat from your home. It passes warm vapor refrigerant through the compressor where it becomes hot refrigerant vapor. The hot vapor then moves to the condenser. Here, the condenser fan blows air over the finned coils and the hot vapor turns into hot liquid. The hot liquid passes through the expansion valve that creates a low pressure, cool liquid mist that runs through the evaporator coil. As the cooler liquid mist evaporates, it absorbs heat from the air inside your home and returns it to the compressor. This restarts the process. The system pushes this absorbed heat outside, which creates a cooler home.
As you can imagine, you could spend years learning about each individual part of your HVAC system. However, knowing the basics we present here will help you to maintain the system.
First, replace air return filters regularly to maintain the health of those in your home. It helps the ventilation system continue to do its job well in keeping the air in your home clean. These filters should be replaced monthly to every two months, depending on the number of people living in your home, whether you have pets, and other factors.
Second, your ducts are like the blood vessels of the HVAC system. Just like blood vessels take blood where it needs to go in your body, the ducts take the air where it needs to go. Air ducts are tucked away in the attic, walls, and sometimes floors of your home. Because of this, most home owners take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to maintaining ducts. Just like blood vessels, though, good ducts are essential to the overall health of your system. If you have leaks in your ducts, the cooler (or warmer, in the winter) air may not be reaching the areas it should to keep you comfortable. This will cause your system to work harder to try to keep you comfortable.
Finally, having preventive maintenance and regular service on your system will help catch small problems before they become big ones. Your technician will evaluate your system with an eye toward the overall condition.
Getting to know your HVAC system is essential to keeping up with the appropriate maintenance and care of your system.