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Today, about 87% of US households have HVAC units in place compared to about 63% in the ’90s. HVAC units are designed to heat and cool residential, commercial, and industrial spaces. They include furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, air purifiers, boilers, and any other equipment that promotes comfort and improves indoor air quality.
With proper maintenance and air conditioning service, your HVAC unit can last for 15 to 20 years. This post is a guide on what you need to know about HVAC systems, how it works, the different types of heating and cooling systems, what to consider when buying one, and what air conditioning service entails.
Components of an HVAC System
Understanding the different parts of your HVAC system makes it easy to find and fix problems, helping you prevent inconveniences and costly breakdowns. The main parts of your HVAC system include:
The heat exchanger is part of your unit’s housing. The heat exchanger is activated once the thermostat switches the furnace on. The air on the outside is pulled into the heat exchanger by a fan. All furnaces, including electric air conditioners, have heat exchangers. Heat exchangers in modern HVACs are made with temperature-resistant stainless steel. The stainless steel keeps them from cracking and other damages.
The furnace produces and circulates warm air during the cooler months. Depending on the model of your HVAC unit, your furnace may use solar energy, electricity, a heat pump, or combustion as its heat source. Due to their size, most furnaces are located in utility rooms, closets, attics, or basements.
The condensing unit is usually installed outside and loaded with refrigerant gas. The unit features a heat exchanger that cools the refrigerant to a liquid state and a heat compressor that heats the refrigerant.
The evaporator coil is part of your air conditioning system, and it helps absorb heat from your living space. As warm air passes by the evaporator coil, the refrigerant liquid, which runs through the coils, absorbs the heat. The evaporator coil is activated once the thermostat indicates that you need cool air.
The thermostat is the part most HVAC owners are familiar with. It is the component that allows you to control the air temperature your unit will produce. There are two types of thermostats: traditional and smart thermostats. The former is simpler, but you have to control the temperatures manually. Smart thermostats will automatically switch themselves on when the air temperature rises above a certain degree and vice versa.
Ducts are responsible for the distribution of the heated or cooled air. They are normally installed on the floor, the walls, or the ceiling. The ductwork ends at the vents. During the air conditioning service, your contractor will also remove dust and other debris from your system’s ductwork.
Vents are air outlets installed in the ceiling, walls, or the floor. Some suck in air while others expel it, and are normally made of wood or metal.
How HVAC Systems Work
Simply put, a heating and air conditioning unit works by pulling in warm air from inside the building it is installed in, cools it by absorbing the heat, and recirculates it throughout the building. The refrigerant is what absorbs the warm air. The heat is then removed the warm air passes through the condenser outside.
Whether the air in your home gets cooled or warmed all depends on your thermostat. Once you change the temperature settings on your thermostat, you direct your unit to produce either warm or cold air. Depending on the type of thermostat you are using, you can control the temperatures in your home through your PC, phone, or a voice-controlled assistant such as Google Assistant.
Once the air is pulled into the unit, it moves through the filters which remove particles. Apart from improving your indoor air quality, this also helps prevent the unit from getting damaged. As such, it’s important to have an expert come for air conditioning service every once in a while.
The condenser unit outside converts the refrigerant gas into a liquid and then sends it to the evaporator coils. The refrigerant moves through the evaporator coils, thus absorbing the heat from the air drawn in. The air is then drawn into the supply ducts and later the vents which distribute it.
Consequently, warm air is sucked into the inlet ducts, and the cycle continues.
Types of HVAC Systems
Understanding the different types of HVAC systems could save you a lot of time, especially if you are considering buying one.
1. Split Systems
These conventional HVAC systems are perhaps the most popular, especially when it comes to residential heating and cooling systems. As the name suggests, this unit is split between two units: one meant for heating and the other cooling. What sets this type of HVAC unit apart from the rest is that it has an indoor as well as an outdoor unit. The indoor unit is normally connected to a heat pump or a furnace.
Split systems are widely used as they are generally applicable. This means that they can be installed without regard to specific environmental factors or needs. It’s easy to perform basic air conditioning service on split systems yourself.
2. Duct-Free Split System
These units are designed to operate without ductwork. Also referred to as ductless mini-split systems, they are a good option for homes without pre-existing ductwork systems. When it comes to air conditioning service, duct-free split systems require the same attention as their ducted counterparts.
3. Zoned Systems
This type of heating and air conditioning unit controls temperatures in different zones within the home by regulating the dampers or valves within the unit’s ductwork. The dampers selectively permit or block airflow. A zoned air system would be the best option if you are looking into saving money. This is because it allows you to control the areas to be cooled or heated.
4. Packaged HVAC Systems
A packaged system is one that has all its major components enclosed in a large cabinet. These are always installed on the outdoors and are ideal for homes without attics or basements. Packaged units have a blower that draws in the air and recirculates it throughout your home. The air can be treated through a heat pump, gas, or electricity. There are also hybrid packaged systems.
As the mechanical components are outside, packaged systems are less noisy.
Factors to Consider When Buying an HVAC Unit
Buying a heating and cooling system is a perfect opportunity to upgrade to a newer and more efficient model. With different models and brands saturating the market, choosing one that will perfectly suit your needs is a daunting task.
To help you make the right choice, the air conditioning service experts at One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating in Fort Worth, TX point you out to some of the most critical factors you should look into:
To get value for your money, one of the primary factors you should consider before purchasing your next HVAC unit is its energy-efficiency. Getting a unit with better ratings means you will be saving a significant amount of money when it comes to utility bills while also protecting the environment. Some of the most common HVAC ratings include:
- SEER – this stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is perhaps the most popular energy-efficiency rating. The minimum SEER rating in the U.S. is 13, but as technology evolves, major HVAC manufacturers continue to produce higher ratings.
- HSPF – short for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, this rating measures your unit’s heating side over a single season.
- AFUE – this stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency and is meant for units that use oil or gas. The rating indicates your unit’s output against the money you spend on fuel. The higher your unit’s AFUE rating, the lesser the fuel wastage.
Choosing an HVAC unit that suits the size of your home is critical. A unit that’s too small will not be able to cover your building’s square footage. If it’s too big, it will end up wasting energy.
Once your unit is installed, your contractor will help you come up with an air conditioning service plan. Most systems require to be maintained once every year to ensure that they run optimally.
Common HVAC Problems
While some HVAC issues, such as cleaning the coils and replacing the filter are basic, some of the problems discussed below will develop into much bigger ones if not handled by air conditioning service experts. The most common HVAC issues include:
Poor Air Conditioning Service and Maintenance
Scheduling regular air conditioning service is one of the most important investments you will ever make on your HVAC system. Through routine maintenance, minor problems can be identified and corrected before they become major repairs.
Clogged or Dirty Filters
While you might have invested in the most modern air conditioning system, dirty or clogged filters can negatively impact its output. Dirty or clogged filters stem from a lack of proper air conditioning service. Such filters cause your unit to work harder than it should, thus increasing your energy costs and reducing your system’s lifespan.
A Malfunctioned Thermostat
When HVAC issues arise, most people overlook the thermostat. If the thermostat’s settings are incorrect, this will negatively affect how your unit performs. Referring to the manufacturer’s instructions when you are unsure of how to operate the thermostat may prevent you from having to incur unnecessary and costly air conditioning service calls.
Continuous Blower Operations
One of the most common HVAC issues is a blower that will not shut off. You can troubleshoot this by first checking on the thermostat’s fan switch to ensure that it isn’t accidentally turned on. If it’s off, but the blower is still running, there could be a problem with the relay mechanism. An air conditioning service will help you diagnose the problem and repair it.
Loud or Unusual Noises
You may notice such noises as rasping, squealing, or grinding when the equipment starts operating. Such noises are a sign that components such as bearings and belts are either loose or worn out. Regular air conditioning service from a trained technician includes the tightening, oiling, or replacing of bearings, motors, and belts. Ignoring such noises may lead to total system failure.
You may notice that your unit effectively cools one part of your home while other parts remain untouched. This could be a sign that the dampers in your unit are not balanced. In other instances, this may be a sign that the room is not sealed off properly, allowing cooled or warmed air to escape.
One of the key indicators that there could be a refrigerant leak is a unit that barely cools the air or if the temperatures regularly fluctuate. As mentioned, the refrigerant is the liquid responsible for cooling or warming your indoor air. If the refrigerant leaks, this puts a strain on your condenser and compressor and may lead to serious problems. If you notice that your unit is not effectively doing its job, contact your air conditioning service technician immediately.
Corrosion of Terminals and Wires
As with any other equipment, your HVAC is prone to wear and tear. If you notice that your unit turns itself on and off, this could be a sign that its terminals and wires are corroded. Your contractor will inspect and replace them during the scheduled air conditioning service.
Work with Our Fort Worth, TX Team Today
The HVAC system is one of the most expensive investments you’ll probably ever make. To keep it operating optimally and avoid costly service calls, you need to make sure that it is serviced by a professional. The professionals at One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating in Fort Worth, TX have extensive experience when it comes to installing, maintaining, and air conditioning service. Get in touch with us at 817-283-6911. Our team is available round the clock, so rest assured that even if it’s an emergency, we have your back.