What is HVAC? All You Wanted to Know

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Last updatedLast updated: June 19, 2021
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Though an HVAC system used to be far too expensive for the average household to purchase, these days it is much more cost-efficient to buy and use in your home. Even though these systems are more accessible for anyone, not everyone knows exactly what HVAC means. So, what is an HVAC system and how does it work in your home?

Well, many people believe that HVAC refers to air conditioning systems but this isn’t the case. Though air conditioners are part of an HVAC system, there is a lot more to them than that. HVACs also include heating and ventilation, so they deal with the temperature of your home, as well as ductwork, air filters, and much more. They make your home more comfortable, no matter what the weather outside is like. For more information about HVACs and what they have to offer, keep reading.

What does HVAC stand for?

What is HVAC? All You Wanted to Know

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, making these systems the most important part of your home when it comes to heating and cooling. They also keep the air in your home fresh and clean while reducing moisture levels.

An HVAC unit comes in many sizes and shapes, so you can choose the best one to fit your home and includes all of the features you’re looking for. Though these systems can cover all three of the areas listed above, they can also contain a combination of them or just cover one area.

For instance, the Bosch Thermotechnology 8733948003 High-Efficiency Ultra-Quiet Mini Split System includes an air conditioner and cooling system with a heat pump, so it provides you with cool and warm air as needed, though ventilation systems need to be purchased separately. There are other options for just heating, air conditioning, or ventilation, as well as high-quality HVAC systems that cover all three.

As you can see, HVAC systems aren’t one specific thing. It is more of a blanket term used to describe all of the air control systems of your home and commercial buildings, so it can mean different things to different people.

How do HVAC systems work?

All of the different areas of HVAC systems can be purchased and used independently or combined into one large combined system, depending on which one you buy. So, how do HVAC systems work?

Well, there are many different types of heating and cooling systems. The smaller pieces, like pellet stoves or window air conditioning units, work on their own since they need no ductwork or other additions to do their jobs.

The more complicated combined systems include air conditioning and central heating, which work together. This combined usage makes it easier to control the air in your home, depending on the weather and season using Z Wave Thermostats or other centrally controlled thermostat systems. You can also get Smart Thermostat Installation when purchasing your systems through Amazon.

Though the components of an HVAC system can vary depending on your home or commercial needs, there are some basics that you should consider before getting any of these systems installed. The following sections cover each of the components separately to help you figure out what you need for your space.

Heating

There are a variety of heating systems that you can choose for your home, depending on the size of the home and the climate you’re dealing with. Those living in warm climates with no icy winter chill can likely get away with smaller heating systems. There are a variety of small or large room heaters for you to choose from to keep those cool days and nights from becoming too uncomfortable. These units don’t require any ductwork, though they are only good for single rooms or small apartments rather than large homes or commercial buildings.

A heat pump is another great option for mild climates, due to the energy-efficiency of these units. They use the air outside of your home to warm it up in the winter but can also be used to keep it cool when the weather warms up, making this a fantastic option for all seasons.

What is HVAC? All You Wanted to Know

For larger homes or those in cold areas that need a more consistent whole-home heating system, a furnace is likely the best choice. Furnaces consist of several different components to keep your home or commercial space toasty warm all winter long. First, there are burners that deliver the fuel to the furnace and burn it for heat. There are also heat exchangers, a blower, and a flue which work together to send the heated air through the ductwork and into all of the areas of your home.

Ventilation

Though ventilation isn’t really related to the air temperature of your home, it has everything to do with the air quality. Good ventilation can help replenish the much-needed oxygen levels in your home and remove any nasty odors from pets, cooking, smoking, or just musty old air. It’s also a must for keeping moisture levels down and filtering out carbon dioxide, keeping the air in your home fresh and clean.

The entry and exit points in your homes, like doors and windows, are handy for natural ventilation but there are some instances that this isn’t a great option. In the dead of winter, you likely don’t want to leave any windows or doors open for longer than a minute or two. Tightly sealed homes or commercial areas don’t allow for too much ventilation, either, focusing more on energy-efficiency systems that reduce air leakage, keeping the air in these buildings inside for lower energy costs and less waste.

This is why mechanical ventilation systems are so important in these buildings, to give you the air exchange needed for safe, breathable air. These systems start with an air inlet unit that is specially designed to bring air from outside into your home. This air then travels through a filter to clean out any dirt, allergens, and other particles. This is the air that is used in the heating and cooling systems, adjusting the temperature in your home as needed while reducing humidity.

If you’re using a central heating, cooling, or combined system, the air is then sent through the ductwork of your home to the various areas of your home or commercial building. This keeps the air clean and fresh, plus it is heated or cooled to the perfect temperature to keep you comfortable.

Air conditioning

Like heating systems, air conditioning units have a few different options to choose from. A window unit is a compact appliance that is installed in a window of your home. There are different sizes available but all of them are designed with rather powerful outputs. This doesn’t mean that you can use a window air conditioning unit to cool your whole house since they work best in small rooms or apartments.

Many people choose a window unit because they are relatively cheap, so they are great for those on a budget. The low price doesn’t affect the quality, either, so you can still get a great model without spending a fortune. They are also easy to install, though you can get them installed professionally if needed without adding too much to the overall cost.

For larger buildings, a central air conditioner is more common. These systems consist of outdoor and indoor parts, starting with a single condensing unit that is mounted on the outside of your building. There is also an evaporator mounted in the ductwork of the furnace blower. These components are connected using flexible gas and liquid refrigerant lines. If the furnace is electric, there is a blower included as well.

Together, these parts circulate the warm air in your home, blowing it through the indoor coil, cooling it while removing moisture for less humidity. Any water vapor in the air condenses on that coil and drops into the drain pan and then down the condensate drain to be deposited outside. The heat is also pumped outside while the new cool air is circulated throughout the home.

Though central air systems are a great option for large spaces, they are rather expensive for the initial system and installation. They do last for 20 years or more, so may be worth it in the long run if well maintained.

Another option is the mini split system, which is similar to central air, though it uses refrigeration pipework instead of ductwork. It is cheaper to operate and more aesthetically pleasing, thanks to the cleaner look.

What does HVAC certified mean?

If you’ve never heard the term before, you may be wondering if your system fits this category. So, what is HVAC certified? Well, this means that your HVAC system is installed and repaired by a licensed HVAC technician. These technicians have passed the exams needed to get their certified licenses. The exams for this certification vary, depending on where you live, plus there may be a federal certification needed to become a certified HVAC technician.

Final thoughts

Although many people assume that the terms HVAC and air conditioning are interchangeable, this isn’t exactly the case. Though all air conditioners are considered part of an HVAC system, HVACs don’t necessarily need to include them. Instead, air conditioning is just one aspect of HVACs, which also includes heating and ventilation. In other words, HVAC systems are focused on the parts necessary to control the air movement and temperature in any building. That makes it easier to figure out what is an HVAC system.

There are varying types and sizes to choose from, so you can get small window air conditioning units or compact heaters as well as the whole-home HVAC systems of furnace heating and central air. You can combine these separate pieces as needed to keep your home comfortable at all times.

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