HVAC Systems

What exactly is an HVAC System?

HVAC systems are what moderate and regulate the indoor environments to maintain comfortable living conditions.  The acronym itself stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and it’s used in houses, businesses, transportation systems, and other climate-controlled establishments.  HVAC units come in four general types which include heating and cooling split systems, packaged systems, ductless systems, and hybrid systems.  Each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages and varies depending on the needs of the location.

Heating and Cooling Split Systems

This HVAC system is one of the most commonly used and, unsurprisingly, has the lowest cost. Its name comes from the outdoor and indoor components it uses for heating and air conditioning.  It’s comprised of an AC unit on the outside using refrigerant, a fan to blow out the hot air, compressors and coils to cool the air, and a furnace on the inside.  The furnaces are usually gas-powered and are located on the inside where they use either fans or an evaporator to move the air. 

Ductless Systems

If a building cannot have air ducts installed, ductless split systems are a good option for smaller locations. They sit outside the building and utilize an air conditioner or a heat pump for heating and cooling.  One unit can efficiently treat and deliver air to four indoor unit. However, this unit does not use a furnace and therefore, is not recommended for colder climates.

Packaged Systems

If a split HVAC unit is not a viable option, then a packaged system is a suitable alternative. A packaged system is an all-in-one cabinet that is installed indoors or outdoors and is ideal for smaller buildings. However, its size has its limitations, and so it won’t have all of the features that a split system has.  They are generally used in warmer climates and are both efficient and easy to maintain.

Hybrid System

Similar to the traditional split system, this HVAC system uses traditional ductwork, thermostats, and furnaces. However, the key component that sets it apart is its ability to switch between electric fueling and gas.  This allows homeowners to choose whether they want quieter and more energy-efficient electricity or more powerful and faster-acting gas.  This system has grown in popularity due to its ability to cut back on energy use and reduce utility bills.

What is involved in HVAC maintenance?

Properly maintaining an HVAC system through the duration of its prime years can prolong its lifespan past ten years.  The best way to service it is to replace the air filters frequently in order to deliver a clean air supply to the property.  Depending on the needs of the building, such as a dusty climate or the presence of pets, filters should be replaced as frequently as once every 20-45 days to (at a minimum) once a year.  Another way to service the unit is to have an HVAC contractor do a visual inspection once a year to ensure that everything is in working order.  From there, they can easily diagnose any problems and recommend services.  The types of services include removing debris from the moving parts, cleaning the condensate drain, checking the voltage, lubricating the moving parts, inspecting exhaust outlets, checking fuel connections, and checking refrigerant levels.

When should you replace your HVAC unit?

On average, the Department of Energy recommends that property owners should replace their HVAC systems every 10-15 years.  However, a five-year time range is a large window, so it’s important to recognize when it may be time for a new system.  For example, if the unit is at least 10 years old, and the cost of an HVAC repair is more than half the cost to replace a new system, then it is worth investing in a new one.  As HVAC’s age, they tend to break down and work less efficiently, so it’s important to pay attention to how they run.  If they are less efficient, produce odd sounds, or no longer filter air properly, then it may be time for a replacement.  Another telltale sign is an increased energy bill. Not only will the investment on a new HVAC cut back on utility costs, but it will prevent future issues such as a system failure in the middle of winter.

Becoming familiar with HVAC services and maintenance is critical for property owners to keep the occupants comfortable and healthy.  It’s important to know which HVAC system is best for each location, and how to ensure it lasts for years to come. With the right unit and proper care, it is much easier to avoid costly repairs and excessive utility bills.

Looking for contractors in your area, please visit our directory of the best home HVAC installation companies.