Understanding the intricacies of heating and cooling your home can be a complicated and daunting process. There are a lot of various parts to the system with different names working behind the scenes. At Homesense, we know you want to take the best care of your home. And to do so, there’s just a few high-level things you need to know about your HVAC systems. Here are five quick points that will provide you with enough HVAC 101 to make important decisions and be knowledgeable about what’s happening in your home:
By indoor unit, we mean the main system you will find either in your garage, basement, or other part of your home. While most commonly referred to as just “the furnace,” this piece of equipment actually has two major components:
Understanding these two components is arguably the most important part of HVAC 101.
“Upflow,” “Downflow,” and “Horizontal” simply refer to the direction in which your system moves the air into your home. You may hear these terms from a technician or read them in a product summary.
In an Upflow system, the air coming into your furnace (called return air) starts at the bottom and is pushed upward into your ductwork. The filter for an upflow system will most likely be vertical and near the ground. If your indoor unit is in a basement, you almost certainly have an Upflow.
In a Downflow system, the return air comes into your furnace at the top and is pushed downward into your ductwork. The filter for a downflow system will most likely be horizontal and higher up in your system.
In a Horizontal system, the return air comes into your furnace on one side and flows out the other side. The filter will most likely be vertical and on one side of the system. Horizontal systems are more common in attics and crawl spaces, where vertical space is limited.
Due to the furnace’s general association with heating, it can appear that it only works during cold months. However, the furnace does not simply work to heat your home; it also circulates the air through the adjacent evaporator coils to cool your home in the summer.
You can think of the furnace as the central part of the system that circulates the breathing air that comes through the filter and sends it through the furnace or evaporator coil to be heated or cooled, respectively. For this reason, it’s an incredibly important part of your system to maintain. Consistently changing your air filter (found right next to the furnace) will also make sure this integral part of your system stays efficient.
Similar to the assumptions about the furnace, it’s easy to think of your outdoor unit as solely the “Air Conditioning” unit. While it is a central part to cooling your home, it is one of two parts that work together. Your outdoor unit is called a “Condenser” and it focuses on removing hot air from the home. Maybe you remember putting your hand over the fan as a kid and feeling hot air blowing out.
As mentioned above, next to your furnace inside is the Evaporator Coil. This is the second half of your AC system. These coils cool as the outdoor unit transfers heat, cooling the air your furnace pushes through the house. Your outdoor unit (Condenser) and the indoor Evaporator Coil circulate refrigerant to effectively cool your home.
If you have a “Heat Pump” system, it means that the process described above in #4 happens both in heating and cooling. Your outdoor unit (condenser) will always be working. In the summer, it pulls warm air out of the home and sends cold refrigerant back in order to cool it. Conversely, in the winter it pulls ambient heat from the air (this is possible even if it feels cold outside) and sends that warmth into the home.
Heat Pumps are able to heat your home to a certain temperature, but will need help heating your home when temperatures get into the 30s. This is called auxiliary (or emergency) heat and will come from the heating components in your furnace.
Not sure if you have a Heat Pump or not? Be sure to ask your technician, or if it’s the right time of year, check to see if your Condenser (outdoor unit) is working in the winter. If it is, you have a Heat Pump. If it’s not, you do not.
Now that you know a little more HVAC 101, check out your system and see if you can spot some of its defining features:
Knowing these things will help you understand what’s going on with your system, make decisions, and protect your home. And in the event that something goes wrong, Homesense is here to help you get peace of mind in a refreshingly different way. Our technicians are committed to answering your questions and speaking in terms you’ll understand. Give us a call at (317) 670-0171 or fill out our online form here whenever you need us.