Proper maintenance of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is necessary to ensure that it keeps your home comfortable year-round. Understanding your HVAC system components will help you maintain the system more efficiently and at the lowest possible cost. To avoid unnecessary, inconvenient and potentially expensive breakdowns, schedule pre-season maintenance checkups for your HVAC system twice annually.
Part of your furnace housing, the heat exchanger kicks in when your thermostat activates the furnace, and combustion causes heat to rise. It absorbs the heat, heats cold air, and then blows the heated air through ducts and vents into your home.
Heat exchangers are critical components of electric, gas, and wood-burning furnaces. They are made of solid stainless steel and temperature-resistant alloys to prevent cracks. Faulty heat exchangers in gas and wood furnaces can lead to carbon monoxide leaks, which can cause headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, and even death.
Since carbon monoxide is both odorless and colorless, we recommend commercial detectors in the kitchens and bedrooms of every home with a gas- or wood-burning furnace or fireplace.
The blower motor powers a fan that forces warm air from the heat exchanger into your home through ducts and vents. The variable-speed motor continues blowing until all the warm air in your heat exchanger, and ductwork has been pushed into the rooms of your home. Then the blower shuts down until the next heating cycle. The variable-speed motor runs at different speeds at different times to increase efficiency and reduce heating bills.
The combustion chamber, or burner, is where your furnace combines air and fuel. For gas furnaces, the heating cycle begins after a small amount of gas and air enter the combustion chamber and are ignited by a gas-fueled pilot light or electronic ignition “glow stick.” Some high-efficiency gas furnaces have a second combustion chamber to capture and compress carbon monoxide and unburned fuel before igniting it.
Usually installed outside, the condenser coil or compressor cools your home by releasing heat from inside into the outdoor air. As such, one could argue it’s the most needed HVAC part for air cooling purposes. It compresses and condenses refrigerant as a fan blows air over the liquid, cooling it and dispersing heat. Your HVAC system sends cooled liquid refrigerant through aluminum or copper tubing to the evaporator coil.
To save energy and prevent problems, keep dirt, grass clippings, fallen leaves, and debris away from your condenser/compressor. Once each year, turn off the power to the unit and rinse it off thoroughly with a garden hose.
Your evaporator coil is essential to any air conditioner or heat pump. Liquid refrigerant flows through a valve to control flow and then changes to a vapor state, absorbing heat and lowering your home’s temperature.
In warmer months, the fan in your HVAC system blows warm air from inside your home through return ducts and over the evaporator to cool it. Cooled air is then distributed through ducts into your home. This process repeats over and over to keep your home cool and comfortable. Condensation created from the flow of warm air over the cold evaporator coil also lowers your home’s humidity.
During the winter, heat pumps reverse the heat transfer process to eliminate cold air. Heat can dry the air and irritate nasal passages, eyes, and skin. To avoid this, many people use a humidifier to add moisture to the heated air inside their homes.
Evaporator condensation attracts dirt and dust and can encourage mold growth on the coil. Refrigerant leaks can result in ice buildup on the coil, even in summer. All of these problems can lower your indoor air quality and make the process of heat transfer less efficient. If buildup continues unabated, airflow obstructions can cause an expensive breakdown.
The thermostat contains temperature sensors and user controls that let you control when the HVAC system turns on and off. Wired directly to your system, the thermostat is best located near the center of your home, away from drafts, and should not be in direct sun any time of day.
Some HVAC systems include multiple thermostats throughout the home, each controlling a defined space or “zone.” This can help save energy by only heating or cooling occupied areas. It also helps accommodate differing temperature comfort levels.
Programmable thermostats change temperature settings automatically according to a set schedule or routine, such as a different temperature at night than during the day or when you’re at home versus away at work or on vacation.
The system of tubes inside your walls and ceiling that move heated and cooled air throughout your home is called ductwork. Ductwork is usually fabricated of aluminum, although steel, plastic, fiberglass, fabric, and polyurethane are also used.
Perhaps the most visible parts of your HVAC system, vents automatically release air from your ductwork. They can be manually adjusted to direct the airflow in a particular direction, to lessen the strength of the airflow, or to shut it off to a particular room altogether. They should be cleaned regularly to keep them free of dust and dirt.
Indoor Air Quality, Inc. has served Highlands Ranch and the Denver Metro Area since 2001. When you need HVAC service, repair, or maintenance done right the first time and within budget, contact us to schedule a service appointment or discuss your project and get a free quote!