How Does an HVAC System Work: Heating and Cooling Process

RTM Design • Dec 21, 2021

Your HVAC system is a crucial element of your home, but many homeowners still don’t know what an HVAC system is, how it works, or why it needs regular maintenance.

Our team at Trust 1 Services created this guide so you can finally answer the question, “How does an HVAC system work?” Read on to learn how to tell when your HVAC unit needs repairs, plus several signs it’s time to replace your HVAC system.

For more information or to book expert HVAC services in Dedham from Trust 1 Services, call 617-905-1366 to speak with a Trust 1 Services HVAC contractor today.

What is an HVAC System?

HVAC is short for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. As the name suggests, HVAC systems heat and cool the air, ensure that your home is comfortable, and keep your air quality healthy.

How Does an HVAC System Work?

To understand how an HVAC system works, you first need to know about the parts that contribute to each section of the heating and cooling system, as follows.

1. The Furnace or Heater

The furnace contains several components, including:

  • Intake fan
  • Burner
  • Heat exchanger
  • Blower motor

The intake fan begins the heating process by pulling air into the unit through a vent. The intake vent typically contains a furnace air filter to prevent allergens and particles from moving through your home.

The furnace pulls the filtered air into the area above the burner, known as the heat exchanger. The burner then uses a fuel source, such as natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity, to heat the air in the exchanger. When the air is at the right temperature, the blower motor begins passing the warm air through the vents of your home.

The heater relies on your home’s ventilation system for several functions. Not only does the ventilation help direct air to and from the furnace and distribute warm air around the house, but the chimney flue also prevents toxic gases like carbon monoxide from entering the home.

2. Air Conditioner

Some homeowners might know their air conditioner as a split system. This term is common because many air conditioning systems have “split” outdoor and indoor units.

The outdoor unit contains the following components:

  • Condenser
  • Compressor
  • Condenser fan

The indoor unit houses an evaporator, which helps the air conditioner remove the heat from the air in the HVAC system. The evaporator connects to the outside compressor, which controls the refrigerant pressure and temperature. The refrigerant then removes heat from your home or releases heat indoors, based on the pressure levels within the compressor.

Once the evaporator in the indoor unit removes the heat from the newly conditioned air, it pushes the refrigerant to the part of the system that releases heat outdoors and away from your home. The air conditioner system then uses the blower in your furnace to distribute cool air through your ventilation system.

Your air conditioner cools the air and helps remove moisture from your home through the processes of condensation and evaporation. Simply put, an air conditioner absorbs the heat within a home and redirects it outdoors.

3. Ductless Units

Ductless units are a popular type of air conditioner-furnace combo well-suited for smaller areas like single rooms and finished attics or basements. Because these units don’t rely on ductwork to distribute air, they can only affect their immediate area.

4. Ventilation

Every home needs ventilation. Stale air holds moisture, encourages mold, and contains dust, allergens, and odors. You can naturally ventilate your home by opening doors and windows to create cross-drafts that replace the stale air with fresh air.

Your HVAC system is a little more advanced than natural ventilation, though. HVAC ventilation is automatic and usually controlled by the electrical components of the system, such as the thermostat.

Your HVAC ventilation system uses exhaust and intake fans to direct air out of or into the home. The chimney flue, vents, and ductwork work together to create an automatic ventilation system that regularly exchanges the air in the home to keep it fresh and comfortable.

5. Thermostat

Every homeowner or renter is familiar with at least one part of their HVAC system: The thermostat. The thermostat is the part of the system you interact with to set and control the temperature within your home.

Some older, basic thermostats feature a range of temperatures, a heat, cool, and off switch, and a fan switch. Modern thermostats typically include these simple switches alongside a variety of advanced features you can use to minimize energy consumption and save money on electricity and gas bills. Modern thermostats come with a wide range of options and may include features such as:

  • Programmable temperature settings
  • Wifi-accessible control hubs
  • Smart or energy-efficient settings

You can set a programmable thermostat to change the temperature at certain times of the day. This is useful for homeowners who want to save money by not running their HVAC while away from home but don’t always remember to shut the system off manually. For example, you can program your thermostat to turn the heat off after you leave for work, then begin warming your home again before you return.

Homeowners can easily access WiFi-enabled thermostats from any location, too. Finally, smart thermostats learn your schedule through interactions, then optimize your energy consumption based on your needs. Smart models can also provide valuable energy efficiency reports and help you save money while staying comfortable.

Hiring a Knowledgeable HVAC Contractor

Trust 1 Services offers a wide range of HVAC services for furnaces, air conditioners, and ventilation systems. From heat pumps to air conditioners, air handlers, and all types of furnaces, our team can repair, maintain, or replace your HVAC system to ensure that it meets your year-round needs.

For more information about maintenance and repairs, answers to questions like, “How does an HVAC system work?” or to create an HVAC filter replacement schedule with our expert team, call our Trust 1 Services contractors today at 617-905-1366.

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