If you've just installed central heating and air conditioning (HVAC) in your home for the first time, or you recently moved into your first residence with this form of climate control, you may be wondering what you've gotten yourself into. It's easy to be puzzled or even overwhelmed by your system's complex apparatus and its potential for experiencing mechanical issues. Here are the answers to three questions that are crucial to your understanding of central heating and air.
1. "How Does This Thing Operate?"
A typical HVAC system consists of several different major components connected by coolant lines, electrical wiring and ductwork. It's the coolant, a substance known as freon, that makes rapid temperature change possible. When coolant lines filled with cold freon are exposed to warm air, the freon goes from a liquid state to a gaseous one. This hot gas is "squeezed" by a unit called a compressor to get it as hot as possible. The freon then proceeds to a condenser that draws away the radiant heat from the coolant line. This chills the air while transforming the freon back into liquid form so it can repeat this cycle all over again. A fan blows the chilled air through your home's ductwork to cool you off.
As for the heating process, your HVAC system relies on a furnace that burns fuel in a burner. The burner transfers the resulting heat energy to a heat exchanger. When incoming air is blown past the heat exchanger, it warms up. This warm air is then pushed through your HVAC system's ducts and vents to all the rooms in your house.
2. "What Kind of Maintenance Does an HVAC System Require?"
Air conditioning contractors recommend routine inspections, cleanings and maintenance to make sure the many components of an HVAC system keep operating correctly. It's probably best to have the cooling elements inspected before the heat of summer and the heating elements checked before Old Man Winter pays a call.
In the summer inspection, your HVAC services provider will examine the evaporator and blower components while also checking the freon level. In the winter, the burner, gas pressure/connections and heat exchanger all need to be checked and adjusted. Either inspection may also include routine care such as lubrication of moving parts and checking of thermostat settings/controls.
In addition to maintenance inspections by professional air conditioning contractors, there are smaller maintenance tasks that you can and should perform by yourself. Clogged duct vents, for instance, can make it impossible for your HVAC system to heat or cool your home efficiently -- but simply replacing the air filters every 90 days can largely prevent this problem. You should also look at the coolant lines once a month to check for obvious leaks or other damage that might require professional repair or replacement.
3. "What Weird Sights or Sounds Should I Pay Attention To?"
If you're worried that you'll suddenly find yourself shivering or sweltering because your heating or cooling failed without warning, rest assured that HVAC systems are pretty good at sending out warning signs -- the key is recognizing them. Common trouble signs include
- Unusual sights - If your furnace's pilot light flame burns yellow rather than blue, the unit might be releasing dangerous carbon monoxide into the air. The presence of soot around the furnace is another warning sign to get it inspected. A thermostat that never seems to respond to your commands may have faulty circuitry, or it may be connecting to faulty wiring.
- Unusual sounds - Rattling or clanking noises indicate that a part has come loose, probably somewhere in the blower system or compressor unit. Clicking noises may signal a failing electrical relay. A noise resembling the shuffling of playing cards may mean that some object is caught in the blower blades.
- Unusual smells - A moldy smell in your home may mean that your ductwork is collecting too much moisture from condensation. A burning smell indicates a possible electrical short. Be especially wary of a "rotten egg" smell, which may indicate a gas leak!
Don't let your heating and air conditioning system confuse or intimidate you -- but don't ignore it, either. Put your new knowledge to good use, and you'll find yourself confidently enjoying your domestic life as a proud, comfortable HVAC system owner. Contact a company like Century Heating & Air Conditioning Services for more information.