When you are a stay-at-home parent, your home is your life. Whether you have a home business, are home schooling your children, or “simply” raising your family, your home should be as comfortable, healthy, and efficient as possible. Your HVAC system plays an enormous part in all of these.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. HVAC is what brings your heating and cooling systems together via your ventilation ducts to make your home comfortably warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and full of clean, healthy air. The more you know about your HVAC system, the more comfortable you and your family will be and the more able you will be to keep your energy bills as low as possible.
Types of HVAC Systems
Most homes have a central, whole-house HVAC system. Often it is the most expensive system to install and run. HVAC systems can be a heat pump or a furnace plus air conditioner. Both are “split” systems, meaning that some components are indoors and some are outside.
In a heat pump system, the heat pump provides both heating and cooling. It works like a regular air conditioner in summer and in reverse during the winter. In a regular HVAC system, you have a separate furnace and central air conditioner.
In a central system, the furnace, evaporator component of the air conditioner, and blower are inside your home, generally located in the basement, attic, utility room, or a closet. The blower serves both your furnace and air conditioner by means of the ducts attached to it that take the heated or cooled air into your rooms. The central air unit is outdoors.
Most furnaces burn gas or oil, releasing combustion gases into your home’s interior air, despite being vented to the outdoors through a flue pipe. Some of these gases can pose health hazards for your family, including death if inhaled in too large a quantity.
Electric furnaces convert electricity to heat, similar to a toaster. They’re safer and generally more reliable than gas furnaces, but usually less efficient and more costly to run. Heat pumps are the best and most cost-effective way to electrically heat and cool your home.
All air conditioners are electric, as is the cooling cycle of a heat pump. A central air unit uses compressed Freon, a refrigerant gas, to deliver cool air through a rather complicated system of compressor, coils, fins, copper tubing, and ductwork.
Since high humidity is a major component of summer heat discomfort, air conditioners dry outdoor air as well as cooling it by means of an evaporative component. As warm, humid air flows over the evaporator, it condenses into water that drips into a drain pan below. Your local heating and air conditioning company can give you all the information you need to maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your HVAC system.
The V part of HVAC often takes a back seat to the H and AC parts. This is self-defeating since any HVAC system is only as good as its ventilation. Indoor air can be five times more contaminated than outdoor air and more people are spending more time indoors today.
Good quality and well-maintained air filters trap hazardous particles from the air, but are less efficient at trapping the fumes and gases from household cleaning products, paints, furniture, and carpets. Consequently, mechanical ventilation systems are being built into more new homes and retrofitted into older homes.
It is important that you understand your home’s HVAC system, how it works, and how to properly maintain it. When you do, your family is healthier, more comfortable, and less apt to have to deal with excessively high gas bills in the winter and electric bills in the summer.