Buying a New HVAC System? Learn These Key Terms First

Thinking of buying a new furnace or air conditioner this season? Heating and cooling systems aren’t something a homeowner purchases regularly. If well cared for, the average furnace can last 20 years or longer, and an air conditioner can provide up to 15 working years. 

Because you don’t purchase or work with either unit regularly, it may be difficult when it comes time to comparison shop for new technology. What is an HVAC system? What about efficiency? 

What do you really need to know? This guide will help you with some of the key terms that will make shopping for a new HVAC system a little easier. 

What is an HVAC system?

Heating comes from a furnace. Cooling comes from an air conditioner. So what is an HVAC system? It stands for: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. While both your furnace and air conditioning unit are important for heating and cooling, neither would be possible without a ventilation system. It’s what drives the heated or cooled air throughout your home, keeping you comfortable even in extreme weather. Ventilation systems need to be cared for just like your heating and cooling systems, and may need repair or replacement along the way. 

Buying a New HVAC System? Learn These Key Terms First

What heating and cooling terms should you know?

Air conditioner – an air conditioner is a cooling system that pulls heat from inside your home and pulls it outdoors to ensure your indoor comfort levels are maintained. 

Air ducts – pipes or tubing that distribute conditioned air to each room inside your home. These pipes or tubing exist behind walls, in the attic, or in the ceiling. 

Condenser coil – a condenser coil is a part of the air conditioner that takes in air from the outside while refrigerant moves throughout the coil.

Dampers – manual or motorized dangers exist in your floors and ceilings and act as a mechanism to control airflow into each room. 

Ductwork – the overall ventilation system that allows air to flow from the furnace and air conditioner to every room in your home. 

Efficiency – this describes how well a furnace or air conditioner heats or cools your home. How much energy is wasted during the production of the heated or cooled air supply. You’ll find several terms to help you determine efficiency:

AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency – this ratio measures a furnace’s capability of transforming heat into energy. Higher ratios mean better performance. 

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio – a measurement used to calculate air conditioner efficiency. 

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio – measures heating and cooling efficiency levels. 

Evaporator coil – refrigerant cycles through the coil to cool down the surrounding air. This chilled air is fed through the ductwork and back out into your home. 

Furnace – a furnace is a heating system that produces warmed air and distributes it throughout your home. 

Indoor air quality – indoor air quality (IAQ) is used to assess the amount of pollution that resides in your home. This can track everything from dust mites and pollen to mold and mildew.

Thermostat – a unit that is responsible for controlling and setting your preferred temperature inside the home.

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