This is a collaborative post.
Our HVAC units are often taken for granted, heating our homes during cold months, and keeping us cool when it gets too warm out. We depend on heating and cooling to keep us comfortable without giving any of it much thought until something goes wrong, and we call in for professional reinforcements. However, emergency HVAC repair services are typically rather costly. Fortunately, just like with our cars, the most expensive repairs can be avoided with regular preventative maintenance. Also, as with a car, it doesn’t hurt to know a thing or two about your system to help keep it in tip-top shape and catch small issues before they become expensive ones.
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. These systems aren’t created equally, but must function in these three ways to be considered a true HVAC system. Each system is complex, and consists of three basic functional elements: the warm or cool air source, the means by which this air is distributed to each room, and a control center that regulates your temperatures (the thermostat). A furnace supplies warm air, an air conditioner provides cool air, and all units run on fuel, whether or not the whole system also uses electricity.
The most popular type of HVAC in the states is central air. This type of system splits up the components, leaving the compressor, where refrigerant is powered and circulated, outside and heating and cooling elements inside. With central, or forced, air, all heating and cooling components are centrally contained and air is distributed throughout the home via shared ducts and vents. The second most common type of HVAC system is the window or wall-mounted unit, popular with older buildings, sheds, and garages all over the country.
When it comes to choosing an HVAC system, bigger isn’t necessarily better. While bigger units are understandably more powerful, they tend to heat or cool a space too quickly. This causes the compressor and ventilator fans to turn off before they get the chance to truly circulate the air in your home. This ultimately can lead to stuffiness, excess humidity, and eventually, pollutant and mold accumulation. This repeated pattern of operation is called short cycling and in addition to posing significant health risks, uses more energy than longer cycles and leads to premature burnout.
If an HVAC unit is too small, it will have to work much harder than it should to sufficiently heat or cool your home, if it’s able to accomplish it at all.
Again, your HVAC should be treated like a car, regularly maintained to avoid catastrophe. While you can’t solve or prevent every issue with maintenance, there are some steps you can take to keep your system running as smoothly as possible. The most important thing you can do for your HVAC on a regular basis is checking and replacing your filters. Dirty filters put a strain on your unit, and it is recommended they are changed every 30 to 90 days. However, you should change it more frequently if you have pets.
Keeping your ducts and registers free of debris, watching out for strange noises or smells, and giving your system a break when fans will suffice also go a long way toward preserving it’s integrity.