What Is an HVAC System?
HVAC is short for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. An HVAC system is what keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
It is also known as a heating and cooling system. Both terms are often used interchangeably.
For those of us here in northern Illinois, we know how it’s important to have both your heating and cooling working. Hot and humid in the summer and below zero in the winter and every weather condition in-between is what living in this part of the country is all about.
You have probably praised your HVAC system when it keeps your house cool during hot summers, and if things have gone awry, and you needed HVAC repair, then you’ve probably cursed it as well.
Not all HVAC units are built the same, and there are different types. Learning the difference can help you decide which type you need, but AccuMax is also here to help you make those decisions when you need it.
AccuMax Inc. is a heating and cooling repair and installation company in Aurora, IL serving the surrounding area including Naperville, Oswego, Batavia, Wheaton, North Aurora, Lombard, Downers Grove, Warrenville, Darien, Westmont, Willowbrook, Clarendon Hills, Westchester, LaGrange, Willow springs, Lisle, Riverside, Woodridge, Plainfield, Oak Brook, and Hinsdale among others.Call 630-800-1598 with your questions.
Types of HVAC systems
The best heating and cooling system for you will depend on your preferences and the size of your house.
There are three main heating systems:
Furnace: The most common type of system, a furnace heating system heats the air and then a blower motor moves the air through the home’s duct system. On average, you can expect to pay between $2,500 and $7,500 for a centralized furnace.
Boiler: This uses hot water rather than air to heat the house. The heated water, flows through pipes throughout the house, into radiators, which provide the warmth. A standard boiler costs on average about $4,000.
Ductless heating and cooling system: A ductless system works by heating and cooling specific zones, whereas boilers and furnaces are whole-house systems. Rather than being one central piece, this system is “split,” with a unit outside that collects air and uses a compressor to heat it and deliver it inside. Units inside disperse the treated air. When the system is being used to cool the house, it reverses the cycle and sends the hot air from inside the house outside. These systems can cost around $7,000 for a multiple-zone system.
About the air conditioning
While the systems are all called HVAC in general terms, not every house has AC.
A whole-house air conditioner combines with a furnace and comes in either a “single” configuration (meaning it sends the same amount of heated and cooled air all the time) or “multistage variable speed” configuration (which uses the lowest level of heating or cooling needed and uses higher levels only for extremely hot or cold temperatures).
Whole house AC is more efficient because the system doesn’t need to turn on and off as often to maintain a constant temperature.
Because boilers don’t have a duct system, a central AC system won’t be an option. But your other two choices would be to add a mini-split system, which works similarly to a ductless system but offers just the cooling option, or window units.
What to inspect on an HVAC unit
A heating and cooling system is expensive to replace, so you’ll want to make sure the one in your potential new house is in good repair.
Here’s what to look for:
Check the pipes: See if it’s a high-efficiency furnace by checking to see if there is big 2- to 3-inch PVC pipe coming off of it and venting outdoors. “That shows it is 90%-plus efficient, which means it is a high-efficiency unit and will cost less to operate,” Nicholson says.
Check age and service history: If it’s not noted on the unit with stickers, ask the seller for the details. Regular maintenance won’t guarantee there won’t be future issues but it can prevent early failure of parts and components.
Inspect the ductwork: Take a damp white paper towel, lift up a floor register, and wipe the inside to see if it is dirty. If so, consider having the ductwork cleaned before moving in.
HVAC unit shopping tips
- We recommend looking for energy-efficient units with the Energy Star label.
- Choose a well-known HVAC brand that will stand the test of time.
- Use a contractor that is certified in that brand’s products to install it.
If you are interested in a home automation system for your heating and cooling, these modern systems will save you money on energy costs by automatically making adjustments based on your usage patterns or because you can control them remotely from your smartphone. Learn more about our energy management consulting services.
HVAC maintenance 101
Like your car, routine maintenance will extend the life of the equipment and keep the unit operating at its proper efficiency. Coils, fans, and other parts of the system are continually exposed to dirt, which affects the efficiency and capacity of the equipment. And, as the coils become dirty, parts of the system are subject to more stress and can shorten the life of components.
With the right amount of TLC, your furnace or ductless system should last about 12 to 15 years, while the boiler can go 15 to 20.
AccuMax offers HVAC maintenance plans so that you have regularly scheduled inspections and “tune-ups” of your heating and cooling.
Be sure to follow these HVAC maintenance tasks:
- Change the filter on your furnace regularly and have it checked annually by a contractor.
- Get your boiler tuned up to clean the burners and check for carbon monoxide leaks.
- Clean the filter on a ductless system by removing, washing, and reinserting it.