What is HVAC?

image showing what is havc with ac unit and gas furnace meter

And how do you pronounce it?

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning. An HVAC system regulates all three of these functions to provide comfort within your home and improve the quality of air that circulates throughout your home.  It’s usually pronounced “Aitch-Vac.”

To answer the question, “What is HVAC?,” let’s take a closer look at:

What an HVAC System Does

Generally, what you are most likely to think of when you think about HVAC (if you think about it at all, though of course, we at Ongaro and Sons think about it all the time) is that it provides home heating and air conditioning. But perhaps the most important letter in the HVAC acronym that underpins the entire heating and cooling operation is “V”–ventilation, the process of bringing fresh air from outdoors into your home. 

This is particularly important during periods of extreme heat or cold, or when there is excessive pollen outside, when windows are kept closed. This results in circulating the same old stale air continually throughout your house, which is itself a form of indoor air pollution. Replacing and exchanging air from outside your home helps remove moisture, smoke, dust, bacteria, odors, carbon dioxide, and other gasses from conditioned air circulating throughout your home. The result is you’ll breathe better.

HVAC System Components

Your home HVAC system is fairly complicated. The basic components include: 

  • Air Return. This is the starting point of the air circulation cycle. The return sucks in air that is then drawn through a filter.
  • Air Filter. The filter removes dust and debris from the air before it proceeds through the HVAC system.
  • Ducts. The channels through which conditioned air circulates throughout your house.
  • Thermostat. Regulates temperature and blower fan. Sends signals to the furnace when to turn on or off.
  • Outdoor Unit. Houses the fan that provides air flow, a compressor unit that converts refrigerant from gas to a liquid, which is sent to the coils to cool air that passes over it. 
  • Furnace. The heart of your HVAC system, typically powered by gas but could also run on propane, heating oil, or electricity. The furnace heats air (or in air conditioning mode receives cooled air from outside) and distributes it via the ductwork throughout your house. Parts of the furnace include the electrical control system, burners, heat exchanger, blower motor, and fan. The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) measures how much fuel is used for heating and how much is lost in the operation of heating. High-efficiency furnaces have an AFUE of at least 90%, meaning 90% of fuel is used for heating, and the remaining 10% is lost in the combustion process.

Note that while these components are most common in HVAC systems, there are other kinds of heating and cooling systems. These include boilers, heat pumps, ductless mini-splits, and active solar heating.

If your heating system heats water and you have radiators, you have a boiler. A heat pump is basically an air conditioner that works in reverse. Some homes have a hybrid heating system that pumps heat for use in mild weather and has the more powerful heating capacity of a furnace needed during more extreme temperatures.

How to Maintain Your HVAC System

HVAC systems represent a significant investment. You protect that investment through regular and proper HVAC maintenance

An HVAC system is a hefty investment that requires regular maintenance to ensure everything is running as effectively as it should. Indeed, one of the most common reasons an HVAC system needs repair is improper, inadequate, or total lack of maintenance. 

It’s essential to have your HVAC system checked regularly–once before the heating season in late summer or early fall, and again before the cooling season in the late winter or early spring. In addition, if you are experiencing higher than usual energy costs, uneven heating or cooling throughout the house, or loud noises from your system, you need to schedule HVAC maintenance sooner rather than later.

Proper HVAC maintenance includes the following activities:

  • Inspect furnace and ductwork for cracks, corrosion, and/or condensation; clear any clutter around furnace.
  • Clean or replace filters.
  • Ensure thermostats are operating properly; replace batteries (if battery-operated).
  • Inspect parts and components; clean, repair, and replace malfunctioning parts as necessary.
  • Test HVAC system to ensure optimum performance and operation.

How Long Does an HVAC System Last?

Most HVAC systems last anywhere from 15 to 25 years. Your mileage varies depending on whether you perform regular maintenance to keep the HVAC system operating at maximum performance. Proper maintenance is absolutely essential to a fully realized lifespan.

How often you directly run the system also affects longevity; the more you run the HVAC system, the higher the wear and tear. An additional factor is whether the HVAC system is properly sized. If, for example, you have a 1.5-ton system trying to condition a house that really requires a 5-ton system, the unit is going to break down faster.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about the entire HVAC system. Individual components such as hoses and thermostats, as well as bigger ticket items like blower fan assemblies and electronic circuit boards, may need replacement from time to time in order to achieve that 15- to 25-year lifespan of the entire system. Also, the air conditioning component tends to fail before the heat producing component, because it is more exposed to moisture drawn into the system as well as exhausted out of the system. Chemicals to cool and dehumidify the air, as well as chemicals drawn through the system from the building materials in your home, are corrosive to the copper elements in the condenser and can cause them to erode and break down. 

Consult the HVAC Experts—Ongaro and Sons 

Installing or maintaining an HVAC system requires professional skill and knowledge. Consulting an HVAC certified professional ultimately saves time and money, so it’s best to call as soon as issues arise. Professionals can see if the system is operating correctly and advise on how to improve its function to get the most out of your HVAC system.

Call the heating and cooling specialists at Ongaro and Sons. Whether it’s HVAC system service or equipment replacement, we go through a complete consultation process with you. We find out what’s important to you, and let you know all your options. Our goal is always 100% customer satisfaction.

We are Trane Comfort Specialists certified by North American Technicians Excellence (NATE), the nationally recognized industry standard for the HVAC industry when it comes to  high-efficiency HVAC systems and indoor air quality. As we like to say, “Ongaro and Sons puts the V back into HVAC.”