What Is HVAC And What Does HVAC Stand For?
What is HVAC, anyway? HVAC—which stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—is a system that regulates both the heating and cooling within a building. Learn all you need to know about these systems here.
Q: As a new homeowner, I realize I don’t know much about the inner workings of my home, such as the HVAC system. What is HVAC, and how can I be sure I’m properly maintaining it?
A: HVAC is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system used to regulate the air within a building. These systems provide comfort within a home and can even improve the quality of air circulated.
Although an HVAC system was once a notoriously difficult and expensive project to install, there are now many cost-effective alternatives to the typical air duct system that was once the only option. These modern systems are smaller and often require far less time for repairs and installations, with some taking as little as one day to be installed. Still wondering what is HVAC and what it does? Here, learn all you need to know.
HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
HVAC, which stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, refers to the entire system that regulates and moves air throughout a residential or commercial building. It affects everything from maintaining the temperature and humidity levels in a room to providing health benefits due to improved air quality.
Although there are many options for HVAC systems, they all operate in similar ways. The system takes fresh air from its source using a mechanical ventilation system and filters it. Once it has been filtered, the air is conditioned and pushed into a room.
Moving the air can be done in a couple of different ways, depending on the unit. Most commonly, air travels through a network of ducts installed throughout the walls and floors. However, modern systems like the high-velocity HVAC are smaller and less intrusive units that don’t require massive renovations and duct installations. Rather, they move air using insulated mini-ducts and inconspicuous vents throughout the building. Other systems require no ducts at all.
The role of an HVAC system is to regulate and improve indoor air quality.
In addition to regulating the temperature and moisture levels in a home, HVAC units can filter and clean the air circulating before reaching each room. The mechanical ventilation process removes the stale and dirty air from a home or building and replaces it with clean air.
Installing or upgrading an HVAC system to provide mechanical ventilation throughout a building can offer various health benefits. Using the system daily can help alleviate symptoms for asthmatics, those who experience allergies, and those sensitive to dust or other airborne particles. The air quality in homes can be significantly improved by running one of these systems 24 hours a day and can even provide a better night’s sleep.
HVAC systems require regular maintenance to keep them functioning.
An HVAC system is a significant investment that requires regular maintenance to ensure everything is running as effectively as it should. One of the most common reasons a system will need repair is improper or lack of maintenance. It’s essential to have systems checked regularly, as recommended—typically before the heating season in late summer or early fall and again before the cooling season in the late winter or early spring.
When choosing an HVAC system, finding a local professional specializing in repairing that specific system is crucial. Look around to see what systems local specialists generally work with, as it’s vital to have an expert who is readily available to handle the upkeep when necessary.
These systems are designed to last for years, as long as they are properly maintained and regularly cleaned. Systems require annual filter cleanings to ensure that it is performing at maximum capacity.
HVAC system units may include boilers, air conditioning units, ducts, and moisture vents.
Many people use the words “air conditioners” and “HVAC” interchangeably, but HVAC also regulates the heat in a home or building, while an air conditioner doesn’t. Complete HVAC systems have boilers, furnaces, or heat pumps that make them capable of controlling the heat in a building, along with air conditioning. Each of these systems uses a different source of energy to regulate the temperature.
Air ducts have been used for heating and cooling for decades and can be a huge endeavor to have installed. However, these ducts have been drastically improved over the years to help consumers save money on both installation and home efficiency costs. They have undergone changes that enhance the air quality, remove humidity from the home, and stop air leakage throughout the ducts, which wastes energy and makes the unit work harder than needed.
Recent advancements have also made ducts with a drastically smaller footprint and require very little space within a property’s structure. What used to be a massive renovation project can now be done almost noninvasively. There are even ductless alternatives that require such minor renovations that they can sometimes be installed within one day.
HVAC systems come in the form of window units, central air units, and split systems.
Although all HVAC systems are also air conditioners, not all air conditioners are HVAC systems. For instance, window air conditioning units provide relief to one room, are considered far less potent than central air units, and typically use more energy. With a central air system, the entire home’s temperature can be regulated using one unit. Both systems are specifically designed for cooling air only and cannot provide any kind of heat like an HVAC system can.
While some upgraded HVAC systems use packaged, all-in-one units installed outside the home, the most common system is the split system: an indoor and an outdoor unit connected by ducts throughout the property. Split systems require a lot of space and therefore are recommended for homes or properties with extra room.
Always consult an HVAC professional if you are experiencing issues with your home’s heating and cooling systems.
HVAC systems can be complex and pose risks like fires and carbon monoxide, so they should be installed and repaired by a trained specialist. A good system is not a small investment and should regularly be maintained by an expert to catch any issues early on. This can help avoid premature system failure.
Consulting a professional can ultimately save 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 the system.
Buying quality products initially can drastically decrease how often products will need to be serviced. Although it costs more upfront, the build quality will last far longer and will require fewer repairs in the long run. Boilers and furnaces should last for a couple of decades if appropriately maintained, and air conditioners should last around 10 years, so if there seems to be an issue, it’s best to have an expert take a look.