How Does an HVAC System Work?

HVAC Ventilation Exhaust

If you are planning on attempting some home repairs on your HVAC system, or if you are just curious about its inner workings, you may want to understand the details of how your HVAC system works. In this handy guide we’ll provide information about how your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system works, as well as information about individual components. We’ll even give you some helpful maintenance tips to keep your HVAC system performing at its best.

Air Return: The Cycle Begins
The first stage of your HVAC’s ventilation cycle starts with the air return. The fan sucks air in through the air return and then the air passes through the filter. From the filter, the air moves into the main system where it is heated or cooled, depending on your needs. Because dust, dirt, grime, and other debris can build up in the air return, it’s a good idea to carefully dust or vacuum it on a regular basis.

HVAC system FilterThe Filter: Improving Air Quality
When the air passes from the air return and into the filter, tiny mold spores, pollen, dust, smoke, and other common allergens are removed. Experts recommend changing the air filter on a monthly basis to keep your system running smoothly.

Exhaust Outlets
If you use your HVAC system for heating your home or business, your system will include exhaust outlets to release the potentially harmful fumes it creates. Check the vent stack or chimney flue annually, and have it tuned up if necessary. You should also check and repair the vents every two to five years.

Electrical Components
Your HVAC system runs on electricity. If it stops working, this may be due to an electrical failure or a malfunction with electrical components. Fixing a tripped breaker or replacing a thermostat battery can save you time and money on repairs.

The Outdoor Fan Unit
If your HVAC system includes an outdoor fan system to keep air flowing properly, it’s important that you check it regularly for obstructions because plant material and other debris can cause serious issues if they clog the system.

2008-07-11_Air_conditioners_at_UNC-CHThe Outdoor Unit
In addition to housing the fan, your outdoor unit also holds the compressor. The compressor is what turns the refrigerant gas into a liquid so that it can be sent to the coils. Because the compressor contains multiple moving parts, it is often the cause of problems with your HVAC system. Unless you are well-versed in HVAC repair, it’s best to have a technician handle any compressor problems.

The Coils
After the refrigerant is converted into liquid, it is sent to the coils. From there, the coils (usually also housed in the outdoor unit) cool the air. If you notice that your coils are freezing, it may be due to a clogged filter or a lack of refrigerant. You should check and clean the coils annually, and replace them if necessary. According to American Coil, a leading manufacturer of commercial and industrial coils, proper fit the first time is critical, so talk to a professional before you attempt to replace coils yourself.

Fans and Blowers
The blower or fan will blow the cooled or warmed air throughout your home or building. There are a few types of fans used in these systems, including forced draft fans and induced draft fans. Forced draft fans and blowers work by actually forcing air throughout the building, while induced drafts fans and blowers work by using a partial vacuum to draw air.

Hopefully this short guide will be useful the next time you need to install or maintain your HVAC system. Remember to inspect your system regularly and seek professional help if something goes wrong.

Author Bio: Albert K. is a freelance writer and former technician at Manley’s Boiler. He currently lives in Monterey Park, CA with his two daughters and wife, Sarah.



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