Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (or HVAC) describes all aspects of heating and cooling services, controlling the temperature and air quality in your home. There is the main system located outside that pulls in air to cool or heat accordingly. The air passes through coils, which will either heat or cool the air, then the air is distributed by a handler into the ducts that carry it throughout your home.
Because HVAC systems have so many components and are so important to the comfort of your home, it’s important to be knowledgeable about HVAC basics. Here are some answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to home HVAC systems:
- How can I increase efficiency and the lifespan of my HVAC system?
One of the best ways to improve your system’s performance is to frequently clean or replace air filters. Other ways include purchasing a programmable thermostat, keeping curtains drawn or installing shades in rooms that are more exposed to sunlight, and not blocking airflow by closing vents in multiple rooms.
- Does adjusting the thermostat up or down really save money on energy bills?
Simply resetting the thermostat when you are asleep or away from home can save money on heating and cooling bills. By adjusting the thermostat four-to-six degrees either up (in the summer) or down (in the winter) reduces the total run time of the heating and air system, leading to a reduction on the energy bill. A programmable thermostat can aid in money-saving measures by allowing you to set the temperature on a daily and seasonal basis.
- How often should I clean and or/replace air filters in my unit?
In order for your HVAC system to operate at its best, filters should be changed once they start to look discolored. If the filter looks dirty, it is dirty. Filters should be changed on a monthly basis when the system is in high use, such as during winter and summer months, and every other month during lower-use times in the spring and fall. If you want a smarter way to determine when it needs replacing, install an air filter gauge.
- How do I choose a filter for my HVAC system?
Your system is designed to take a specific size of filter, so that is always a good place to start. Consider each filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). A higher-grade filter typically is best for homes with asthma or allergy sufferers. Pleated air filters are great for reducing allergens, but they cannot be left in the unit for too long or they become clogged.
- What regular maintenance does an HVAC system require and how often should it be serviced?
Maintain air flow by keeping dust, dirt, and debris away from any system. Keep air filters clean and heat exchangers and coils free of restrictions. Ideally, a system should be serviced twice a year — once before the summer cooling season and once before the winter heating season.
- What maintenance can I do myself?
Change your filters on a regular basis, and clean your outside coils once a month during the cooling season.
- What size system does my home require?
Size is everything when it comes to your HVAC system. An energy auditor can do a “Manual J” calculation on your home. This calculation surveys your entire home and includes how much insulation there is, how old your system is, and what kind of windows your home consists of and which direction they are facing. This calculation will tell you exactly what size system your house needs.
- How do I know if my HVAC system is operating safely?
An important HVAC safety measure is to make sure your home consists of working fire and carbon monoxide detectors. These can provide peace of mind in knowing that your HVAC system is not a hazard.
- What is SEER rating, and why should I know about it?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio – it measures HVAC system efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy output during the same time frame. The higher the SEER rating, the greater the energy efficiency of the system. The downside to a higher-SEER system is that it could potentially cost a homeowner thousands of dollars more to purchase and might take upwards of 10 years to recoup those costs. Be sure to ask your HVAC professional for advice on the best system for your budget and home.
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