Heating and air conditioning systems are are among the most vital systems in our homes. The problem may well be that they often work too well. In fact, we usually don’t have to think about them at all.

heating and air conditioningIf your home is cool and comfortable in summer and plenty warm in winter, you can go for years hardly thinking about heating and air conditioning. Though a heating system and an air conditioner are both made up of pretty simple technology. It will break down eventually. Even a basic knowledge will help you to keep your system up and running and running well.

Heating and air conditioning systems aren’t so complicated that you can’t pick up the basics yourself, and get more and more efficient use out of your system. Here’s what you need to know.

Basics of Heating and Air Conditioning

All heating and air conditioning systems rely on three fundamental parts: a source for air that’s cooled or warmed, a fan or similar distribution system to blow the air where you want it and a thermostat that turns it on and off. Even most portable heating and air conditioning units have basically the same components. It’s usually just the distribution system that seems a lot smaller.

While central air conditioning is a lot less common in the New York City area, where it’s been installed, the cool air flows through the same ducts (the distribution system) as heated air. Getting familiar with these three parts is a good start to understanding how it’s working – or should be working.

A furnace will put heated air wherever it’s cooler, and an air conditioner will remove it and send it to an outside location, even if that doesn’t always seem cooler. Both systems rely on the principle that warm air will always move to a cooler location.

Heating and air conditioning systems all need a power source. Air conditioners run on electricity and your heating system will burn fuel, usually natural gas. You may also have a furnace that runs on fuel oil and in New York there are still lots of older boiler systems that heat water and run it through pipes to heat a building. You already know if you live with one of these (usually) cranky old set-ups. The boiler is used for heating and storing the water supply before it gets sent out to your home.They’re often supremely efficient, but boilers present some slightly different problems for home or building owners that we won’t go into here.

Still more recent technology goes into heat pumps that will do both jobs, heating and cooling, essentially by pulling the warm air outside in summer and by pulling the warm air outside to the inside in wintertime. Heat pumps provide central air conditioning and the same heat pumps are are often used in conjunction with a traditional furnace, in part because the electricity required to run them is always more expensive than natural gas. Heat pumps are actually the most common type of central air conditioning installed in the city. But a heat pump and a furnace used simultaneously will keep most homes comfortable, without over relying on either one of them.

When your heater or furnace is running, it’s burning fuel and heat is produced and sent to the cooler areas through the distribution system mentioned above. It’s really as simple as that.

In the same sense your air conditioner is using electricity to cool freon gas inside the coils until the gas turns to a cold liquid. When the warm air in your home cools on contact with the coils, warmer air is easily coaxed along and moved to where you want it. (Remember the principle mentioned above?) Heat pumps work exactly the same way except in reverse.

Because of the relatively complex technology that goes into any of these heating and air conditioning systems, they can get complicated. Read your manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly if you’ve got them. If not, give us a call and we’ll give you a point by point assessment of your system and how you can get the most out of it.

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