Published: November 21, 2017

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Buying your first home comes with many learning curves – and one of the biggest ones is figuring out how your new HVAC system works. Your HVAC system controls the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in your home. It can also claim up to 45% of your utility bills, and that’s when it’s running efficiently. If there are glitches, leaks, breakdowns or any other issues that need to be addressed, that number could increase significantly. Proper HVAC knowledge and maintenance is essential to the prevention of expensive problems with your system.

Get to know your HVAC system. Ask the previous owners or do your research to be able to answer the following questions:

  • How many units do you have?
  • Do you have air conditioning, a heat pump, mini-split or boiler?
  • How old is your furnace and air conditioner?
  • What are the efficiency ratings on your equipment?
  • Do you have a whole-house humidifier?
  • What kind of warranty is your HVAC system under?

Learn the essential components. Every HVAC unit contains the same essential parts, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with these early on. They include the condenser, the compressor, the evaporator coils that transfer refrigerant from one component to the others, and a set of fans and ducts. First, we’ll define the components and then explain how they all work together:

  • Condenser – the outdoor portion of your AC unit/heat pump that either releases or collects heat, depending on what setting you have turned on.  
  • Compressor – part of the condenser that compresses and pumps refrigerant through the system to either heat or cool your home.
  • Evaporator coils – part of the HVAC unit located inside the air handler or attached to your furnace, and absorbs heat from the air in your house.
  • Refrigerant – a chemical that is used to produce a cooling effect while either expanding or vaporizing.
  • Ductwork – Your HVAC unit has a system of ducts (either metal or synthetic) that are used to transport air throughout your home.

Here’s how it all works together:

  • Warm air flows over cool liquid (refrigerant) in the coils, which causes the refrigerant to turn into gas.
  • The gas travels through the compressor, which applies pressure to make the gas super-hot.
  • Coils inside the condenser draw the wasted heat from this process and send it out of the system, cooling the refrigerant back into a liquid and chilling the air.
  • That cool air is then blown through the ductwork and into your home.
  • If you turn on the heat instead, your system will divert that wasted heat into the ductwork and send it throughout your home.

Understand the warning signs. There are a few common issues you may experience with your HVAC system. Knowing what they are will help you feel prepared for what to do if something happens:

  • No airflow: Your HVAC unit may be functioning properly, up until the last step when the hot or cold air should be circulating throughout your home. This means your blower and its wiring may be damaged; or your air filter may be blocked.
  • Temperature change: If you are getting air throughout your house, but it isn’t the right temperature, you may be low on refrigerant. This means it’s either time to recharge the compressor or you may have a leak.
  • Weird noises: Unnatural noises coming from your HVAC system usually means there is mechanical damage to the motors, bearings or other moving parts.

Add routine check-ups to your calendar. There are two routine HVAC maintenance techniques that will make your life easier down the road:

  • Change your air filters monthly. Clogged or dirty filters are one of the leading causes of a malfunctioning HVAC unit. Filters need to be changed monthly to avoid long-term damage, reduced efficiency, and a lower life expectancy.
  • Thoroughly clean your air conditioning and furnace at least once a year – ideally after the summer and winter months when your unit is working the harders. This will prolong the life expectancy of your HVAC system and keep it working at maximum efficiency.

Now that you understand the basics, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a strong HVAC system and will hopefully avoid large repairs or replacements. If you have questions about your new HVAC system, or would like an HVAC professional to inspect your system before moving in give us a call at 770-766-8714 or schedule an appointment online.