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Understanding the Equipment And Key Terms In Your Heating And Cooling System

HVAC system

When it comes to your heating and cooling system, many homeowners are confused by the terms and acronyms used to describe the equipment that keeps their home’s temperature comfortable year-round. Because Hampton Roads weather has seasons of heat in the summer and cold in the winter, most homes are equipped with both heating and cooling systems. The more you know about your HVAC system, the better you can maintenance it. Additionally, when you call for repair help from the pros, you will better explain the issues your system is experiencing.

What Does HVAC Stand For?

HVAC is an acronym for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Your HVAC system, or home comfort system, has three main functions. “H,” heating your home in the cooler winter months. “V,” ventilating the air in your home. Your ventilation system filters the air in your home, recirculates it, and redistributes the temperature-controlled air in your home. “AC,” air conditioning – cooling your home in the hot summer season. All three work together to keep your home comfortable year-round.

What Are The Types Of HVAC Systems?

There are two main types of HVAC systems in Hampton Roads. There are split systems (a furnace and air conditioner paired unit, or an air handler and heat pump paired unit), and all-in-one package units. A package unit can be housed outside of the home or in the home’s attic. Furnaces and air handlers are elements that are housed inside your home. While air conditioners and heat pumps are housed outside of the home. Understanding each of these parts will help you to better maintain your system and guide you in troubleshooting issues that may arise.

Furnace And Air Conditioner Paired Units

Furnace Units

A furnace is an indoor unit of your HVAC that serves to heat your home. Furnaces generate heat by burning fuel such as natural gas, heating oil, or liquid propane. The heat a furnace produces is then distributed throughout the home, pushing warmed air through the ventilation or duct system. A boiler is a type of furnace that heats water instead of air. The heated water of a boiler is then transferred to radiators or steam pipes which warm the home. Furnaces are often paired with an air conditioning system to manage both the heating and cooling of your home.

Air Conditioner Units

While a furnace serves to heat the home, it is matched with an air conditioner to provide cool temperatures for your home. Air conditioners are connected to the cooling coil inside of the home. The AC’s compressor pumps refrigerant coolant back and forth. The compressor extracts heat and moisture from inside the home and transfers that heat outside. The warm air extracted from inside is blown over cooling coils. After the air is cooled over the coils, the cooled air is redistributed through the ventilation system in your home.

Air Handler And Heat Pump Paired Units

Air Handlers

An air handler is an indoor unit of your HVAC that serves to heat and cool your home by blowing temperature-controlled air through your ventilation system. An air handler is typically paired with a heat pump. The temperature-controlled air of an air handler is pushed or pulled inside and outside of the home. The air handler uses a blower to force air through your ventilation system and throughout your home. Air handlers are typically powered by electricity. Air handlers work in conjunction with a heat pump.

Heat Pumps

The heat pump (an outside unit) has refrigerant lines that help control the flow of hot and cold air. In the heat of the summer, the refrigerant pulls heat from inside your home and moves it outside. In the cold winter months, the system pulls heat from outside and moves it inside. The heat pump uses refrigerants and coolants to shift heat energy. A heat pump can both heat and cool your home. An air conditioner only serves to cool the home.

Package Units

A package unit is a heating and cooling system that handles both the heating and cooling elements all in one system. Often a package HVAC unit is housed on the roof or the side of the home. Package units can run on either gas or electricity.

What Are The Parts Of HVAC Systems?

Whether your home has an all-in-one package unit or a split system (of either a furnace and air conditioner matched unit, or an air handler and heat pump matched unit), the system will also include two additional key components. Your HVAC system will also include a thermostat and ventilation system.


Your home thermostat is a critical component of your HVAC system that communicates the temperature setting you want the heating and cooling units to set to. As you can imagine, if the thermostat (the central communication system between you and the heating and cooling unit) is not working properly, then your home’s HVAC system will not work properly.

More modern HVAC thermostats can include smart settings which monitor more than just temperature settings. Smart thermostats can help control air quality, humidity levels, and more. Want to learn more about the different types of home thermostats or interested in upgrading your thermostat read this thermostat blog.

Ventilation System

Your ventilation system serves many purposes. Humidity levels are controlled through the ventilation system. Pollutants (such as dust, mold, and mildew) are also collected and removed from your home’s airflow and HVAC equipment. Typically, ventilation system equipment includes the ductwork, supply vents, and return vents. Your HVAC’s ventilation system requires consistent maintenance to ensure the dirt and debris collected are removed from your home. Furnaces and air handlers also have filters that collect dust and debris. It is important to properly maintain these filters for the improved air quality in your home and to ensure that your HVAC system runs efficiently.

Call The Experts

Looking to repair, replace, or upgrade your HVAC system? Contact the expert HVAC repair and installation team at Smith & Keene. The largest HVAC dealer in Hampton Roads, we have a wide array of HVAC systems to choose from. Our technicians are well skilled in guiding you through the right HVAC system to most efficiently and effectively keep your home comfortable year-round. Plus, our volume buying power and maintenance plans will ensure you get the most bang for your buck! Contact Smith & Keene to schedule a free consultation to install your new HVAC system 757-420-1231.

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