How Do HVAC Systems Work? Answering Your HVAC FAQs

If you’re a new homeowner or just never had the opportunity to go poking around your HVAC system, you might not know how it does what it does… or maybe even what it does!

Understand more about your Cincinnati heating and cooling system with our guide to HVAC, explained.

What Does HVAC Stand For?

The acronym HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. It encompasses the systems that move and treat air inside your home. These include, but may not be limited to, your:

  • Heater/furnace
  • Air conditioner
  • Heat pump
  • Exhaust fans
  • Humidifier/dehumidifier
  • Air handler
  • Air purifier
  • Boiler
  • Thermostat
  • Ductwork

What Does HVAC Do?

Your HVAC moves and regulates the air in your home. Its main functions are controlling temperature, quality, humidity, and airflow.

  • Temperature. When you think of HVAC, you likely think of heating and cooling. The heater and air conditioner are the fundamental parts (and three out of the four letters) of HVAC. With help from your thermostat, they blow warm or cool air throughout your home and treat returned air, raising or lowering it to the desired temperature.
  • Air quality. Many systems exist to improve your indoor air quality. An air purifier removes contaminants, helping keep you and your family healthier.
  • Humidity. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers regulate indoor humidity levels, making humidifiers popular in Cincinnati’s dry winters.
  • Airflow. Several systems are dedicated to maintaining airflow, whether working in tandem with heating and cooling like an air handler and ductwork, or venting air like an exhaust fan. Good airflow not only distributes warm and cold air evenly, but it also plays a part in keeping your home well-ventilated.

How Does Heating and Cooling Work?

The primary function of HVAC is heating and cooling. There are three main ways of treating air:

  1. Traditional heating uses gas or electricity to generate and distribute heat in several ways. A furnace may warm air as it passes through the central unit and then blow it through your ducts into your home. Meanwhile, a radiator heats water and allows the warmth to radiate outward from one point into the rest of the room.
  2. Standard air conditioners use refrigerant to cool air as it passes by for distribution while venting warm air outside.
  3. Heat pumps, which can heat and cool, redistribute hot and cool air between outdoors and your home instead of using energy to raise or lower the temperature of the air already in your system.

How Long Does an HVAC System Last?

With regular maintenance, a furnace can last 15-30 years and an air conditioner about 15-20. Heat pumps average about 15 years of life, while ductless mini-splits (a type of heat pump) can last 10-30 years. Cincinnati doesn’t often experience the hot and cold extremes of some other parts of the country, nor is it constantly exposed to salt air. Both factors can allow an HVAC system in Cincinnati to last a little longer than normal.

Can You Use the Same Ducts for Heating and Cooling?

Yes! Central HVAC, where a home can switch between heating with a furnace and cooling with an air conditioner, is among the most common HVAC systems in the United States. Because these systems don’t need to heat and cool simultaneously, they can use the same ducts.

Does HVAC Use Gas or Electricity?

Furnaces can run on gas or electricity, while most air conditioners are electric. Electric appliances are more efficient and use a cleaner fuel source than natural gas or propane, so they’re growing in popularity. Air-source heat pumps, one of the most energy-efficient heating and cooling options, use electricity.

The Lights Flicker When the HVAC Turns On; Is That Normal?

HVAC uses a lot of power, so it can initially be a substantial drain on your electricity when it first comes on. This power drain might make your lights dim temporarily, then even out as the system finishes kicking on. If you’re worried about electrical problems, a professional inspection can find and resolve any issues with your wiring or electricity.

Professional Support and Maintenance from Cincinnati’s HVAC Experts

Did we demystify HVAC for you at all? There’s a lot to know, but don’t worry. One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning of Cincinnati has the experience, training, and tools to repair your HVAC and install whole systems. Schedule an appointment by calling (513) 815-3460: or book online today.