HVAC 101

When you envision a comfortable home, you think of a place where you are cozy on a blistery winter night and cool on a hot summers day. Our HVAC systems that keep our home at that cozy point are something we often take for granted as they’re nearly autonomous in their operation. A flick of a switch or a tap to a temperature and your home is at your level of comfortable.

What is HVAC?

Understanding more about your type of HVAC system and how it works can help you maintain your HVAC systems efficiency and understand when it may be time for an upgrade or repair consultation.

The acronym HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. The combination of those three methods keeps your home comfortable by working to maintain temperature, humidity and overall air quality.

Due to the varying climate in Chester County Pennsylvania, where we can see extremes in both hot and cold temperatures we are able to utilize a wide range of HVAC systems versus being limited to a certain system structure.

Paramount HVAC Maintenance

Styles of Systems

Traditional Central Forced Air

This is the most common style of system. A forced air system is characterized by a series of ducts (ductwork) that run throughout a home. This system features equipment that is most often installed centrally in a home (hence the name, central air) that forces the air throughout the home via the ductwork. There is most often an air conditioning coil that sits on top of your furnace (indoor unit) as well as an air conditioning condenser that sits outside the home (the outdoor unit).

Space Pak or High Velocity

This type of system is similar to forced air in that it still has an outdoor unit, but rather than traditional tin for the duct work, tubes measuring roughly 2.5 inches in diameter are used for the distribution of air. This style of system is a great choice for Victorian homes or split-level homes where it may be very hard to install traditional ductwork.

Ductless Minisplits

Just as the name implies, a ductless minisplit system does not require ductwork. This style of system still operates with an outdoor unit, but the indoor unit differs in that it is a small unit mounted to a wall, ceiling or floor and connected to the outdoor unit via refrigerant lines. The indoor unit then disperses conditioned air, both cold or hot in one or many rooms of a house.

Heat Pump

Although called a heat pump, this style of system makes cold or hot conditioned air. This system is essentially a special add on outdoor unit that would need to be connected to either a traditional system or a ductless minisplit.

Repair or Replace - How Do You Know?

While not a one size fits all, these general tips can help you understand if you should be looking at repair or replacement of your current system.

Replace your system when:

  • It’s performing poorly despite repairs

  • Your energy costs rise significantly despite efficiency upgrades

  • It’s requiring frequent repairs

  • It’s over 10 years old and performing poorly

  • It’s rated at 10 SEER or less. A higher SEER means greater efficiency and lower energy costs

  • It’s over 15 years old and performing poorly

  • It’s rated 80% AFUE or less. A higher percentage means higher efficiency and lower energy costs

  • It’s over 10 years old and performing poorly

  • It’s rated 10 SEER or less or 8 HSPF or less. Higher SEER and higher HSPF mean greater efficiency

Maintenance Matters

Like most machines and pieces of equipment, maintenance is critical to the longevity and efficiency and HVAC systems are no different. Bi-annual maintenance of your HVAC system can not only maintain its performance but also ensure it doesn’t lose efficiency or effectiveness as it ages. You should receive a heating tune up in early Fall prior to heating season and an air conditioning tune up in early Spring prior to cooling season. Filter changes should be a part of your bi-annual maintenance but may need to happen more frequently based on usage.