HVAC Basics: Learn the Ins and Outs of HVAC

Without getting flashbacks to our awkward phases (full of braces, too long arms and legs, haircuts that should never have seen the light of day - shudder), we here at TJ’s in Denver want to welcome you, Homeowner, to our HVAC 101 class!

While school certainly had its good days and bad, we’re hoping to make this one a little more exciting.

Ever wondered what you should do in the event of a boiler malfunction? What about the importance of keeping your HVAC unit maintained? Or how to make your HVAC system more efficient?

As you get to know the inner machinery of your home a little better, let us lead you to understand the basics of HVAC.

Time to Learn the Basics of HVAC

  • What is the purpose of HVAC?

    • To provide acceptable indoor air quality and ensure a comfortable in home air temperature.

Okay, that seems clear. HVAC is meant to keep your home's air temperature comfortable. But what's the process? How does it actually do this?

How convenient that you asked...

HVAC Process:

  • Heating:

    • Forced air: ducts bring hot air or cool air throughout the home. “Forced air” systems mean that they use air as their heat transfer system, as opposed to hot water. The hot air is created in your furnace (using natural gas, propane, oil, etc.), your electric heating element, or your heat pump, depending on which HVAC system you have. From there, the air is blown through vents via ductwork.

    • Hot Water: hot water heating uses a liquid heat-transfer system to heat a home, as opposed to an air transfer system like forced air. Boilers heat water, then that water or steam is pumped throughout buildings, heating via radiators.

  • Cooling:

    • Warm air inside the house blows across an evaporator coil. The heat from the air transfers to the refrigerant inside the coil. By taking the heat away from the warm air, this helps “cool” the house. The warm air in the refrigerant is then pushed outside (this is why, when you walk past air conditioners while outside, hot air gets blown on you). 
  • Cleaning:

    • Adding air purifiers to your HVAC systems allows you to have clean air at all times. Filters can be placed in ducts, furnaces, or in stand-alone systems. You pick which works best with your home and voila! Clean air forever (or at least a long time).
  • Ventilation:

    • Adds proper amount of fresh air from outside to your home and circulation. By doing this, pollutants are diluted and displaced. Ventilation can also help with humidifying and dehumidifying.

  • Humidification:

    • Humidifiers attach to ductwork and blow moist air through the home. Living in Denver, having an HVAC humidifier is essential to prevent dry air. However, there are drawbacks to air that it too humid - it can promote the growth of mold, dust, and cause respiratory issues. A relative humidity level of 30-50% is recommended for most homes.

  • Dehumidification:

    • A dehumidifier is a machine that removes humidity while the air conditioner is between cycles. Having too much humidity can cause some issues in homes, so it is a good idea to have a dehumidifier available (even if we don’t need to use them that often here in Denver).


Still with us? Good. 

Now that you've got a solid grasp on what the purpose of HVAC is, and how it works, you're probably wondering about the different parts of the HVAC system. We'll give you a little refresher below if you missed last week's lesson


Parts of the HVAC System:

  • Thermostat:

    • The thing on your wall that enables you to change your home’s temperature, leading to your heating or cooling system kicking into gear.

  • Heating System:

    • Typically a furnace or boiler. Although achieving this through different mediums, both are made to heat your home.

  •  Coils:

    • Used in air conditioner and heating processes by absorbing heat and pumping it outside.

  •  Condensing unit:

    • A mechanism found outside the house that contains refrigerant gas.

  •  Refrigerant lines:

    • Lines that carry the refrigerant.

  •  Vents:

    • Blow out hot or cool air into rooms.. 

Okay. You've gotten this far, you're a bonified HVAC pro now. You've got a basic understanding of the parts of the HVAC system, the purpose of HVAC, and the processes of HVAC. But what's that knowledge without understanding how to take care of your HVAC system? Below we'll discuss the importance of regular HVAC maintenance (including some maintenance tips), and safety recommendations to ensure your HVAC system stays in tip-top shape.  


Importance of Regular HVAC Maintenance:

  • Higher efficiency

    • No longer will you need to spend money on hot or cool air that goes straight back outside. Regular maintenance of your HVAC unit will ensure that all the valves are clear and there is little-wasted efficiency.

  •  Fewer problems

    • This one’s clear! When your HVAC unit is maintained, there are fewer problems in the long run and they’re caught early.

  • Better indoor air quality

    • Clear vents and ducts make it much more likely that your air will be free of dust, pathogens, and any other undesirable air pollutant.
  •  Lower utility bills

    • Less money wasted on inefficient heating, ventilation, electricity, etc. Better efficiency means less money spent.

  •  Fewer emergency repairs

    • Keeping tabs on your HVAC unit and its maintenance allows you to be aware much more quickly if a problem might arise.

Maintenance Tips:

  • Check thermostat batteries

    • With any thermostat issue, your first step should be to check the batteries.

  •  Change filters

    • Clogged filters are a primary cause of heating and cooling problems. Use a basic, cheap filter, and check it monthly!

  •  Clean area around HVAC unit

    • Make sure there is no debris near the condenser unit. We know it’s no fun to go digging at the back of your house, but debris can clog your HVAC system and cause tons of problems, so this is a big one.


Safety Recommendations: 

  • Boiler shut-off valve

    • These switches are located outside of the room the boiler is in. They are essential to have. If the boiler fails, it can fill the room with scalding steam. Be sure to know where this valve is if you have a boiler!

  • Keep carbon monoxide detector near the furnace

  • Always turn off AC power strips when performing maintenance on the unit

And there you have it! You have officially finished our HVAC 101 class. Here at TJ's in Denver, we love nothing more than knowing our customers are as informed as possible about their HVAC units. Afterall, you're dealing with them all day, everyday!

Did you learn anything new about HVAC today? Let us know in the comments!