Cracking the Code: The HVAC Basics You Need to Know

Cracking the Code: The HVAC Basics You Need to Know

We started this blog to help keep our customers up-to-date on home comfort options. It makes sense that we start off with a few basics you should know—straight from our experts.

With So Many System Options, How Do You Pick?

At Tom’s Heating, our pros are here to help. We’ll find a Carrier® heating and cooling system that fits your needs, the square footage of your house, and your budget. Here are the most common types:

  • Furnace—this forced-air heating system runs on gas or oil. It burns fuel to heat air that’s distributed through your home’s ductwork. Furnaces are the most common heating system, and they typically last for 15 to 18 years.
  • Boiler—instead of air, this system heats water using gas or oil. Called hydronic heat—it delivers the water or steam via piping to radiators or other devices. Boilers are also required for radiant systems that provide in-floor heating. The average lifespan is 15 to 30 years depending on the type of boiler.
  • Heat Pump—this unit functions as both a heating and cooling system. It utilizes energy from either the ground or air and transfers it to warm or cool your home, depending on the season. The air is delivered through ductwork and functions much like an air conditioner. Heat pumps can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
  • Central Air Conditioner—this forced-air cooling system uses refrigerant to cool and dehumidify air before it’s pushed through your ductwork. CACs are the most common cooling system and typically last between 10 and 15 years.
  • Ductless—this is a small cooling and heating system that’s installed to provide comfort in individual rooms or smaller areas called zones. Ductless systems offer both heating and cooling, and are easily installed on the wall or ceiling. You can count on them for comfort for around 15 years.

The Fast and Easy Rules of System Ratings

System ratings can be confusing and overwhelming when you’re shopping for a new heating or cooling unit. The short and sweet rule of thumb is: the higher the rating, the more efficient the system.

  • Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV)—measures how effectively air filters capture airborne contaminants. A higher rating, like 16, means finer pore size, so more particles are captured for cleaner air.
  • Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)—this percentage indicates how much energy your furnace or boiler is converting into heat. A 90 percent rating means 90 percent of the energy is effectively converted to heat and only 10 percent is wasted.
  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)—represents your air conditioner’s efficiency during the cooling season. The minimum rating required for most states is 13, but higher-end models can reach ratings as high as 21 or 23.
  • British Thermal Unit (BTU)—shows how much energy a boiler, air conditioner, or heat pump needs to increase/decrease the temperature of one pound of water by one degree. Instead of efficiency, BTU ratings indicate the size of the system and its overall heating and cooling capacity.

We know choosing a system is a big decision, so our heating and cooling experts are here to help. If you have questions, just give us a call at 262-548-1300 or email us.

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