A common question that people ask is, what is an HVAC system? Well, stay tuned because I’m going to tell you.
First off, HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Basically, if it heats, cools or moves air, it is part of an HVAC system. Before you ask, yes even your ceiling fan can be considered part of your HVAC system.
Let’s get down to business. Here are the components that make up your HVAC system and what they do.
Your thermostat is the brains of your system. It is what allows you to set the desired temperature, humidity level, fan speed, and more. Basically, when the temperature drops below your desired temperature, the heat comes on. If the temperature is above your desired temperature the air conditioner comes on. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and capabilities. If you want to read more about thermostats click here.
The furnace is your best friend during the long winter months. It is what heats your home. It is most likely that largest part of your HVAC system. Your furnace operates on gas, oil, propane, electricity, solar, geothermal, or some other energy form. It heats the cool air in your home up and re-distributes it back into your home.
The heat exchanger is what does the work inside your furnace. This is the part that heats the air to push through your ducts. As the cold air is pushed through the heat exchanger it is warmed and goes back through the ducts into your home.
The evaporator coil is the opposite of the heat exchanger. It takes the warm air from your home and cools it. The coils are filled with refrigerant that helps cool the air. As the warm air passes through the coils it is cooled and pushed back through the ducts into your home.
This is the box with a fan inside it that sits outside your home. This is connected to the evaporator coil. As in the evaporator coil warms up it turns into a gas. The gas is then pumped outside to the condensing unit to be cooled off again. It is a closed system so the same refrigerant keeps getting heated and cooled repeatedly.
The blower motor is what moves the air through your HVAC system. It turns on when the furnace or air conditioner does. If you select fan only on your thermostat, it is the blower motor pushing the air through the system without heating or cooling it.
Ducts or Ductwork:
Ducts are what the air flows through to get to the different areas in your home. Ducts are made from metal, plastic, fiberglass, and other materials. Different types are used in different areas to maximize efficiency.
The vents are at the end of the ducts. They are usually made of metal. They direct the airflow into the room and provide something that looks nicer than just a hole in the floor, wall, or ceiling.
Your home’s HVAC system is complex. It is a system made up of many different components that work together to make you comfortable. If one component is not working properly it can affect your comfort and the efficiency of your system.
Thermostats are an important, and often overlooked, part of your HVAC system. With all the thermostat options available homeowners sometimes get overwhelmed and choose whatever looks good or is cheap without putting much thought into functionality.
Why heat your home in the winter when no one is home? Why keep it cool in the summer while you are on vacation?
Installing a thermostat that allows your to automatically adjust your home’s temperature based on your lifestyle is key to saving money on your energy bills while maintaining your comfort.
If you keep reading I will break down the different types of thermostats and explain how they may be costing you money and how they can save you money.
These are easy to use. You turn the dial or move the lever to the desired temperature and that’s it. If you want it set on 72°, you move it a little past the 70° and it will be close. These thermostats are old, outdated, and they are not helping your energy bills. They are the dinosaurs of thermostats. If you have one of these, you should upgrade. You can literally pick any other thermostat in this article and it will be better.
Digital Non-Programmable Thermostats:
Like their dinosaur ancestors, the digital non-programmable thermostat is easy to use. You simply select heat or cool and a temperature. Unlike the mechanical thermostats, the digital thermostat will allow you to set a specific temperature. It is better than the mechanical thermostat but it is not helping you maximize your energy efficiency.
Digital Programmable Thermostats:
This is the entry level into energy efficiency. A programmable thermostat, like this American Standard Silver 602, will allow you to set different temperatures in your home for different times of the day. You can even program different times of the day for each day of the week.
For example, in the winter you can lower your homes temperature during the day if no one is home and during the night when everyone is sleeping. This will keep your furnace from running as much and save you money on your heating bill without you even realizing a difference in your homes comfort.
In the summer you can let your home warm up a little during the day when no one is home to keep your air conditioner from running as much. This is a good way to lower your electricity bill without sacrificing your comfort.
WiFi / Wireless Thermostats:
These are the “bee’s knees” of thermostats. A wireless thermostat, like this AccuLink Platinum 1050, will allow you to access your homes HVAC settings from anywhere. This is good for the unknowns in your life. If you have a programmable thermostat that lets your home cool down on a winter day, you don’t want to come home and wait for your home to warm back up. With this thermostat you can adjust the temperature before you get home so you will walk through your front door into comfort.
These thermostats have many options available. You can get a basic model that allows you to run a program for different days of the week and adjust setting with a smartphone app, or you can get one that gives you weather forecasts and more.
This thermostat will allow you to maximize your energy savings in almost any situation.
Smart Home Systems:
If you want to take your whole home to the next level you can install something like this Nexia Smart Home System. These types of systems control more than just your HVAC system. They control entry to your home with wireless locks or digital keypads. They control your lights, power outlets, security system, and more. Smart home systems put control of your entire home in one place and allow you to access it anywhere.
There are also thermostats that have a power outlet in them. They are made to use with space heater, window air conditioners, and other portable heating and cooling units. They basically shut off the power when the desired temperature is met and turn it back on when needed.
There are not many options in the outlet thermostat category, but you might find them useful.
So what do you do with all this new knowledge?
First decide what type of thermostat you want. I would go with the Nexia Smart Home System, but that’s just me. Then look at the features you want and compare prices.
Once you settle on a new thermostat you can install it yourself, or if you can call a professional. It can be installed by a professional fairly quickly.
If you are still unsure about what thermostat is right for you, give us a call, comment, or email and we will be glad to answer all of your questions.
Boss Heating and Air would like to congratulate Master Sergeant Jeffery Street on his retirement. After 20 years in the Marine Corps he is trading his Marine Corps uniforms for a BOSS polo.
Jeff has had an eventful career. Over the last 20 years he has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, recovered remains from US service members from past wars in Laos and Germany, worked at the White House as their bomb squad, and supported the Secret Service protecting many US and foreign heads of state and dignitaries. That’s just a few of the highlights.
For the past 6 months Jeff has been working for BOSS in his spare time. He has been overseeing the online presence, giving advice (sometimes unsolicited), and many other behind the scenes things from his home in Okinawa, Japan.
Jeff is returning to Michigan in May and will be part of the BOSS team permanently. He will take
a greater role in the day to day operations of the company. He will also take charge of company volunteering efforts and other community outreach programs.
We are all looking forward to his return.
One of the most common questions people ask is “how much will my new HVAC system cost?” After countless searches on the internet I, like you, was unable to find an answer with an actual dollar amount. Well don’t get your hopes up, this article will not have an exact cost either. I can’t tell you a new furnace will cost XX dollars or a new air conditioner will cost XX dollars. There are many reasons for this. I will layout these reasons in this article.
The main reason costs vary is your home size. If you have 900 square feet to heat and cool you will not need a system as large as a 2,500 square foot home. The size difference alone will greatly change the cost of the unit.
Another cost factor is the layout of your home. The layout of your home affects how many vents are needed and how the ducts can be routed. More duct work and vents means more materials and man hours, resulting in an increased cost.
The type of equipment also plays into the cost. If you want a furnace and air conditioner it will cost more than just a furnace. Gas, oil, electric, or geo-thermal systems also vary in size and price. Some systems require more man hours and materials than others. Some systems come with a higher up front cost but will save you money on your energy bills and repairs over the long run.
There are also add on equipment options. You might want a humidifier so you can control your home’s humidity level. You might want a whole home air cleaner to improve your indoor air quality. Maybe an upgraded thermostat so you can improve your comfort and efficiency. There are many options available beyond just a furnace and air conditioner.
With so many options available it is hard for you to know exactly what equipment and materials will be needed for your home and how many man hours it will take to install all of it. That makes it very difficult to come up with an estimated cost without seeing your home.
So your next question is, why do I see advertising saying they will do it for a specific cost? Well, when someone says, “I can install XX furnace or XX air conditioner in your home for $700 dollars” they are not designing a system for your home. They are going to put an improperly sized unit in your home that will cost you a lot of money in energy bills and repairs. Additionally, they may not be licensed or insured which will lead to other problems with warranties and make you liable for any injuries during the installation process.
The bottom line is, an efficient HVAC system should be designed specifically for your home. It shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” type of thing. It is important for you to have a professional evaluate your home and provide you with an estimated cost. Most HVAC companies do this for free. BOSS Heating and Air will send and HVAC efficiency expert to evaluate your home and discuss options at no cost to you. You really don’t have anything to lose by asking for an evaluation.
Do you ever wonder why people use humidifiers and de-humidifiers? Well, wonder no more! We are going to explain it all. We will start off by telling you what humidity is and how it plays a part in your home. Then we will talk about what the ideal home humidity level is. Let’s dive in!
So, what is humidity? Simply put, humidity is the water vapor in the air. There are two kinds of humidity that we will talk about. Relative and absolute. Relative is what most people are talking about when they talk about humidity. Relative is what meteorologists talk about when they give you the humidity levels.
Relative humidity is measuring how close the air is to saturation at a specific temperature. 100 percent saturation means the air can’t hold any more moisture and this will result in rain or snow. 0 percent saturation means there is no water vapor in the air. Southwest Michigan averages 73 percent relative humidity for the year. That means, on average, the air is holding 73 percent of its maximum water vapor.
Absolute humidity is the measure of how much water vapor is in the air regardless of the temperature. This is important to note because the relative humidity in the summer might be 72 and 76 in the winter, but that doesn’t mean there is more water vapor in the air in the winter. The cold air has a lower water vapor capacity than the warm air. That means it can reach the same relative humidity level with significantly less water vapor than is needed for warmer air. This results in the absolute humidity being lower in the winter than it is in the summer. That is why your nose and skin dry out in the winter more than the summer. There are some calculators and variables that you can use to figure out what the absolute humidity is, but it doesn’t matter that much here. The important thing to know is there is less water vapor in the air in the winter and because of that you need to humidify (add water vapor) in the winter and de-humidify (remove water vapor) in the summer.
Now let’s talk about how the humidity effects your heating and air conditioning, or HVAC, system. High humidity air is harder to cool off. In the summer, you need to remove humidity so the air is easier to cool and the load on your AC is reduced. If there is too much humidity it will feel warmer in your home than the temperature says. This will cause you to set the temperature lower than needed and cause your system to work harder than is necessary. Also as your house cools off the humidity will go up if you don’t remove it. The air will cool off and the lower temperature air will become saturated quicker. This is the reason dehumidifying your house is a critical part of the air conditioning process. Humidity control must be the first consideration when looking at proper air conditioning equipment and the size of that equipment. An oversized system will drop the temperature in your home without removing the proper amount of humidity causing a “clammy” feeling.
Just the opposite is true for the winter months. The dry air is harder to heat. There is not enough water vapor in the outside air to provide the heated air in your home with the proper amount of humidity. Without the proper amount of humidity your furnace must work harder to heat your home. Like with the AC, this will cause extra wear and tear on your HVAC system and reduce its overall life. It will also add to your energy bill. Adding humidity to your home in the winter will enhance the comfort of your home at lower temperatures. This will result in energy savings, added equipment life, and a more comfortable home.
Now that we know all we need to about humidity and how it affects our HVAC system, we need to know how to measure it in our home. There are a variety of options for this. You can get a basic hygrometer from your local hardware store or an online merchant. They can be relatively inexpensive or quite costly. The choice is up to you. You can also invest in a thermostat, like the Nexia, that monitors your home’s humidity (We will cover thermostat choices in a separate article). The prices vary and you will ultimately have to make the decision on what one you want based on your needs and budget.
Finally, we need to put all this information together. We recommend you keep your home’s humidity between 35 – 40 percent. This should provide a comfortable feeling in your home and keep your HVAC system happy. There are a couple things you need to keep in mind with this recommendation though.
- This is just a recommendation. Each person will feel comfortable with different humidity levels. It’s your home, adjust the humidity to your comfort level.
- While 35 – 40 percent is preferred, it might not be practical. If it is warm outside and you are cooling your home with high humidity you might see condensation on the ceiling, walls, or other places. This is because the cold air in your home has reached 100 percent saturation. If this happens you need to turn up the temperature in your home or reduce the humidity.
- On the other side of that, if the temperature is too cold outside high indoor humidity might cause condensation and/or ice crystals to form on the windows. Newer windows are better insulated and protect against this but if it does happen to you, just lower the humidity a little.
A lot of people spend money on a great HVAC system but don’t get humidity control because they want to save a couple bucks. Saving money in the short term might seem like a good idea, but chances are it will cost you more in maintenance, energy bills, and your comfort over the long run.
If you still have questions about how to control the humidity in your home, leave a comment or head over to the contact BOSS page and we will be glad to answer all of your questions.