You want to be a more conscientious HVAC owner, but maybe you don’t know where to begin. After all, a standard HVAC has so many components that making sense of them can be like learning a foreign language. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You just have to know where to start. We’re going to help you by looking at some necessary parts so that you can understand their functions and learn how to take better care of them. The more you know about your HVAC and the main components that support it, the more money you’ll be able to save by keeping it efficient and avoiding mistakes that could lead to unexpected breakdowns.
Below, we’ve put together an overview of the major parts in a standard HVAC. We’ve broken them down by category—those that are exclusive to your air conditioner, those that are furnace-specific, and those that are integral to both systems. Read over each section so that you can get to know your HVAC inside out.
HVAC Main Components: Air Conditioning
Your air conditioner is responsible for cooling the interior of your building. It does this with the help of a chemical called refrigerant, which goes through a series of state changes as it moves throughout your system. As it changes states, it absorbs heat from the air inside and releases it to the outside. The following components allow these changes to take place, and are therefore essential to any air conditioner:
- Compressor: the compressor is one of the most significant components in your air conditioner. It squeezes refrigerant when it comes in as a low-pressure gas. By squeezing it, the compressor adds pressure to the coolant.
- Condenser: the condenser allows the high-pressure refrigerant gas to release its heat to the air outside your building. It does so by allowing the gas to condense into a liquid form.
- Expansion Valve: the expansion valve regulates the flow of high-pressure liquid refrigerant on its way to the evaporator. Since only a small amount of liquid can move through the expansion valve at once, the coolant loses pressure as it passes through this component.
- Evaporator: when the cool, low-pressure liquid refrigerant arrives in the evaporator, it absorbs heat from the air in your building and turns it back into a gas. It then moves to the compressor and begins the entire cycle over again.
All the components listed above must be functioning if you want your air conditioner to lower the temperature in your building. It is also essential to make sure refrigerant lines are intact to carry the refrigerant to and from each of the parts above. Additionally, you should keep your condensate drain pan clear so that natural moisture forming in the system during this process has a place to collect.
HVAC Main Components: Furnace
- Heat Exchanger: heat exchangers vent the toxic fumes produced by gas furnaces so that they leave your home instead of finding their way into the air that blows through the ducts. They need to be checked for leaks on a regular basis to make sure that carbon monoxide isn’t accidentally entering the atmosphere of your home. Heat exchangers usually work in conjunction with draft inducer motors to push toxins out of the building.
- Igniter: the igniter (or pilot light in older furnaces) is responsible for lighting the gas that the system uses as fuel. These should be kept clean if you want them to light consistently.
- Burner: once the gas is lit, it has to continue burning. The burners in a furnace combine gas and air to feed the flame that warms the air in your building.
- Gas Valve: the gas valve is responsible for controlling the amount of gas that is being used by your furnace at any given time. It is vital to make sure this valve consistently functions properly so that you can avoid a gas leak.
Furnaces also have various supporting components including thermocouples that detect when the pilot light has been lit (or flame sensors for units with igniters), and pressure switches that verify the draft inducer motor are working. If you have reason to believe that any of these components are not working correctly, call a licensed HVAC tech for help.
HVAC Main Components: Essentials for Both Systems
Both your AC and furnace rely on a series of ducts to move treated air throughout your building, as well as a blower motor and fan to keep the air circulating, and a series of vents that let it in and out of various rooms. Have your ducts cleaned every 1-2 years and your system inspected once or twice each year to ensure that all its essential parts are working the way they should be.