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What Exactly is HVAC and How Does it Work?

September 12, 2023

Many people hear and use the term HVAC from time to time without actually understanding what it means. Undoubtedly, HVAC systems are one of the most significant investments in our homes. Hence, it's crucial to understand what they really are, how they function, and their components.

HVAC is the short form of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. HVAC systems provide comfort in our homes and commercial buildings by regulating the temperatures and improving air quality.

An HVAC is an all-in-one comfort system capable of supplying warm air into a building during winter and cool air in summer. It's common to see people use the terms HVAC and AC interchangeably, thinking they refer to the same thing, but they don't.

While an HVAC unit is a complete heating and cooling system, an AC (Air Conditioner) only serves the purpose of cooling an enclosed space. Thus, an AC does part of an HVAC task, making it only useful during summer.

How Does an HVAC System Work?

Because an HVAC is designed to provide comfort regardless of season, it must be capable of generating warm and cold air. Warm air to counter the low temperatures of winter and cool air to counter the hot temperatures of summer.

Two components of the HVAC system are responsible for this: the AC and the Furnace. The AC generates cool air via the work of the compressor, which pressurizes the refrigerant. The condenser releases the refrigerant, and as it moves through, it absorbs the surrounding air, cooling the surrounding air in the process. The cooled air is then transferred into your building while hot air is simultaneously withdrawn and sent outside.

white AC condenser units

Eventually, you get warm or cool air, which keeps your environment conducive depending on your needs.

What Are the Components of an HVAC System?

Multiple components come together to make a complete HVAC system that provides the all-year-round comfort you enjoy at home and in your workplace. Some of the components of an HVAC system include:

Air Conditioner Heat PumpAir HandlerDuctworkFurnaceThermostatEtc

1. Air Conditioner

An Air Conditioner uses a cold indoor coil (an evaporator) to supply cool air to your home while simultaneously removing heat through a condenser. Air conditioners regulate temperature, maintain humidity, and purify indoor air, thus providing comfort and bolstering healthy living.

There are different types of ACs depending on your needs and the size of your home/commercial building. These include:

Window Air Conditioners: 

These are effective for small rooms as they typically fit into windows. They are cost-effective and require fewer home modifications to get them up and running.

Portable Air Conditioners:

As the name suggests, portable Air Conditioners are moderately sized and can be taken from one room to another. They are cost-friendly and can serve small apartments or single rooms. 

Split systems: 

These consist of two units- the inner and outer parts, connected by pipes and electric cable. Split AC units are commonly found in modern homes and can cool several rooms/parts of the home by connecting multiple indoor units to the same outer unit.

Ducted or Central Air Conditioners:

They are highly efficient units capable of cooling multiple rooms or an entire home/workplace uniformly. Ducted ACs send cool air inside via ducts and are ideal for homes and commercial areas with many rooms.

Other kinds of ACs include Spot Coolers, Hybrid ACs, Swamp Cooler, Ductless, etc. If you're looking to purchase a new Air Conditioner and aren't quite sure which category will be ideal for your space, reach out to us at RNX, and we can offer guidance on selecting the best unit that fits your needs.

2. Heat Pump

A heat pump transfers heat from one area to another through mechanical energy. Heat pumps can heat and cool a building as they can reverse the flow of heat depending on your immediate need. Compared to an AC, heat pumps tend to be more efficient as they consume less electrical energy.

The three main types of heat pumps are:

a. Air-to-air - exchanges heat between the outside air and your home to keep you comfortable indoors.

b. Water source - exchanges heat between a nearby water source and your home to provide comfort indoors.

c. Geothermal - exchanges heat between the ground and your home to maintain a comfortable atmosphere.

3. Furnace

A Furnace supplies controllable heat to a building by burning a fuel source, such as natural gas or propane. The heated air from fuel combustion is distributed via ducts to the entire home or office to create a comfortable atmosphere.

A Furnace is a vital part of an HVAC system, especially during winter when the temperatures drop low. Homeowners and businesses need to keep their environments conducive all year round. So during winter, when you need warm air, the furnace within your HVAC unit kickstarts

The main types of furnaces are:

a. Natural gas furnaces - they run on natural gas and are the most commonly used furnaces. 

b. Oil furnaces - mostly found in the northeastern United States, oil furnaces are cheaper than natural gas types and also less efficient.

c. Electric furnaces - these are the cheapest options available, but the running cost can be higher than other options due to the cost of electricity. In the long run, you may incur more costs using an electric furnace to warm your home or office.

d. Propane - neighborhoods where oil and gas aren't easily accessible can rely on propane to warm their homes. Propane can be stored and used over time, helping homeowners maintain a conducive atmosphere in the absence of oil and gas.

4. Air Handler

An air handler essentially regulates and circulates the warm or cool air in the HVAC unit. The air is then distributed throughout the residential or commercial building, helping to maintain comfort.

5. Ductwork

This refers to the system of pipes (known as ducts) conveying warm or cool air from the HVAC system into or out of your home. Ductwork helps to ensure effective ventilation within the HVAC system, thus enhancing its performance.

6. Thermostat

Without a thermostat, the HVAC system will supply uncontrollable amounts of warm or cool air, eventually making the building uncomfortable. Thermostats monitor and automatically adjust your HVAC system to maintain a conducive atmospheric temperature.

You may not require a complete HVAC system, depending on your location and home or office needs. Some buildings require only a part of the system to maintain comfort, such as an AC unit or a furnace.

In that case, purchasing a complete HVAC system may count as a waste of money since some of these components can be used independently.

we're air conditioned for your comfort sticker

Also, maintaining a complete HVAC can be costlier than a single AC unit, for example. As a result, you want to be sure it's a worthwhile investment before considering purchasing the complete heating and cooling system.

Why HVACs Are Important?

Everyone knows the impact of comfort and convenience on our health and daily productivity. Without comfort, enjoying the company of our loved ones becomes difficult, and staying productive feels nigh on impossible.

Even for businesses, employees and customers will unarguably feel at ease and happier staying in a conducive environment. This can increase the chance of retaining customers and pave the way for workers to perform optimally.

HVAC Systems help us break the barriers that nature puts before us in the form of harsh weather conditions. So even in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, you can continue getting comforting air at home and work, fostering a happier, healthier, and more productive life.

Interested in upgrading an old HVAC or purchasing a new one? Let RNX take care of it. From installation to routine maintenance, we have all the resources and expertise to keep your abode and office conducive and refreshing round-the-clock. We can assess your home or business space and recommend budget-friendly and efficient HVAC systems that fit your needs like a glove.

Have any questions or concerns about HVACs? We're at your service!

Contact us today at or call 760-347-8033.