What is an HVAC System: How It Affects Home Air Quality

What is an HVAC System: How It Affects Home Air Quality

If you're a homeowner, there's a good chance you have an air conditioning system. HVAC systems and equipment are nearly universal in the housing market due to their helpful ability to regulate the indoor temperature of an entire building.

Due to its overwhelming presence, the indoor unit heating and cooling industry is booming in our society. With an estimated multi-billion dollar value, HVAC systems are everywhere- but the average homeowner might not know the first thing about theirs!

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know to get the most out of your HVAC system, from average energy costs to essential terms of the HVAC operation. Read on to help your home stay in thermal comfort against the harsh elements.


What is an HVAC?

HVAC is shorthand for "heating, ventilation, and air conditioning," referring to the various equipment that regulates, generates, and moves heated or cooled air.

However, an HVAC system is not concerned with simply regulating air temperature. An HVAC system will also use an air filter to remove pollen and harmful pollutants. 

An HVAC system's health benefits do not begin or end with a clean air supply. An HVAC system helps maintain a steady humidity level to help keep you healthy and your belongings safe from water damage.

Some homeowners, and even some contractors, may be unable to distinguish between AC and HVAC systems. Ultimately, the difference is very slim but vital.

An AC system is concerned only with cooling your air. In contrast, an HVAC system is a whole air treatment mechanism that includes heating, mechanical ventilation, cleaning, and maintaining cold temperatures.

Any full-course HVAC system will also include an AC system. Ultimately, you can think of it in simple terms. An HVAC system includes AC, but an AC system does not contain a full HVAC.

Home HVAC System

How Does HVAC work?

HVAC systems may be magnificent pieces of technology, but they're not magic. While the inner mechanisms of an HVAC system are complex and may need professional help if damaged, the way an HVAC system works is remarkably simple.

HVAC systems utilize a heater or refrigerant for heating and cooling air. However, some HVAC systems may differ in their design process. Most commonly, HVAC systems use a large fan to circulate air in a hot or cold temperature throughout your house via air ducts. The vents you see in your ceiling walls are the output of your AC or HVAC system.

Larger buildings may utilize a system of ducts, occasionally with extra fans, to help pump treated air to more isolated sections of the building.

However, some homes feature more distinct sections. This separation is particularly notable in older homes. In these cases, you may have a radiant heater or window-mounted AC unit separate from your HVAC system.


Why HVAC Systems Are Important

Why is having an HVAC system so vital to any building structure in our society? It's simple. HVAC systems help you maintain a comfortable environment in any home or business for a low cost. 

It would be best to keep your HVAC system working in top order, but these systems are not perfect. Occasionally, you may face an issue. According to Consumer Reports, 20% of Americans needed to repair or replace their HVAC systems within the last twelve months. However, many found the task overwhelming.

Let's look at some worst-case scenarios when you don't have an HVAC system or when it breaks down.

  • If your heater or AC breaks, you may lose your cold or heat source air during extreme temperatures, when they would be the most useful. Subsequently, you may experience health issues such as heat stroke or hypothermia.
  • If your HVAC system is malfunctioning, it can cause damage to any building it is a part of. 
  • A malfunctioning HVAC system may spark or overheat your home or business, potentially causing severe damage.
  • A functioning yet poorly-maintained HVAC system may have financial penalties. If an HVAC system is not operating at full capacity, it causes extra energy costs to reach your desired temperatures. Therefore, a poorly-maintained HVAC system may raise the price of your power bill.

Ultimately, HVAC systems are vital parts of any building. However, maintaining your HVAC systems is just as critical, even if it sometimes feels overwhelming to control. 

Types of HVAC Systems

Central Heating And Cooling System

A central heating and cooling system is a trusted method to control heat and cooling for homes and businesses with large spaces. The system will create hot water via a boiler and circulate it via radiators to the interior's heating unit and invert the process when hot weather demands cooling to interiors.


Air Conditioning Summer



Split systems are similar to central systems but are more common in smaller homes due to the lower energy required. While a central system features a single unit, split systems utilize separate air conditioning systems and heating units, which may be the air conditioners and furnaces you are most familiar with. One unit heats while the other cools.

Ductless Heat Pumps

A ductless heat pump is an efficient HVAC system that transfers cooling or heat from one location to another without requiring ductwork. Many ductless HVAC systems are retrofitted additions to home split systems without ducts due to their low price and efficiency.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Certain locations may benefit from geothermal heat pumps rather than traditional heating and cooling methods. Geothermal heat pumps are like ductless systems in that they transfer temperature from one location to another, but geothermal heat pumps take temperatures from the earth.

Temperatures up to six feet underground vary between 45 and 75 degrees, making geothermal heat pumps an outstanding option for maintaining a comfortable temperature.

Heat Recovery Ventilation

Heat recovery ventilation, also known as HRV, is a ventilation system that dumps stale, recycled air outside and draws in a new and fresh flow of air from outside. With central systems, HRVs can prevent large commercial buildings from filling with stale air.

Two-Way Ventilation System


There are many different furnaces available, but ultimately, they have one purpose; a furnace serves to heat all or part of your home. Oil furnaces use fuel to generate heat, but gas furnaces utilize hot exhaust gasses to draw in and heat air. 

A gas furnace utilizes heat exchangers, which will force hot gasses into your vents at a certain point. As the gas enters your vent system, it heats any associated rooms.

Furnaces for Heating a Hut


Packaged System

A packaged system is a compact and convenient HVAC system ideal for people living in areas with widely-fluctuating seasonal temperatures or buildings with limited space for a full-sized furnace or boiler.

In a packaged system, a singular metal compartment houses all aspects of the HVAC system to save indoor space.


How HVAC System Affects Home's Indoor Air Quality

Most people live in homes with restricted indoor air quality, breathing in stale and recycled air. Have you ever wondered why many people like going outside to get fresh air?

This poor ventilation is most common in older homes without ductwork or outdated HVAC units. People in these homes may breathe in dangerous allergens such as pollen, pet and animal dander, live and dead dust mites, or moisture spores.

These allergens can cause serious health issues, from asthma attacks to sinus infections or colds. An HVAC system with proper ventilation helps reduce these issues, but older design systems may trade them off for other concerns because of toxic chemicals in their systems. However, newer designs can help eliminate these issues. Here's how they do it.

Eliminates Odors and Pollutants

Odd odors in your home can put you off entirely, and general pollutants like carbon dioxide- whether from outdoors or from burnt items in the kitchen- can cause health issues.

While kitchen fans often operate 100% separately from HVAC units, an HVAC can make your kitchen operations far healthier. An HVAC unit filters air and brings in fresh air from outside, keeping you healthy and reducing allergens or asthma triggers while eliminating those nasty smells that penetrate your home.

Keeps Pests Out

It seems like everybody has had pests in their attic at some point. Thankfully, HVAC systems can help keep these pesky animals out of your home.

A functioning ductwork system can help keep insects and rodents away. However, a poorly-maintained system can result in holes or tears that allow these pests in. Ensure you are maintaining your HVAC system properly to keep these potentially disease-carrying and damage-causing pests from penetrating indoors.

Regulates Indoor Humidity

Humidity can be problematic for the airflow of an indoor environment. Aside from ruining your hair, it can make you sweaty and uncomfortable while damaging your belongings or promoting mold and bacteria growth.

HVAC systems keep the humidity control of an entire space and help regulate excessive moisture levels in your air, reducing the risk of mold propagation and keeping you more comfortable in your own home.

Provides Adequate Ventilation

If you have some fans in your home, standing or ceiling, you may have adequate airflow. However, this air can still get stale, even if the movement helps cool you down.

Newer homes feature seals to enhance energy efficiency ratings and lower energy bills. Still, this same seal can reduce the rate at which stale air leaves your residence and fresh air enters, thus increasing levels of pollutants and moisture.

A properly-maintained HVAC system offers full ventilation features, providing fresh airflow and reducing moisture in your air. This moving air helps eliminate allergens, diminish humidity, and increase the air quality in any building. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a forced air furnace and a natural gas furnace?

Forced-air systems utilize a fan to push air through heated coils, while a natural gas furnace uses an active flame to burn fuel, directly creating a heating process.

Why should I replace my old furnace?

Periodically replacing your old furnace can be a significant benefit to your home. If your furnace is particularly old, it may contain toxic chemicals that can cause health issues.

Alternatively, replacing your old furnace with a newer model can help your home's energy efficiency and save money.


What happens if I don't properly maintain my HVAC system?

If you don't properly maintain your HVAC system, it will begin to malfunction or otherwise fail. Thankfully, you will notice some issues before your HVAC system shuts itself down.

First, your furnace may run more often than usual, and your air conditioners will seem to falter. If left unattended, your HVAC devices may shut down entirely. Your system may not be repairable, depending on the damage.

How do I know if my system is right for me?

If you have purchased a building with an included HVAC system, your system may perform higher or lower than your standards dictate. As you learn more about your HVAC system, its performance and parts become more evident.

How do I save on a new Trane system?

Trane is a trusted name in HVAC systems. Ask your local dealership about financing, tax credits, and special promotions to help you save money on your new Trane system.

What are the benefits of ductwork?

A properly maintained and well-designed ductwork system can help your home's energy efficiency, improving air quality and maintaining a constant energy-efficient temperature while saving money.

What are the costs?

Several factors may influence how much your new HVAC system will cost. These factors are mainly building size, system efficiency, and amount of ductwork.

Typically, a total replacement of your HVAC system, including ductwork, will run you over $12,350. However, replacing your HVAC system can cost as little as $4,000.

What are the Efficiency Numbers?

Efficiency numbers are various ratings of an equipment's efficiency or how much it can convert its fuel into heating or cooled air. For example, reputable brands such as Goodman and Bryant boast ratings between 95% and 98%, meaning that a Goodman furnace can convert 98% of its energy into heat.

What is the HSPF-A?

The HSPF-A, or "Heating Seasonal Performance Factor," is an energy efficiency rating for heat pumps. The HSPF-A measures how effective a pump is at heating a home.

What is the ENERGY STAR designation?

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed designation that helps identify the most energy-efficient appliances for a consumer's home or business.

A product with an ENERGY STAR designation has met the Environmental Protection Agency's strict performance standards and can help you be in thermal comfort for a low price.

What is a Furnace?

A furnace is a part of your HVAC system that consumes fuel to generate power and heat. The furnace and HVAC system then utilize your vents to distribute the heated air throughout your building.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is an alternative heat source to furnaces. Heat pumps will transfer heat from another location to your home. Ground source and ductless are the two types of heat pumps. Ductless heat pumps will transfer heat from another location, while ground source pumps will heat your home with the earth's temperature.

What is an Air Handler?

An air handler is a vital part of an HVAC system that helps regulate and transport air for cooling or heating throughout a building. Typically, air handlers work in tandem with an air conditioning unit or a heater to transport air at a controlled temperature.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there is plenty of information out there about HVAC systems. This article is only a starter, and there is plenty more knowledge that you may want to learn.

For now, you might want to leave your HVAC maintenance to the experts. For any questions about your HVAC system, contact us today!