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Want to Understand Your HVAC Contractor? Learn These Basic HVAC Terms.

Furnace – You’re probably familiar with this term as the vast majority of Pierce County households depend on furnaces to provide heat. The word “furnace” comes from Latin “oven or kiln,” and it means to heat or warm. There are a few types of furnaces, including gas furnaces, electric furnaces, propane furnaces, and oil furnaces. Furnaces can also vary in terms of efficiencies, such as 80% gas furnace or 95% gas furnace. Hopefully that’s pretty straightforward. Furnaces are typically the largest part of the HVAC system and are usually located in the basement or garage, but can also be in an attic, crawl space, or closet. Furnaces moves hot air into the ductwork and warms the space.

Heat Exchanger – It is a system of repeatedly looped coils or tubes inside the furnace. The heat exchanger’s function is to heat up the air from the combustion chamber by running the air through the looped tubes or coils. It’s essential for your heat exchanger to be in a good working condition so that the air you breathe is safe from carbon monoxide.

Evaporator Coil – This is a part of an air conditioner or heat pump. It’s one of the two main components of your cooling system. It runs refrigerant through a series of pipes looping back and forth and absorbs heat from the air and makes it cool. After that, the cool air is blown into the ducts. If the coil isn’t properly taken care of, the refrigerant can leak and damage the coil. That’s why it’s important to have regular maintenance because fixing a small leak is less expensive than replacing an entire coil.

Condensing Unit – Similar to the evaporator coil – it raises the pressure of your condenser. That’s what makes the most noise in the unit. It’s located in your outdoor HVAC unit. It has a heat exchange section that cools down and condenses incoming refrigerant vapor.  It works like an evaporator coil, but instead of producing cool air – it gives off heat.

Refrigerant Lines– As it sounds, refrigerant lines contains refrigerant. These u-shaped lines are made of metal and are set into panels to make the evaporator coil. They connect the condenser coil to the evaporator coil for both indoor and outdoor HVAC units.  Proper maintenance ensures these lines don’t leak and continue to do their job.

Thermostat – You’re probably familiar with this terms, so you know it controls the temperature of the room. It’s a small box located on the wall. There are different types of thermostats, including “smart” thermostats where you can automatically program the desired temperature of your room. 

Ducts and Ductwork – These are the large tubes that distribute cool air and warm heat into your home. Although most homes have ductwork, some new additions don’t.  In that case, ductless heat pumps would be a great alternative.

Vents – These are the rectangular plates that go over the ductwork opening and facilitate air moving in and out of the ductwork. Vents come in all shapes, sizes, and finishes.

Heat Pump – This is an air conditioner and heater in one. For Washington State, heat pumps are an energy efficient option to regular AC units and/or less efficient heating units, such as electric furnaces.

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