You've reached for the thermostat a thousand times on cold winter days. But do you know how your heating system actually works? The world of HVAC can be a complex one, but the central and most critical component of heating is the furnace.
The Different Types of Furnaces
The first thing to know about furnaces us that there are four main types:
- Natural gas
There are pros and cons to each heating method, including price, efficiency, lifespan, and availability. The type of furnace in your house is often dependent on where you live. For example, oil furnaces are common in the northeast but rare outside of it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately half of the country's households use natural gas furnaces. The second most common type is electric. Gas furnaces are the type that will be talked about in this article.
How a Furnace Works
The heating cycle begins when you turn on your furnace. This is usually accomplished through the thermostat: It will compare its set temperature to the detected temperature of your home, and if there's a discrepancy, it will send a call to action to your furnace. There are several ways that furnaces can ignite, including a pilot light, direct ignition spark, and hot surface ignition. Pilot lights are the standard in older furnaces, but a hot surface ignition is more common in modern HVAC systems. After it sparks to life, your furnace will need to generate and transfer heat. In older models, the heat simply drifts from the burners to the heat exchanger. In modern models, it gets pushed to the heat exchanger by something called a venter motor. Meanwhile, a valve in your furnace will continue to feed gas to your burners like fuel. Once the air in your furnace has been sufficiently warmed, it gets blown through the ducts or ductwork of your house. Excess heat gets safely vented through another part of the furnace. Your thermostat will continue to test your home's temperature until its desired setting is achieved. Then, it will initiate a shutdown sequence until the next call to action is triggered. This is the basic operating system of a furnace. However, there are other parts in play as well.
Basic Furnace Parts to Know
You don't need a technician's level of expertise to learn the basic components of a furnace. The most recognizable part of a furnace is its heat exchanger. Depending on the unit that you have, your heat exchanger might consist of tubes or coils, and they'll be made of stainless steel, titanium, brass, or carbon. Other alloys are possible, but they're rarer. The next thing to identify is the furnace's ignition system. If you have a pilot light, this part is easy; it's the little flame that's always burning. If you have a hot surface ignition, however, it will look like a plain white fork. If you have a direct ignition spark, it will be a bent metal hook at the end of a long cable. Your blower motor will be easy to spot. It's essentially a fan, and it looks the part, consisting of a large metal circle with air vents on one side and wires coming out of the other. The last thing that you'll want to find is the furnace filter. Checking and replacing the filters is a necessary part of furnace maintenance, so it's best to get familiar with what they look like and where they're located on your unit. You're welcome to study your furnace further. You can learn a lot about its operations by studying individual parts and how they function together within the unit. Other important parts of a furnace include the gas valves, flame sensors, and pressure switches. However, if you're just looking for the need-to-know basics of furnace parts, the ones listed above should be enough to give you a baseline.
The Importance of a Working Furnace
<h2>The Importance of a Working Furnace</h2> Your furnace is the centerpiece of your heating system. It's where the magic happens. All elements of your heating system, including the generation and ventilation of hot air, happen within the complex internal structures of your furnace. You can think of your furnace as the beating heart of your home's circulatory system. Problems with your furnace usually result in issues with your entire heating system. For example, a flickering pilot light might not ignite on command, making you think that your entire furnace is broken. A frayed blower belt can impact the efficiency of furnace fans and its circulation of warm air. A dirty filter can impact both the quality and quantity of the air being vented through your residence, putting greater demands on your HVAC system as you crank up the heat higher and higher. Some furnace problems are more dangerous than others. For example, while a clogged filter is usually only a minor annoyance, a cracked heat exchanger can be a serious safety hazard. The gases being moved through it, including carbon monoxide, can leak into your home.
Tips for Maintaining Your furnace
If you want to enjoy a warm, toasty home this winter, you'll need to keep an eye on your furnace. As previously mentioned, it's the beating heart of your entire HVAC system. Here are just a few things that you can do to keep your furnace running at maximum efficiency:
- Replacing the filters regularly
- Cleaning and dusting the vents
- Checking for any cracked, frayed, or loose parts
- Recalibrating your thermostat at the start of the season
- Lubricating the blower motor
If you aren't sure how to maintain your furnace, you can call in technicians to help. Furnace maintenance is a task that you can outsource just like furnace installation and repair.
Why Furnaces Should Matter to Homeowners
There are many reasons to care about your furnace. You don't have to be a handyman. In fact, unless you have the skills necessary to mess around with gases and flames, you should leave furnace repair to the professionals. At the same time, however, it pays to know the basics of furnaces and how they work. For starters, an understanding of their construction will help you identify and diagnose problems when they occur, allowing for quick fixes from HVAC specialists. Knowing about furnace upkeep will also allow you to coax the best performance out of your unit and extend the longevity of your overall heating system. If you ever need to buy a new furnace, you'll have the knowledge to do that, too. Another benefit of understanding furnaces is being able to choose HVAC companies that truly know their field. You'll recognize best practices when you see them, so you'll reap the benefits of better service.
Staying Warm This Winter
Your furnace is one of the most important parts of your HVAC system, so it's worth the effort of familiarizing yourself with its parts and keeping an eye on its performance. If you ever need help with furnace maintenance, repair, or installation, contact [company_name] in Virginia Beach.