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Heating And Cooling System Basics

Heating And Cooling System Basics | Lexity

These Are The Basics of Heating And Cooling System

We sure have plenty of devices to keep us comfortable during the hot summers and chilly winters.

When the temperature soars, we rely on air conditioning systems to get through the day and turn up the heat whenever the temperature takes a sharp dip. And understandably, we’ve seen many homeowners panicking when the air conditioner malfunctions and observed them equally frustrated when the heating conks on an unfortunate winter night. 

The first instinct is to call a professional to get the matter fixed, but that need not be the first action plan. Many homeowners may not know that, but maintaining and repairing minor issues in heating and cooling systems is easy if you know what to do.

This is why we’ve brought together this basic guide to help you understand all the essential aspects of these systems-



Functioning Of Heating And Cooling Systems


Before attempting to repair the systems, getting a general idea about how they work can help drastically. Climate-control devices consist of three components that are more or less the same in all devices-


  • A source that cools or warms the air
  • A component that distributes cool/hot air 
  • A thermostat that controls temperature


You’ll find that whether it is hot or cool air, the method of distributing and controlling the air temperature is pretty much the same. In the case of central cooling systems, the cold air flows through the same ducts that emit heated air to any given room. 

As a heating and cooling system owner, you should know that any problem in the system means that any one of these three components is damaged. Also, these units use fuel or electricity, wherein electricity is the more common source of energy for air conditioners. Electricity powers the heat pump which is responsible for temperature regulation.

Once you turn on the AC, electricity is used to cool the air and circulate it in the room. The gas present in the system gets transformed into a liquid. Essentially, the warm air comes in contact with the cooling coil producing cool air, which is delivered via ducts to the house. 

As far as heating systems are concerned, they run on gas or fuel, which is used up once the furnace is switched on. In heat-producing systems, fuels burn to produce hot air, which is circulated through ducts, and pipes and released in rooms via heating panels or radiators.


Heating And Cooling Distribution Systems


Now that you have a fair idea about the ways in which climate-control devices work let’s get into the details of distribution systems. After the air is processed and becomes cool/hot (depending on the purpose), it needs a specific pipeline to distribute it around the house. 

There are three systems that can explain this process effectively- 

  • Gravity systems
  • Forced-air systems
  • Radiant systems


1. Gravity Systems

According to natural laws, hot air always rises while cool air tends to sink beneath the hotter air. This rule forms the basis of gravity systems that put out hotter air into the room through ducts. You must note that since this system relies on hot air released from a furnace located on the floor, it is not possible to distribute cool air.

This is why the furnace has to be placed near the floor and the ducts at a higher level so that the hot air can rise. After the air cools, it will automatically sink to the bottom and will go through the furnace to be reheated again.


2. Forced-Air Systems

While the gravity systems do not need extra power to push the air into the house, forced-air systems are the opposite of that. When the cool/hot air is prepared by the air conditioner or furnace, a blower (fan) powered by electricity pushes the air through the ducts to reach you. 

With heaters, there is a system that allows the cooler air to pass through a separate set of ducts. This cold air gets warmed by the furnace, and the cycle repeats. The good thing about this system is that it can be adjusted as per your needs by increasing or decreasing the amount of airflow. 

Issues with this system arise when the blower or fan malfunctions. If the blower becomes noisy or does not work correctly, it uses up a lot of fuel. 


3. Radiant Systems

Radiant systems differ from the other types because they do not release air through ducts to warm or cool a room. Instead, it warms the floors, walls and ceilings through electric heating panels installed within the floors. In fact, these panels are built into the foundation while the house is under construction. 

Also, this system cannot be used to cool a room, so you can only use it for heating.


Heating And Cooling Systems Controls

Climate-control systems are regulated by thermostats which are heat-sensitive switches. The device can see the current temperature of the room and sends signals to the air conditioner or furnace to switch on as required. As the temperature fluctuates in the house, a bimetallic strip in the thermostat expands or contracts. 

This strip is usually coiled in newer models and uncoils as the temperature reduces. This action separates a steel bar component from the magnet, which switches on the heater. When heat is restored in the room, it coils up again, leading to a series of events that turn off the heater until the room is cool again. 

The latest models use solid-state electronics, which are much more responsive than their predecessors.


Final Words 


Ultimately, better know-how of your heating and cooling systems can equip you to handle smaller issues. If you can handle the situation while it’s minor, you can save the unit from further damage. 

However, if you have tried your hand at fixing the climate-control systems and have not achieved success, try reaching out to a professional plumber/electrician. After all, if the matter is severe, your basic knowledge might not be enough, and an expert opinion may be required.


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