What Does HVAC Stand For?
We use the term HVAC as though you already know what we're talking about, but you may still have questions. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. In other words, your HVAC system heats and cools your home.
Components of an HVAC System
Under the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning umbrella are three interrelated components that work in harmony to keep your home comfortable during extreme temperatures.
- Heating: Whether it is a furnace, gravity system, or radiant heating system, the way you heat your home uses the most energy in an HVAC system. It also usually takes up the most space in your home. Your heater may be tucked away in a utility closet, or your wood-burning stove may be consuming a large part of your basement.
- Air Conditioning: Even though the "AC" in HVAC stands for air conditioning, this is an all-encompassing term for how you cool your home. Evaporative coolers, heat pumps, attic fans, and air conditioners can all effectively cool a home.
- Ventilation: To transfer the hot air from the furnace or the cold air from the air conditioner to the rest of your house, your home is equipped with a series of ducts and vents. Together, this makes up the ventilation system. Why both ducts and vents? Because it is not enough for air to travel one way through the home, vents must direct airflow back into the heating and cooling appliances so they can work properly. Too few ducts and there will be hot or cold spots in your home. Too few vents and your air conditioner or heater will either operate inefficiently or break altogether.
While these three components make up the majority of HVAC systems, there are optional features that may exist in some systems.
- Whole-house humidifier: Whole house humidifiers are not as common in Maryland as they are in other parts of the country, but some homes may come equipped with them. These machines are designed to maintain comfortable levels of humidity in the home during the winter.
- Whole-house air purifier: Designed to scrub the air in your home effectively, whole-house air purifiers decrease allergen levels to make your home more comfortable for family members with asthma or allergies.
Why Do I Need HVAC Maintenance?
You wouldn’t dream of driving your car for 100,000 miles without having the oil changed, and the tires rotated. Why would you consider letting your HVAC system run without periodic maintenance? Every year millions of homes go without simple HVAC maintenance because they don’t understand why they need it.
Think of your furnace, air conditioner, and ventilation system like individual machines, each with a different set of maintenance needs.
Your furnace needs annual maintenance not only to maximize its lifespan but to keep it running efficiently. Forced air models should have the filters changed, the unit inspected, and the moving parts thoroughly cleaned by a trained HVAC technician. Oil furnaces need to be cleaned annually to avoid dangerous carbon build-up. Radiant heating systems should be examined for leaks, filter problems, or electrical issues.
Your air conditioner should be cleaned, inspected, and have the filter changed before it is turned on in the summer. Dust, dirt, and debris around your air conditioner can impact both its efficiency and its lifespan. Swamp coolers must be inspected before they are hooked up for the year. Attic fans should be cleaned and inspected to limit accidental fires where you cannot readily see them.
Even your ventilation needs annual attention. Having the ducts cleaned can dramatically improve airflow and the level of dust and allergens in your home.
Best of all, regular maintenance can help you address problems with your HVAC system before they become emergencies. In fact, most problems discovered during routine maintenance are less costly to repair than problems down the road.
What Is Wrong With My HVAC Unit?
Diagnosing a problem with an HVAC unit is a hands-on experience. Until a certified HVAC technician can examine the system for leaks, broken parts, electrical problems, or other issues, it is impossible to tell what is wrong with an HVAC unit.
However, most problems come back to three factors:
- Airflow: If air cannot flow into your appliance or out of your appliance, chances are you will be left sweating in the summer and freezing in the winter.
- Electricity: Even if your furnace operates on gas, you still need electricity for it to work. Burned out fuses or old wiring prevent electricity from reaching the places it needs to go.
- Mechanical Problems: As much as your heater and cooler look like a big box, there are several mechanical components inside that must work to effectively heat or cool your home. Should a motor go out, a blower break, or a belt split, your HVAC system will stop working.
- Age: Farnen & Dermer exclusively install American Standard and York HVAC system components. However, we repair every brand and type of furnace and cooling appliance on the market. That’s not to say that your 30-year-old heater should be repaired rather than replaced. In some cases, the age of your unit will determine whether it is more fiscally sound to repair it or replace it.
How Do I Choose Between HVAC Repair & HVAC Replacement?
At Farnen & Dermer, our highly trained, certified HVAC technicians can replace any brand of HVAC appliance you can throw at us. We use our knowledge and skills to repair your system quickly and efficiently so you can be up and running in no time.
We also exclusively install York and American Standard systems for their quality and durability. We love that American Standard and York use premium grade materials for all of their components and stand behind their systems with warranties that lead the industry.
How Do You Choose Whether to Repair Your System or Replace it Altogether?
It depends on many factors:
- The problem keeping your system from functioning the way it should. Is it broken altogether or does it simply not work as efficiently as it should?
- The age of the system. A 30-year-old furnace or air conditioner will not have the same safety and efficiency guidelines governing its function that a new model will.
- The cost of repairs. With manufacturer and utility rebates available and savings in energy costs on top of our financing options, owning a new HVAC system may be less expensive in the long run than repairing your existing one.
Fortunately, the certified HVAC technicians at Farnen & Dermer can guide you through the repair or replacement conundrum. Not only will we give you a no-surprises bid for repairs, but we will also offer you the best, most efficient replacement options on the market. Armed with this information, you can make an educated decision based on your needs and your budget.
What Should I Consider When Replacing My HVAC System?
First, consider how efficient you want your entire system to be. You may not be able to remove your 30-year-old furnace and install a 90 percent efficient model without also redesigning some of your ductwork and vents to maximize your appliance’s efficiency. The same can be said about your air conditioner. If you want to maximize your efficiency and minimize your energy cost and consumption, be prepared for the possibility of moving some ducts around or installing a new return vent.
Second, how old are each of the components in your system? If your furnace could have danced in the disco era, but your air conditioner was installed last year, you will likely only need to replace your furnace. However, if both of your appliances had a Flock of Seagulls haircut, you may be wise to replace both at the same time. Not only does this minimize dust and disruption in your house, replacing both may even save you labor costs by replacing them one at a time.
Finally, consider the warranty for your particular product. Both American Standard and York offer limited warranties that exceed the industry standard, but even within both of these product lines, there is variability. Depending on the model, your HVAC system may be eligible for a 5-year warranty up to a lifetime warranty. You may spend more out of pocket upfront, but your furnace or air conditioner may have its internal parts covered under warranty for a lifetime, saving you money in the long run.
What is a certified HVAC technician? And does it matter if I have a certified HVAC technician work on my system?
Make no mistake; there is a difference between an HVAC repair person and a certified HVAC technician. Anyone can claim to know how to repair an HVAC system, but a licensed, certified professional has a set of knowledge, skills, and training that have been verified by the Maryland Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air Condition, and Refrigeration Contractors.
To become an HVAC technician, a person must complete either a certification class or apprenticeship where they are trained in all aspects of HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance. They must be comfortable with plumbing, wiring, and piping as well as have a strong diagnostic ability to troubleshoot a malfunctioning system. Regardless of where or how they were trained, certified HVAC technicians in Maryland must also pass a licensure exam, and that must remain current with the state governing body.
When it comes to Home HVAC repair, you can rest assured that a certified HVAC technician knows what they are doing.
As if the peace of mind weren’t enough, many HVAC systems have a clause in their warranty that voids the warranty should anyone but a certified tech work on your appliance. This includes handymen, so-called HVAC repair people, and DIYers.
There Are a Lot of HVAC Companies Out There. How Do I Choose One?
There are several things you want to look for in your HVAC service company.
You want to find a company with longevity. There are a lot of great service companies out there, but few have been in business as long as we have. Since 1902 we have been meeting the heating and cooling needs of the Baltimore area with the highest levels of customer satisfaction possible. We believe it is our customers who keep us in business and we strive to make sure you are delighted with your service, repair, or replacement.
Look for a local company. National repair and replacement chains serve a purpose, but investing your dollar in a locally-owned company pays enormous dividends. Not only do you flood the local economy with jobs and income, but we also live where we work. You are our family, friends, and neighbors. We want you to be comfortable with our products, our services, and your experience.
Choose a company with no-surprise pricing. HVAC companies are notorious for tacking on service fees, diagnostic charges, and emergency repair fees. We believe life should be more straightforward. What we quote you is what you will pay. Period. No surprise fees, nothing added at the last minute.
Experience matters. Only allow a company that uses certified HVAC technicians to work on your system. Your repairs will be done right the first time if you put your HVAC needs in the hands of true professionals. Farnen & Dermer only work with experienced certified HVAC techs.
For more information on how Farnen & Dermer can meet your Owings Mills HVAC needs and exceed your expectations, contact us today for a free estimate.