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How Does an HVAC System Work?

Feb 08, 2022

A house with a HVAC system in the middle of a neighborhood in a suburb with a long driveway.


While you may know what your heating and cooling systems do for your home and even might have a basic understanding of how the equipment operates, few homeowners are crystal clear about how their HVAC system works. If you’ve found yourself bewildered by the equipment keeping your home temperatures regulated, wondering how does an HVAC system work, then you’re not alone.


We’re going to investigate what is a HVAC system and how does it work to help give you more knowledge and control over the operations of your home. If you have questions like, “what is the function of the HVAC system?” then read on to learn everything you need to know.

What is a HVAC System and How Does it Work

If you don’t already know, HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. It’s a simple acronym to describe the complex system that keeps your home temperatures and air regulated. You may have an air conditioner, furnace, boiler, split system, hybrid system, or another type of system, all of which fall under the category of HVAC.


An HVAC system includes all the equipment and technology used in your home to heat, cool, and ventilate your space. It includes the machinery itself as well as the ductwork, ventilation lines, filters, thermostats, and more. Here’s a quick breakdown for more clarity:

Heating Equipment

Typically, residential homes have a furnace for heating the home during the colder weather. These can be fueled in various ways, including with natural gas, electricity, propane, oil, or even geothermal fuel. Natural gas furnaces are the most common type for residential homes while electric furnaces are increasing in popularity, especially in areas with mild winters.


Your home’s heating system often includes a blower to propel air throughout the home, distributing warmth to all of the rooms. A forced-air HVAC system is most common in residential homes today. This system uses ductwork, blowing air throughout the home and out of vents.

Cooling Equipment

While the heating section of your unit takes care of your home in the winter, the cooling section keeps things comfortable in the summer. Most homes have an air conditioner of some type that runs off electricity. Most modern homes have a central air conditioner relying on a forced-air system to keep the home temperatures comfortable. Older homes without ducts may have individual units in the various rooms to keep things cool.


Heat pumps are another way of keeping your home cool in the summer or hot in the winter. In many cases, a heat pump is paired with an electric furnace to help supplement the heat. Most residential homes with an air conditioner are paired with a gas furnace.

Ventilation Equipment

The ventilation equipment on your HVAC system includes anything that helps move the air through your system and home. This includes any ductwork, vents (on the floor, ceiling, or walls), ventilation shafts like chimneys, or outdoor HVAC unit PVC ventilation. Different homes have different ventilation equipment. You can even get natural ventilation by opening windows and doors.


Modern homes often include ductwork and vents. This is popular with central air conditioners and heaters. The air conditioner and furnace regulate air temperature and then blow that through your home. It’s important to keep your filters clean to make this process as efficient and effective as possible.


A ductless HVAC system won’t have any ductwork. Instead, there are usually indoor and outdoor units that tend to be much smaller. It’s common in homes without ductwork to have a small air conditioner in each room.

How Does an HVAC System Work?

In a nutshell, HVAC systems work by capturing air, heating or cooling it, and then blowing that air through your home to change the temperatures inside. Learning precisely what is the function of the HVAC system depends entirely on what type of system you have. For instance, a heat pump works a bit differently than an air conditioner, and an air conditioner and furnace are entirely different.


Let’s break it up again to accurately describe what is a HVAC system and how does it work:

Heating Systems

If you have a furnace—regardless of its fuel type—it works by generating heat from its fuel source. Once generating heat, it then pushes it through the remainder of your home. If you have a heat pump, expect it to operate slightly differently.


Heat pumps absorb heat from an outdoor unit and move it inside, so rather than generating heat using fuel, it transfers it from one place to another. Even during freezing temperatures, a heat pump can absorb heat from the outside and pump it inside your home. The colder the temperatures, the less efficient a heat pump is, however, so they are often paired with an electric furnace to help supplement heat.


As mentioned earlier, a heat pump can do the reverse, absorbing heat from outside and transferring it inside. At very cold temperatures (freezing temps and lower), a heat pump will still be able to absorb heat from outside, but at a less efficient rate. This is why a heat pump is generally paired with an electric furnace, which has compatible technology and supplements the heat pump’s heating capabilities.

Cooling Systems

Air conditioners don’t create cold air. They use something called refrigerant to turn the air cold. Refrigerant is a helpful chemical that can be either a liquid or gaseous substance. When the air comes into contact with it, it turns the air cold. After the air is the desired temperature, the air conditioner will send it through the ductwork or room to regulate your home’s temperature.


A heat pump also doesn’t generate air. Instead, it gathers air and uses refrigerant to help cool it down. As the heat pump moves warm air out and cools the air in, cooling it as it goes, the home’s temperatures lower to keep things comfortable.

Who Should Service HVAC Equipment?

Best to leave all the HVAC repairs, replacements, and installations to a trustworthy professional. Properly handling HVAC equipment takes knowledge, skill, and plenty of training. Our expert team at CroppMetcalfe can help you tackle repairs, inspections, and installations. Don’t attempt to fix an issue you don’t fully understand since it could end up doing more damage. Call CroppMetcalfe for the job.



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