Published on September 26th, 2014 | by Peter Young


The Basics Of HVAC

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When it comes to keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are great at doing just that. However, they can be costly to operate, especially if they aren’t maintained regularly.

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Image from “Power to Save” a publication of Hawaiian Electric Company. Note that HVAC is the top energy consumer for the average family of four.

So to help you save money and get a better understanding of how these systems work we’ve come up with the following guide to the basics of HVAC.

The Basics of HVAC


One of the best ways to keep your home warm and comfortable during the winter months is through a central heating system. Not only will this system keep your home warm and dry, it will also prevent your home’s water lines from freezing or bursting which could cost thousands of dollars to repair. To get a better idea of how this system works, take a look at the diagram below:


As you can see, fresh, cool air gets drawn into the home and delivered to either a furnace or boiler where it will be heated. After the air has been heated by either a furnace or boiler it then travels through a series of ducts and filters throughout the home and is delivered into your home’s various living spaces. One of the best ways to ensure that this system is working efficiently is to regularly check and swap out its air filters. Check out the following video to find out just how quick and easy it is:

However, this system wouldn’t be very effective if it wasn’t paired with a home ventilation system. After all, a big part of keeping your home comfortable is ensuring that it gets a steady supply of fresh air, so let’s take a look at how home ventilation systems work.


The ventilation system in your home is what’s responsible for providing it with fresh air as well as disposing of old, stagnant air. These systems are paired with either a central heating and/or air conditioning system and are vital to keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To get a better idea of how these systems work, take a look at the following diagram:

As you can see, fresh air enters your home and is passed through either your home’s furnace or A/C unit and is heated or cooled to the desired temperature and then distributed throughout the home. After the air has been delivered to your living spaces, the ventilation ducts located in your kitchen and bathrooms pull the air up to an exhaust vent and out of the home. Thus providing your home with a constant supply of fresh air, while disposing of old stagnant air.

Now, I know what you’re thinking–you’re sending conditioned (either heated or cooled air) out of the home and bringing in outside air that then needs to be heated or cooled again…isn’t that a huge efficiency loss? Yes, it is. So…heat exchangers to the rescue. These devices allow for the temperature of departing air to transfer either its warmth or its coolth (why isn’t there a word for that?) to the new air, without mixing with it directly. Thus, fresh air, and less loss of the heating or cooling (or heat or coolth, if you will).

Air Conditioning

The air conditioning system in your home is what’s responsible for removing moisture from the air and making it easier to either heat or cool. However, these systems are primarily used when it comes to cooling your home. Take a look at the following video to get a better idea of how your home’s air conditioning system works:


Now that you have a better idea of how the air conditioning system works in your home, try implementing some of these easy maintenance tips for your A/C unit. They should help to reduce the amount of energy your system uses, and thus, save you money on your monthly electric bill!

If you’re looking for ways to save money and make these systems more energy efficient, take a look at some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of The Content Farm, David Darling, Passipedia,

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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