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Common Terms to Help You Better Understand Your Heating System

Technician checking a heating issue on furnace - Williams Comfort Air Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & More

Those in Indianapolis need to know common heating terms before winter strikes. With knowledge about heating terms, homeowners are more able to figure out problems when they occur. They also gain information crucial to how their heating systems work, which ultimately improves the functionality of the system on the whole. Homeowners who understand their heating benefit more from it. 

Williams Comfort Air in Indianapolis, Indiana offers homeowners a chance to learn these heating terms. With our master list of terms, homeowners learn as much as possible about heating systems. This information helps homeowners navigate their current systems, as well as new systems, articles online, and the HVAC world in general.

Heating Terms: Overview

Williams Comfort Air’s list of heating terms includes several categories to best educate the reader. These categories contain the components of heating units, the units themselves, energy efficiency terms, and miscellaneous items. All of these are important for homeowners to learn. 

Most homeowners search for information about their heating systems online, which usually provides a decent result. However, there are many terms in these posts and articles that homeowners don’t understand. The goal of this list is to make those terms clearer. If you are looking for a new system, this list is particularly useful. When you own a system for 10 to 15 years, new technology or terminology becomes overwhelming. This list helps alleviate the stress of purchasing a new system. 

The Components and Appliances: Heating Terms

Heating terms related to the components and appliances themselves are arguably the most important. When homeowners don’t know the names of parts or what they do, small problems often turn into large ones if something goes wrong in the system. Here are the most common components and appliances. 

  • Heat pump. Heat pumps are heating units. They warm spaces by taking heat from one area and transferring it into another. In the summer, heat pumps take warmth from inside, then put it outside, which cools the home. To heat a space, the heat pump does the opposite. 
  • Furnace. Furnaces also heat the home, but they do it via a fuel source—propane, natural gas, electricity, or oil. Heat circulates through the home after the furnace creates the heat. 
  • Dehumidifier. Humidity refers to moisture in the air, so a dehumidifier removes excess moisture. They make the air quality higher and boost comfort.
  • Blower motor. Blower motors power the fan in a furnace. When furnaces don’t blow any air out, the blower motor is usually the cause.
  • Burner. In furnaces, burners create heat. After the ignition turns the unit, the burner makes heat for the furnace to warm the air through gas and air combustion. 
  • Filter. When the air quality is poor, the filter is usually the problem. Filters remove dirt, dust, allergens and more from the air to improve the quality. They also help with minor health problems like frequent sinus issues, allergies, and the common cold. 
  • Burner orifice. Burner orifices receive gas or fuel for burners to use.
  • Capacity. This is one of the heating terms with a meaning outside of the HVAC world. However, when you are talking about heating, capacity refers to how much heat a unit produces.  
  • Damper. At junction points inside duct work, dampers open and shut to control air flow. This allows for greater control in air distribution.  
  • Heat exchanger. One of the most important heating terms is “heat exchanger.” Heat exchangers are components in furnaces and actually use the heat from the burners to warm the air. Without the heat exchanger, the furnace produce hot air and cold air blows through the vents. 
  • Diffuser. In the ducts, diffusers control the movement of air with vanes. The vanes direct air in certain directions to force the heat to travel to specific areas. 
  • Duct work. Duct work refers to the system of ducts in a home or commercial property. Warm air flows through the ducts to the vents, which distributes the air into the space. 
  • Thermostat. Homeowners use thermostats to have more control over the temperature. Thermostats often use sensors to gauge the environmental temperature and tell the furnace or heat pump to turn on when the area reaches a certain temperature. This temperature is preset by the homeowner in a programmable thermostat, and input directly by the homeowner in a manual thermostat.  
  • Upflow furnace. Upflow furnaces take air from the bottom of the unit and blow it out through the top. These types of units work best in basements and crawlspaces because they function off of the theory that heat rises. 
  • Fan. Fans circulate warm air through the ducts and out the vents. 
  • Humidifier. Dehumidifiers remove moisture, and humidifiers add moisture. Humidifiers are most useful in the winter when the air becomes exceptionally dry.
  • Flue. Flues are a part of the furnace and they remove combustion byproducts from the home. These byproducts are dangerous to breath, so the flue ensures they travel as far away from the home as possible.  
  • Pilot light. The pilot light is one of the more outdated heating terms, but still pops up every once in a while. Pilot lights turn on gas and oil furnaces, but are more dangerous because gas leaks and spontaneous combustion are both possible. Most units today don’t have a pilot light. 
  • Ignition. Instead of the pilot light, furnaces have an ignition. Electronic ignitions take the place of pilot lights. When the thermostat tells the electronic ignition a space is too cold, the ignition turns on the furnace and begins the heating process. 
  • Vents. Vents are the last step in the heating process. They ensure all rooms in the home receive the hot air made by the furnace.  
  • Heating coil. Heating coils are heat sources for the system found in heat pumps for backup heating.  
  • Packaged unit. Packaged units combine heating and cooling systems into one. This saves money and improves efficiency.
  • Split system. There are indoor and outdoor heating units. A split system combines these two units into one, which improves efficiency and allows for greater control.  

Energy Efficiency Heating Terms and Organizations

Homeowners are concerned about the efficiency of their heating systems. Not only do more efficient systems make less of an impact on the environment, they also save money on energy bills. Because of these benefits, homeowners look for more efficient technologies in their heating systems. However, they often don’t know what certain terminology means. These are some of the most common heating terms for efficiency.

  • Variable-speed. Variable-speed furnaces are some of the most efficient heating units out there because they allow for more control over the blower motor. Variable-speed ensures the furnace only uses the necessary amount of energy for any given environmental temperature. This means the furnace only functions at full capacity when absolutely necessary. 
  • Single-speed. On the other hand, single-speed furnaces are the least energy efficient because they constantly perform at full capacity—no matter the temperature or the size of the space. This means the unit uses more energy overall because the blower motor turns on, blasts at full power for extended periods of time, then turns off. If the space becomes cool again, it repeats this process. 
  • IAQ. Indoor air quality, or IAQ, refers to the quality of the air inside a space. A high IAQ means the air has little to no allergens, particulates, dust, dirt, or other harmful particles. Poor IAQ negatively impacts the health of the homeowner and contributes to pollution.
  • HSPF. Heating Seasonal Performance Factor measures the efficiency of heat pumps. Higher ratings indicate a more efficient system.
  • EPA. Many already know the EPA helps protect the environment, but they don’t know the specifics. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates heating, cooling, and plumbing equipment and practices to reduce the impact they have on the environment and human health.
  • ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR is a product of the EPA. It pairs with people and businesses to promote environmental practices in production of equipment. They do this with money-saving modes of production that still utilize eco-friendly options. 
  • DOE. The U.S. government controls the DOE, or Department of Energy. They ensure energy usage is responsibly handled and doesn’t negatively impact the environment. They also deal with nuclear repercussions on the ozone.
  • ASHRAE. ASHRAE, or the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, helps contractors use more sustainable technology. They also advocate for energy efficiency on the whole and higher IAQ.
  • AFUE. Lastly, the AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, tells the homeowner how well furnaces use their energy. The heat output is divided by the input to get this number. The higher the number, the more efficient the furnace. 

Other Heating Terms

Some heating terms aren’t able to fit in the categories above, but are still important. Here are the miscellaneous heating terms. 

  • Particulates. Liquid and solid particles in combustible gases are particulates. These come from cars, power plants, and similar equipment. Particulates lower air quality. 
  • Zoning. Heating often splits into specific areas to control temperatures easier. This is called zoning. 
  • AHRI. The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute helps homeowners find reliable contractors to hire for repairs and replacements. 
  • BTU. The amount of heat required to change one pound of water by one degree is the BTU, or British Thermal Unit. 
  • PSI. This measures pressure by one pound per one inch.

Learn These Heating Terms with Help from Jarboe’s

Heating terms help homeowners understand their heating systems better. For more information on heating services, call Williams Comfort Air in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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