How Your Furnace and Air Conditioner Work

Today we’re walking through the process of how a furnace or an air conditioner works. If you know the different components, as well as the features and functions of what the components are doing then you’ll know why one has a benefit over the other. 

Now if your furnace is in a closet it typically sits up on a platform and sucks air from underneath the furnace, the platform typically has a grill on the front or side of it where the air is pulled from the house into the furnace closet. If it’s in the garage the furnace or air handler will still sit on a platform but the intake will be cut into the floor next to the furnace going up in through the attic then into the home and the grill is typically in the ceiling. 

Let’s say that it’s winter time, the cold air that’s in your home is being sucked in through the blower goes over the heat exchanger, heated up by the gas burners, and it warms up the air. The air now goes through the duct work and comes through the supply registers back into the home. To make it easy, fire makes air hot, it’s pretty simple. 

We’re using the laws of thermodynamics. The first law is, energy is never created nor destroyed it only changes forms. A great example of the first law is the sun’s energy coming down to earth hitting plants and causing those plants to grow with its energy through photosynthesis. In a furnace the energy from the combustible gas turning into fire then hits the metal in the heat exchanger and the air from your home is flowing over that metal where the heat is transferred into it. So the furnace is pretty simple, in the winter time the blower is sucking cold air from the house, into the furnace, over the gas burners, warming the air up and returning it back into the house.

 Now if it’s summer time obviously the air in your house is going to be hot if the air conditioner isn’t running. We’re going to take that same furnace or air handler we were pulling the cold air in with and we’re going to use that blower to pull the hot air in, in the summertime. The heat in the air is held in the particulates, sometimes that’s the moisture in the air or other things, nitrogen, oxygen, whatever is in the air. So we have hot wet air passing through the filter, the filter cleans the air so that the dirt doesn’t build up on the evaporator coil that sits above the furnace, the evaporator coil has pipes that go back and forth all through it and the substance inside those pipes is extremely cold in fact most refrigerants are so cold that they boil at only forty degrees. Now we’re taking the energy from the hot molecules in the air, sucking it over the evaporator coil which takes the heat right out of it and absorbs it into the refrigerant lines, now the air molecules can continue on into the supply duct, past your registers, and back into the house. Those molecules now have a reduced amount of energy or heat in them and it feels cold. There’s really no such thing as ”cold” though, it’s just energy or no energy.

Ok let’s go back to the evaporator coil, now we’ve absorbed all this heat into the refrigerant lines and you’ve got to get rid of it somehow, if you don’t you’ve got hot air going over hot coils and nothing is going to happen. As more and more heat is absorbed into the evaporator coil the refrigerant inside expands and by the time it gets all the way to the end of the piping it’s ready to go outside as a fully evaporated gas, as it travels outside it goes into something called a condenser which typically sits on the ground although sometimes it’s placed on the roof. The easiest way to remember these items is that in the evaporator coil the refrigerant is evaporating into a gas and as the refrigerant goes outside the heat is removed in the condenser and the refrigerant condenses back into a liquid. To break it down, in the evaporator coil the system is absorbing heat and the refrigerant evaporates, at the condenser heat is being removed and the refrigerant condenses.

 Now let’s talk about the condensing unit, for a thorough discussion of your condenser read our article here. Inside the condensing unit is the compressor, it’s the heart of the whole system, compressing the refrigerant but also sending it back and forth from the inside portion to the outside. The compressor is taking a low pressure hot gas with all the heat from your house compressing it into a very tight space so that it gets hotter. The outside air, even though it can be a hundred degrees, is going over the really hot coils exhausting that heat outside. The thing that’s pulling the outside air over the hot condenser coils is called a condenser fan, it sucks air over the condensing coils and blows it out the top of the condensing unit rejecting the heat that was absorbed from inside your home into the outside air. Another way to think of it would be to imagine your house is a canoe with a hole in it and your air conditioner is your bucket. You’re trying to bale out your heat or water faster than it can come in through your walls and windows, so that your boat doesn’t sink, or so you can stay comfortable in your home. 

That is how your furnace and air conditioner work. 

Indoor Air Quality Matters

Air pollution carries significant risk to human health, and children are particularly vulnerable. The invisible pollutants inside our buildings can lead to much higher pollution levels. Indoor air pollution affects adults and children differently, children spend most of their time indoors in the “child-breathing zone”, an area defined as being up to one meter from the floor. This means that seemingly harmless activities in the home such as laying carpets or painting rooms can have a different impact on children and thus cause serious health issues. Current ventilation systems work on the assumption of equal distribution of pollutants.

 Through the research it shows that different pollutants can occur in different layers in the air it also found that when pollutants such as dust are disturbed they can be resuspended in the air. The health problems caused by indoor air pollution are severe but also avoidable, one of the best methods of prevention is proper ventilation. When combined with greater awareness and understanding of the risks these simple measures are sufficient enough to help reduce risk to children of exposure to indoor air pollutants. 

If you would like to have the quality of the air in your home tested give us a call. We can test your indoor air quality and then discuss solutions to resolve any issues we find, as well as any other specific needs you may have.

If you’d like more help changing your air filter check out our video here.

We look forward to serving you and your household!

When To Change Your Air Filter in Your AC System

Today I want to talk to you about the importance of regularly changing your air filters. As a homeowner the number one thing you can do to maintain your system is getting your air filters changed regularly. A lot of people ask questions like, “what kind of air filter should I use?” Or, “how often should I change my air filters?” Getting away from what type of filter you should use, the more important thing is that you’re changing your filters regularly. If you use 1” thick filters I like to recommend that you change your air filters once a month even if the filters say that they’re three month or ninety day filters. With the climate that we live in here in Texas the systems run a lot more frequently than in other parts of the country and the more the system runs the quicker the filter gets dirty. So therefore I always recommend changing the filter once a month. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that a dirty air filter can seriously impact the performance of your system in a negative way. The purpose of the air filter is to keep the air clean in your home and also to keep the system clean. When the system starts getting dirty from not changing your filters out regularly enough dirt starts accumulating on components that you really don’t want dirt accumulating on, like blower motors and evaporator coils, and the result is lower efficiency in your system. It causes the HVAC system to have to run longer to achieve the same results and what that means for you is you’re spending extra money on power bills that you otherwise wouldn’t need to spend. 

There are a lot of things that affect how fast a filter will get dirty such as certain flooring like carpets, or pets and little kids as opposed to having tile or hardwood floors that don’t hold on to the dust and dirt as much. Regardless, with the climate that we live in, once a month is what I suggest would be a good time to change your air filters.

 Another thing that I’d like to point out is that filters can still be dirty even when they appear to be clean. There are a lot of little things like white dust and mineral deposit that get into the air from stand alone humidifiers that cause the filter to get extremely loaded up and it can still visually appear clean, typically when that happens you’ll hear a whistling noise or the filter will tend to be a lot louder when the system gets turned on. That’s because it’s so loaded up that air is going around the filter instead of through it, so just stick to changing the filters once a month and you won’t have to worry.

Check out our blog post How To Change Your Air Filter or watch the video on youtube here.

Indoor Air Quality 101

There are five basic types of compounds that impact the air quality in our homes: infectious illness, toxic compounds, microbial growth, allergens, and safety gases. Symptoms of these compounds can include: respiratory irritation, infection, congestion, sneezing, coughing, asthma flare ups, illness, fatigue, and much much worse as concentration levels and exposure increase. During colder months these compounds become trapped in the home, worsening our indoor air quality and affecting our health. Fortunately there are many ways to manage these compounds and clean the air we breathe. Air filtration is the first line of defense in improving indoor air quality. Some airborne compounds like radon are extremely small and can pass through traditional filters freely so consider an air filter that is rated to deal with these smaller compounds. 

Ventilating your home is as simple as keeping windows open to circulate indoor and outdoor air, of course we close our windows in the colder months for a reason, it’s cold and losing all that heated air is expensive. The solution, an energy recovery ventilator system or ERV, an ERV vents poor indoor air and draws in fresh outdoor air while keeping your home’s temperature and humidity levels stable. 

Encapsulating your dirt crawl space isolates damp, exposed earth from your home using a durable, reinforced, plastic liner. In addition to preventing mold growth, encapsulated crawl spaces can also provide a clean dry space for extra storage. 

Depressurization is the most effective solution for reducing radon levels in your home, this involves creating a pathway for radon gas to travel away from your living spaces to be vented safely outside, the EPA recommends that homes with radon levels above 4 pCi/L be mitigated, and as the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, all homes should have their radon level tested. 

Another option is a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier can help deal with water vapor and condensation in your basement, reducing musty smells and moisture that mold and dust mites thrive in. A dehumidifier extracts moisture from the surrounding area, and a quality dehumidifier can extract several gallons of moisture from the air each day.

Finally, you can install an indoor air quality unit in your HVAC system. Units like the REME Halo can be installed in your supply air plenum. This unit will positively ionize the fine particles that pass through your air filter causing them to stick to one another, making them large enough to get caught in the filter on the next pass, or to fall to the floor so they can be swept or vacuumed up. These units also have a UV light that kills algae, mold, viruses, and bacteria in the air. Lastly, it produces H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) to sanitize the air. H2O2 is non-toxic and is just as effective at sanitizing the air as ozone (O3) which is known to be toxic. 

The best option is to call an HVAC professional to come assess your home, discuss your current issues, and design a solution that fits your needs best.

Ever wonder how to change the air filter in your HVAC system? Check out our video here.

Or click here to learn more about how your AC works.

How Air Conditioning Works: 11 Things You Need To Know

Have you ever thought to yourself “how do air conditioners work?” Well, you’re not the only one. So today I’ll tell you the eleven things you need to know about how an air conditioner works. Whether you’re a new homeowner, or you’ve been in your home for years, the more you understand about how an air conditioner works the better off you’ll be. We’ve broken your air conditioning down into three main parts: the outdoor unit also known as the condensing unit, the indoor unit (the furnace if it is a gas system, or the air handler if its electric heat or a heat pump) and the living space. Even though looks and styles differ between brands and models, this is more or less how your system will look and basically how an air conditioner works to cool your home. 

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive technical guide to go over all the ins and outs and intricate components of how your air conditioner system works but rather an easy to understand guide for the average person. Now at the outdoor unit you have the fan, condenser coil, compressor, and refrigerant. The indoor unit has a blower motor, evaporator coils, a circuit board and the filter. In the living space you’ll find the thermostat, supply vents and return air vents. So how do air conditioners work? Well there’s a lot of moving parts and pieces, even more than we’ve got time to explain but they all have to be working together in order to get cool air in your home. 

It all starts when the temperature in the room rises, the thermostat sends a signal to the circuit board calling for cold air, the circuit board then turns on the blower motor in the house while turning the compressor and fan on outside, the compressor acts like a pump sending the refrigerant back and forth from the outside condensing coil to the evaporator coils inside, back and forth, back and forth, each time helping to remove warm moist air from the house. Meanwhile air is circulating in the house. The hot air in the room is drawn through the return air vents and blown across the evaporator coils, pay attention because here’s an important step in how an air conditioner works, cold refrigerant is being pumped through lots of little tubes woven through the evaporator coils, remember that compressor outside? As hot air from the house is blown across the evaporator coils the heat and moisture are removed and what you’re left with is cold air. The cold air is blown through the ductwork that runs throughout the house and comes out the supply vents, the air warms up and is drawn back in through the return air vents and the process is repeated until the room is cold enough that the thermostat sends a signal to stop, at least until the room heats up again, and that’s how an air conditioner works.

 Now these eleven things are designed to work together and if even one of them stops working you could experience a variety of problems the end result usually being no cold air and nobody wants that in the middle of summer. To avoid unexpected breakdowns there’s some simple maintenance you can do on your own to keep your air conditioner running as smoothly as possible all summer long. We will discuss maintenance in a future post. 

For more info on residential HVAC check out our video on residential split systems here:

What Is A Residential HVAC Split System?

In this video we discuss what a residential split system is, which is made up of either an air handler or furnace, and an evaporator coil, and condenser. For more info subscribe to our channel or watch this video directly on YouTube by clicking here:

Interested in learning how your heat pump works? Read our post here.

Prestige Air Google Reviews

Prestige Air proudly serves Northeast Tarrant County and the Fort Worth, Texas area including Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Colleyville, Grapevine, Southlake, Keller, Watauga, Haltom City, and North Richland Hills.

We look forward to serving you and your household!

Why Is My Air Conditioner Repair So Expensive?

“I can buy this capacitor on Amazon for $25, but your fee to change it is $185. Why is that?” (If you want to learn more about capacitors check out our post here.)

We hear this type of objection all the time from homeowners. They don’t understand why we charge what we do when they found a similar part online for so cheap. They tend to think that heating and air conditioning is just over-inflated pricing to gouge the homeowner. I’d like to resolve this misunderstanding here and now.

First, we aren’t part changers. You, as a homeowner, aren’t paying for a part delivery service, you’re paying for a professional diagnostic, repair, and warranty…in essence, you’re paying for peace of mind that your system will work when we leave and your comfort will be restored. 

But this isn’t what determines our pricing. Our pricing is based on several factors, all of which are required for that repair to restore your comfort and peace of mind. Let me break it down for you.

First, you’re paying for the tech, their time, and the vehicle and fuel to get to your location. A qualified and experienced tech (the kind that gives consistent, reliable service to homeowners like yourself) costs at least $50/hr. Then there is the vehicle, insurance, and fuel to get to your location. 

After that, you’re paying for the training we invested into the tech so they can give you the best service possible. Good companies spend money monthly, if not weekly, on training. 

After that you are paying for the part. Rest assured, it costs more than the cheap Chinese version you found on Amazon. Quality parts cost more because the companies that make and sell them back them up with warranties and guarantees, which is why we buy them and not the cheap knock-offs. 

Then, you pay for the full diagnostic, which is the deep dive. Not just looking for what has failed, but asking why it failed. For example, your capacitor failed, which has caused your AC to break down, but why has it failed? If we just swap it out for another one without resolving the underlying issue then the new one will fail as well. 

After that you are paying for our warranty. Every part or service we offer comes with at least a 1-year warranty, whether the manufacturer offers one or not. If it breaks again we replace it at no cost to you, part or labor. 

Next, we charge in order to keep the light’s on. Overhead for an HVAC business includes state licensing, bonding and business insurance (to protect you), and a small percentage for marketing to make sure we continue to have clients to serve. All of which is necessary to run a business and which gets spread around to all customers as a percentage of each job. 

Finally, we budget for a profit. In the HVAC industry this usually runs around 8-10% of gross revenue. This is equal to about $18 of that $185 capacitor from our original example. 

So when we break it down (from a 40,000 foot view) your pricing is based on the costs associated with the tech, vehicle, time, training, part, warranty, overhead, and net profit. We don’t just pull numbers out of the air, and we definitely don’t gouge homeowners, that’s not good business and doesn’t serve anyone.  

But as I said at the beginning of this post, don’t get caught up in the minutia. What you are paying for is the peace of mind that your system has been expertly repaired, the root issue solved, and your comfort restored. 

The backend of our pricing is quite complicated, books have been written on how to do it correctly, but you should know, everything we do is for your comfort and security, and at Prestige Air you’re paying market value, if not less, for a service whose quality far exceeds that of the market.  

Prestige Air Google Reviews

Prestige Air proudly serves Northeast Tarrant County and the Fort Worth, Texas area including Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Colleyville, Grapevine, Southlake, Keller, Watauga, Haltom City, and North Richland Hills.

We look forward to serving you and your household!