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Heating and Air Conditioning Product Guide

Your heating and air conditioning system is responsible for keeping your family comfortable. Most homes in Maryland have either a furnace and air conditioning system or a heat pump. A furnace and air conditioning system is made up of an indoor unit that provides warm air and an outdoor unit that provides cool air. A heat pump is a single unit that provides both warm and cool air. Both systems then distribute the air through the ductwork in a home. Recent developments in heating and cooling technology have led to systems that are much quieter and more energy-efficient than models from five or ten years ago.

A furnace and air conditioning system is also known as a split system, because it is made up of two parts:

  • An air conditioning unit that removes heat and humidity from your home through a process called heat transfer. Heat is removed through the air conditioner condenser coil located outside and humidity is removed from the home through a condensation drain line.
  • A forced-air furnace that creates heat and circulates it through the same ductwork in the colder months.

The alternative to a furnace and air conditioning system is a heat pump. A heat pump is a heating and cooling system that uses a single outdoor unit for both heating and cooling. Although it looks like an air conditioning unit, the system provides warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer. It is also the best option when natural gas is unavailable.

A heat pump system is also known as a packaged system, because it consists of a single unit that both heats and cools the home:

  • A unit located outside of the home on the ground or rooftop that provides heating and cooling year-round to your entire home.
  • An indoor air handler that distributes the air throughout ductwork in your home.

Most Maryland air conditioning units are part of a split system. The cooling mode of a split system uses an outdoor air conditioning compressor and an indoor evaporator coil to cool a home. When cooling, the compressor pumps refrigerant through the system and to the evaporator coil. As the air duct system pulls warm air from inside the house, the refrigerant in the evaporator coil absorbs the heat and removes the moisture from the air. As the air continues to move across the coil, the air is cooled and is then redistributed through the air duct system. The heat that was transferred to the evaporator coil is moved outside to the compressor, where the heat can dissipate and cool down. The process of extracting heat from the air, moving the refrigerant outside to cool and returning the cool refrigerant inside to cool the air is continuous.

A packaged air conditioning system is an alternative to the typical split system approach. However, the cooling process is very similar, except that the system is self-contained and requires no indoor equipment.

Boilers

A boiler generates warmth for your home by burning a fuel, such as natural gas, oil, or propane, to generate hot water or steam. The hot water or steam travels through pipes to heat radiating devices, such as radiators or convectors, which give off heat and warm the room. As steam cools it condenses back into water, and returns to the boiler to be heated again; hot water heating systems operate on the same principle.

Furnaces

Most Maryland homes with a split system will have an indoor furnace unit. On a furnace, the primary components are the burner, the heat exchanger, the blower and the flue. The burner will use a fuel source to generate heat, typically natural gas, propane, oil or electricity. The heat created by the burner will warm the heat exchanger.

Once the heat exchanger is ready, a blower will begin moving air through the system. Cool air will be pulled into the air duct system, pass through the heat exchanger to be heated and redistributed through the air duct system. During the process, any gaseous byproducts of combustion will be exhausted to the outdoors through the flue. The process of pulling cool air into the system to be heated and redistributed is continuous.

A heat pump provides both heating and cooling for a home and may appear as a split system or a self-contained unit. While in cooling mode, the heat pump system will use the outdoor compressor and an evaporator coil to cool a home. When cooling, the compressor pumps refrigerant through the system and to the evaporator coil. As the air duct system pulls warm air from inside the house, the refrigerant in the evaporator coil absorbs the heat and removes the moisture from the air. As the air continues to move across the coil, the air is cooled and is then redistributed through the air duct system. The heat that was transferred to the evaporator coil is moved outside to the compressor, where the heat can dissipate and cool down. While in heating mode, the process is essentially reversed, whereupon cool air is pulled from inside and moved outside to be heated. Often a heat pump will have a backup heating element to supplement during extreme cold periods.

A packaged heat pump system is an alternative to the typical split system approach. However, the process is very similar, except that the system is self-contained and requires no indoor equipment.

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