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HVAC Part II: Demystifying the parts

Published in Home repair on August 5, 2022 by  Katie Geffken

Hard to believe, but there are still houses in our region that lack HVAC systems. If you either live in one of these houses or are buying a home and plan to install central air and/or heat, you have many options. We know all the lingo can be overwhelming, so let us break down the most common types of HVAC.

Conventional System

Most conventional HVAC systems are made up of three major parts – the part that heats (furnace), the part that cools (condenser), and the part that blows the air through your home (blower). 

Advantages: Affordable if you already have ducts. Parts of the system can be replaced/repaired individually, avoiding full system replacement for as long as possible. 

Disadvantages: Take up a lot of space. Run on fossil fuels. Require ductwork

Heat Pump

Similar to a conventional system in that it’s a big box in your basement, a heat pump is one system that heats in one direction and cools when it’s run in the other direction. 

Advantage: All electric. More affordable as long as electric utility costs are low in your area. 

Disadvantages: Requires a lot of space and ductwork. Less efficient than a gas furnace

Mini Splits

High efficient, mini splits are the most popular option in Europe, Asia, and South American and are quickly gaining popularity in the US. One exterior mini split condenser can typically allow for 4 mini split units inside your home, which both heat and cool. 

Advantages: Highly efficient. Can customize room temperature. Ductwork not required. Requires very little space 

Disadvantages: Some people don’t like the look of these on the wall. 

Window Units

Window units can work well depending on the property. 

Advantages: Low cost per unit, room temperatures customizable by room. 

Disadvantages: Very high electrical draw so expensive to run over time. Can mold. Heavy and hard to take in and pull out. 

Radiator Heat

A boiler heats water that gets pumped through cast iron pipes to radiators. 

Advantages: Moist heat keeps the home a bit humid during the winter, which people love. Boilers can last a long time – 35+ years is common. 

Disadvantages: Requires a separate system for cooling. Expensive to replace. 

Breaking it down

We can’t make you flashcards, but here is a quick summary of key terms to understand.

For Cooling: 

  • Window Units 
  • Condenser 

For Heating: 

  • Furnace 
  • Boiler (radiated heat) 

Heating and Cooling: 

  • Heat pumps 
  • Mini splits 

To Duct or not to Duct 

  • Mini Splits 
  • Ducted Mini Splits 
  • High Velocity Forced Air 
  • Conventional 

If you still have questions, give us a shout. And if you need recommendations for service providers in the DC Metro area, don’t hesitate to reach out.

About Katie Geffken

Katie is founder and partner agent at Collective Property Consultants. A marketing strategist and local business owner turned Realtor®, Katie has an entrepreneurial spirit and loves to make a positive impact in people’s lives through her work. She spent years marketing for top brands before opening a successful cycling and barre studio in Capitol Hill, finally pivoting to real estate where she found she had the ideal blend of hard and soft skills to serve buyers and sellers in the Washington, DC area.

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