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How Heating and Cooling Systems Work

For many people in the U.S. and most places around the world, air conditioning is a necessity in their homes. These systems help keep temperatures at suitable levels through subsequent heating and cooling, enabling you to maintain pristine indoor temperatures, no matter the conditions outside.

But how, exactly, do air conditioners work?

Read on as we take you through the general working mechanism of a typical air conditioning system and the key components of your heating and cooling setup.

How Do They Work?

All climate control devices, including heating and cooling systems, have three basic components: a mechanism to produce hot or cold air, a means of distribution, and a control system to regulate the system.

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Here’s how each system works:

1. Heating

The most integral part of the heating system is the heat generator. This can be in the form of a furnace, electric radiant heating, or boiler. The system works on the principles of convection that dictate that heat always moves from a warmer medium to a cooler medium.

In this regard, the heating system draws cool air from outside and passes it through the heat generator. As the air passes through the heat generator, it gets warmed up and subsequently pumped into the ventilation system, where it gets circulated throughout the house.

2. Cooling

The cooling system works much like the heating system with one key difference – instead of using a heat generator, it utilizes a cooler, mostly in the form of an evaporator coil. Evaporator coils typically have a liquid coolant inside. As the air conditioning system draws warm air from outside, it passes over the evaporator coil. This is where it loses heat to the evaporator coil, causing it to cool down. The cool air is then pumped into your home.

3. The Synergy

Heating and cooling systems work through a synergy of the heating and cooling elements to create desired indoor temperature conditions. These systems typically have a central controller with a thermostat used for setting a specific desired temperature.

Depending on indoor temperatures, the thermostat can activate or deactivate either system accordingly. For instance, if it is too warm, the thermostat activates the heating system, and vice versa.

4. The Distribution System

If left unattended, heated or cooled air doesn’t do much in altering your home’s indoor temperature. Therefore, heating and cooling systems rely on a distribution system to increase their effectiveness.

There are three types of distribution systems:

  • Forced air systems: Forced air systems distribute air through an electrically powered fan, which forces air into various rooms in your house through a series of metal ducts.
  • Gravity systems: Gravity systems work on the principle that warm air rises while cool air sinks. In regards to heating, gravity systems are typically placed at lower levels than where warm air is required. As such, warm air rises through the ducts and flows into registers located on the floors of a structure or high on the walls depending on the position of the furnace.
  • Radiant systems: Radiant systems work by heating the floors, walls, or ceilings directly, which then heats the air. Therefore, they’re primarily used for heating since their mode of operation does not support cooling.

The Bottom Line

All heating and cooling systems work by the same principle – heat or cool the air around them, then distribute it throughout the structure. All this follows the principles of conduction and convection, which state that heat always moves from a warmer medium to a cooler medium.

Therefore, by altering the temperature of the medium and pushing air through a distribution system, heating and cooling systems can effectively control your home’s indoor temperatures.

Ajeet Sharma, the founder of Financegab and a well-known name in the field of financial blogging. Blogging since 2017, he has the expertise and excellent knowledge about personal finance. Financegab is all about personal finance which aims to create awareness among people about personal finance and help them to make smart, well-informed financial decisions.


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