Common Terms to Help You Better Understand Your Heating System

Technician checking a heating issue on furnace - Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing

When homeowners know common heating terms, they understand their heating systems better. Some find it daunting to learn all of the heating terms they see online or hear from heating experts. However, most of the definitions are intuitive, and many homeowners already know some of them. If you know what these heating terms mean, you are more able to diagnose issues, aid in the repair or replacement process, and understand how the heating works as a whole. 

 In Cincinnati, Ohio, Thomas & Galbraith helps homeowners learn these heating terms. We separate each of the terms into the most relevant categories to make learning easier. Additionally, it’s much easier to navigate product descriptions online when you have this list at your disposal. 

The Most Common Heating Terms

There are hundreds of heating terms floating around, but some are more common than others. For example, you are far more likely to see “heat exchanger” come up, and it’s a component you really should know about. We include the most important and common terms to make sure you are informed, but not overwhelmed. 

The heating terms are in specific categories based on their use. It’s important for homeowners to understand where these definitions fit in the system—or else the information becomes lost as soon as the homeowner moves from theory to practice. These are all the most common terms, in the most logical categories. 

Component and Appliance Heating Terms

Homeowners need to know the basics before anything else. These heating terms relate to the components of heating units as well as the appliances themselves. This ensures homeowners are able to identify the most crucial parts of the system.

  • Burner. Heat creation occurs because of the burners. These combust air and gas to create heat in a furnace. Malfunctions in the burner mean no heat creation takes place, and no warmth circulates. 
  • Burner orifice. The burner orifice is a part of the burner. Gas or fuel goes to the burner via the burner orifice. 
  • Dehumidifier. These are common enough that homeowners already know what they are. For the sake of a definition, dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air to make it more comfortable. Many use dehumidifiers in the summer when the moisture in the air is higher.  
  • Blower motor. Blower motors turn on the fans in a furnace. Without the blower motor, the fans are unable to circulate air through the home. 
  • Capacity. The capacity refers to how much heat a unit produces. A low capacity means the unit produces a small amount of heat, while a high capacity indicates a large amount. Neither are necessarily bad, but they do each have specific times where they are more effective. For example, a small space usually gets by with a low capacity because there isn’t much air to heat in the first place.
  • Fan. Heating terms are sometimes difficult to understand, but this one is a given. Fans blow the hot air through the ducts and out of the vents. 
  • Damper. In the ductwork, dampers are located at the junction points. Dampers open and shut to control air flow. 
  • Diffuser. If you want the air in your home to flow a certain direction, you use diffusers. These cover air supply ducts and use vanes to direct the air where you want it to go. 
  • Heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is one of the most important parts on a furnace because it transfers heat into the air. The burners create the heat, and the heat exchangers use that heat to warm the air. If the heat exchanger doesn’t work, the furnace circulates cold air. 
  • Duct work. Ducts transfer warm air from the furnace to the home. Duct work is simply the system of ducts in the space. These are often built into the walls or the ceiling so homeowners rarely see the duct work in its entirety.
  • Humidifier. Unlike dehumidifiers, humidifiers add moisture to the air. In drier months—usually the winter—humidifiers make the air more comfortable. Dry air causes nose bleeds and dry skin, and a humidifier helps alleviate these issues.
  • Filter. Many homeowners know what filters are because they replace them often. Filters remove particles from the air to improve the air quality and protect HVAC systems. These particles include dust, dirt, allergens, and more. 
  • Packaged unit. Packaged units are a combination of heating and cooling systems, with both parts contained in one package. 
  • Flue. Flues are a part of furnaces. They remove byproducts of combustion so they don’t enter the home. Because the byproducts are dangerous to human health, the flue ensures those materials exit as far away from the home as possible. 
  • Furnace. This is one of the heating terms that needs no in-depth explanation. Furnaces warm the home via electricity, oil, natural gas, or propane. 
  • Heating coil. Heating coils act as heating components for electric systems.
  • Upflow furnace. Upflow furnaces function under the fact that hot air rises. They take air from the bottom of the unit, heat it, then blow it out through the top. These units work best in basements or crawlspaces.
  • Heat pump. Heat pumps heat and cool spaces by heat transfer. In most cases, two spaces switch between hot and cold to give homeowners their desired temperature. In the winter, this means warmth is taken from outside and put inside. In the summer, warmth  is removed from the home and transferred outside. 
  • Ignition. Ignition refers to how the system turns on and off. In most modern furnaces, electronic ignition performs this function. However, very old systems use a pilot light, but these are not in as common anymore because they are more dangerous. 
  • Vents. Air reaches every room in the home through the vents. After the air travels through the ducts, it leaves through the vents. 
  • Pilot light. Pilot lights in gas furnaces start the furnace, but these are outdated and dangerous because they use combustible materials and leak carbon monoxide. 
  • Split system. These are a combination of indoor and outdoor units. Split systems are more customizable to maximize comfort. They are also more energy efficient. 
  • Thermostat. Many know what thermostats do. They make sure homeowners know what the temperature is in the home, and allow them to control temperature changes. Programmable thermostats let homeowners set temperatures ahead of time so they don’t need to change it manually.

Heating Terms for Energy Efficiency

Many homeowners prioritize energy efficiency in their heating systems. Environmental issues become more prevalent every year, so it’s important to stay on top of the issues with efficient HVAC systems. This division of HVAC comes with its own list of heating terms, so here are some of the most common ones.

  • Single-speed. Single-speed heating units tend to use more energy than other units because their compressors run at full speed and power until a space becomes warm. When the space is warm, the unit turns off, which uses an excessive amount of energy than what is necessary at certain times.
  • Variable-speed. Variable-speed heating units switch on and off more frequently to regulate energy usage. If the unit only needs to warm the space a little bit, the unit turns on for a short period at minimal capacity, then turns off. For more intense circumstances, the heater functions at high capacity.
  • EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for businesses and individuals to follow so the impact on the environment remains minimal. They regulate heating, cooling, and plumbing products. 
  • ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR is a facet of the EPA and allows businesses to use environmentally friendly practices. They help these businesses and individuals save money on these practices because they are often more expensive than less eco-friendly options.
  • AFUE. The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating measures to how furnaces use their energy over the years. Heat output is divided by heat input to find this number. The higher the AFUE, the better the furnace.  
  • DOE. This is the Department of Energy run by the U.S. government. They control the energy usage in the country and find ways to keep usage to a minimum. They also deal with nuclear issues and how to lower those repercussions on the environment. 
  • HSPF. The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor measures efficiency in heat pumps. Higher ratings indicate a more efficient device. 
  • ASHRAE. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers stands for sustainable energy, technology, and engineering. They prioritize environmentally friendly practices. 
  • IAQ. This refers to indoor air quality. A high IAQ means the air quality inside a space is clean. Low IAQ often negatively impacts human health and the environment. 

Other Important Heating Terms

These heating terms don’t fit into any other category, but are still important to know.

  • PSI. This means pound per square inch. It measures pressure. 
  • AHRI. The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute allows homeowners to look for trustworthy contractors to hire. The AHRI also offers special training for HVAC and water heating manufacturers. 
  • Zoning. Zoning occurs when the home is split into sections and given different temperature settings. This helps homeowners better control their comfort and improves efficiency. 
  • Particulates. Tiny particles, liquid or solid, are present in combustion gases. These are called particulates and lower the IAQ. 
  • BTU. The BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a measurement. It tells how much heat is needed to change one pound of water by one degree.  

Heating Terms and Their Meanings with Thomas & Galbraith

These heating terms are important for homeowners to know. With this knowledge you are able to understand your heating system. This makes any repairs or replacements go much smoother, especially when winter rolls around in Cincinnati, Ohio!

For more information on heating services, give Thomas & Galbraith a call today!

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