Common Heating Terms

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Common Terms to Help You Better Understand Your Heating System

Technician checking a heating issue on furnace - Jarboe's Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling

Homeowners in Louisville, Kentucky want to understand their heating systems more. To best do this, many research common heating terms. These heating terms allow homeowners to better understand their heating systems on the whole. When homeowners know what each element means, they are able to piece together how the entire heating process works. 

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling wants homeowners to feel confident in their HVAC knowledge. We list the most common heating terms out there to help homeowners learn the lingo. When searching through HVAC websites for new products or for repairs, it’s hard to sift through the information if you don’t know what half the terms mean. With this list, homeowners no longer have that problem. 

Common Heating Terms for Homeowners in Louisville

Many homeowners face confusion when they look up heating products online. Every manufacturer uses the same language, but what does it all mean? If homeowners struggle with heating terms on one website, they have trouble on all of them. For this reason, Jarboe’s has this collection of terminology for homeowners in Louisville to reference when they need it.

We cover a wide variety of terms. Most heating terms fit into categories, so the definitions are in separate groups to make things easier to understand.

Heating Terms: Components and Appliances

The most important selection of terminology relates to heating systems themselves. These heating terms all relate to either components in heating units, or the units themselves.  

  • Blower motor. The blower motor turns on the fans in the furnace to circulate the hot air into the home.
  • Burner. Burners create the heat furnaces and other heating devices use to warm homes. They do this through the combustion of air and gas. 
  • Burner orifice. This is where the burner receives the gas or fuel it uses to create the heat.
  • Capacity. In HVAC terminology, capacity refers to the output any given heating unit produces.
  • Damper. Dampers are located in the duct work. These are sheet metal plates at the junction points in the ducts. They open and close to control air flow in certain areas. 
  • Dehumidifier. Many know what dehumidifiers do for their home. In short, they remove moisture from the air to improve air quality. While there are portable dehumidifiers, some integrate into the heating system to provide whole home dehumidification.  
  • Diffuser. Diffusers cover air supply ducts to control the distribution of air in calculated patterns or directions. For example, if you want the air in your home to flow from the front of the house to the back, a diffuser uses vanes to lead the air in the proper direction. 
  • Duct work. As one of the most common heating terms, homeowners likely know this one already. Duct work refers to the system of ducts that allows air to flow through the home. The air exits from vents attached to the ducts. 
  • Fan. Heating terms like these need little explanation. Fans blow the warm air through the ducts and out of the vents to heat the home.
  • Filter. Filters remove tiny particles from the air to improve the air quality. Some devices use multiple filters while others use one. Homeowners change filters on their own—frequency depends on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Flue. A flue is a component in furnaces. It removes combustion byproducts and makes sure they don’t enter the home. The byproducts are dangerous to the homeowner’s health, so it’s important to make sure the flue works properly.
  • Furnace. Furnaces use either electricity, propane, natural gas, or oil to heat homes. After heat creation takes place, it circulates through the home via fans, ducts, and vents. Out of all the heating terms, this one is the most obvious.
  • Heat exchanger. Heat exchangers are arguably the most important part of the furnace. Heat exchangers allow heat to transfer to the air. Without this component, the air never receives heat and doesn’t warm the home. Instead, cold air circulates.
  • Heating coil. These components are heat sources for the system which allow heat to be added to air.
  • Heat pump. This is another heating term most homeowners know. Heat pumps both heat and cool spaces via heat transfer. For example, in the winter heat pumps take the heat from outside and moves it through the home. In the summer, the opposite takes place. 
  • Humidifier. Humidifiers add moisture back into the air. These are useful in the winter because the air is often drier and causes dry skin, nose bleeds, and other minor issues.
  • Ignition. Furnaces sometimes use electronic ignition to replace traditional pilot lights. These are the norm in new units. Rather than the flame on a pilot light, the electronic ignition uses an electrical current to start the furnace. 
  • Packaged unit. This is a combined heating and cooling system in one outdoor unit.
  • Pilot light. As with the ignition, pilot lights start the furnace. However, pilot lights are not used as frequently in new systems. Hardly any new systems use a pilot light because they are not as safe to use as electronic ignition. These use natural gas or propane to create a small flame, but any leaks lead to explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Split system. Split systems are the combination of outdoor and indoor units. These are often more efficient and customizable than packaged units.
  • Thermostat. Thermostats allow homeowners to control the temperature in their homes. Types of thermostats vary, but most are programmable nowadays. This allows homeowners to set the temperatures they want in advance so they don’t have to manually change the temperature. Many now include temperature sensors to let the system know when to turn on and off.
  • Upflow furnace. An upflow furnace uses air from the bottom of the unit, and blows it out of the top. These units work best in basements and crawlspaces.
  • Vents. Vents allow the air from the furnace to enter the home. They attach to the ducts and are the last stop in the heating process. 

Heating Terms: Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a large part of heating the modern home. Because it’s a focus of many manufacturers, there are various terms specific to efficiency. These are the heating terms homeowners often come across when they research energy efficiency. 

  • AFUE. This stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. AFUE refers to how well furnaces use their energy every year. To find this number, the heat output is divided by the heat input. Higher AFUE numbers are more favorable.
  • ASHRAE. This is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. They advocate for sustainable technology in heating and cooling as well as higher indoor air quality and energy efficiency.
  • DOE. The Department of Energy is the governmental division devoted to energy efficiency and environmental concerns relating to energy usage. They also deal with nuclear repercussions on the environment.
  • ENERGY STAR. Part of the EPA, Energy Star pairs with businesses and individuals to help them save money while also protecting the environment. ENERGY STAR certification means a product meets the energy efficiency standard set by the EPA.
  • EPA. This stands for the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s part of the American federal government and protects humans and the environment through regulations on heating, cooling, and plumbing products.
  • HSPF. HSPF, or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, is the measurement of efficiency for heat pumps. The higher the rating, the more efficient the device.
  • IAQ. IAQ refers to indoor air quality. Indoor air quality includes any particles or pollutants in the air. Good IAQ has little to no pollutants or allergens, while bad IAQ is rife with harmful particles.
  • Single-speed. In general, single-speed heating units are less energy efficient because they run at high power until the space has heat. It then shuts off. This uses more energy because they blower motor has to work extra hard to heat a large area quickly.
  • Variable-speed. On the other hand, variable-speed furnaces are vastly more energy efficient because they have more control over the blower motor. On slightly chill days, the furnace only uses the energy it needs to warm the home rather than using its full capacity.

Heating Terms: Other Terminology

These heating terms are important to know, but don’t fit in the categories above. Homeowners who know these terms have a much easier time understanding some of the more specific terminology in the HVAC world.

  • AHRI. The AHRI, or Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, represents HVAC and water heating manufacturers. Homeowners use this association to find reliable, trustworthy contractors to perform their repairs and replacements. 
  • BTU. A British Thermal Unit measures how much heat is required to change the temperature by one degree for one pound of water.
  • Particulates. Particulates are tiny particles—liquid or solid—present in combustion gases. Cars, power plants, wood stoves, and more burn off particulates. These lower the air quality in the home.
  • PSI. PSI is the pound per square inch and measures pressure per inch.
  • Zoning. Zoning refers to splitting a space into different areas. This allows the homeowner to control the temperature of each zone instead of the entire house. Zoning improves comfort and is more energy efficient.

Learn These Heating Terms with Help from Jarboe’s

These heating terms are all important for homeowners to learn. This knowledge ensures homeowners understand how their heating system works, how they are able to improve efficiency, and how better identify problems. 

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling in Louisville, Kentucky wants homeowners to feel in control of their heating system. With these definitions, homeowners are better able to care for their system. If problems do occur, give us a call. We want you to receive the best heating around.

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