Are My Furnace And AC Connected?
Air Experts’ customers are often surprised to learn that their heating and cooling systems are connected; that a more efficient cooling system also affects the efficiency of the heating system. Understanding how your furnace and AC work together can help you make HVAC installation and maintenance choices that result in the best home comfort possible.
How Does My AC Work With My Furnace?
Understanding that your furnace and AC work both separately and together can be a bit confusing. Simply put, the air conditioning part of your heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) system chills refrigerant (with an outside unit) while the furnace works inside with fans and coils.
The HVAC system’s ductwork transports air throughout the home, heating or cooling your home as needed.
Forced Air vs. Central Air
Understanding the difference between a forced air system and a central air system can help you differentiate the roles of each in your HVAC system. Essentially, a forced air system encompasses the entirety of HVAC systems that move temperature-controlled air into your home with ducts and vents. Examples of forced air systems are your furnace or your heat pump (if you have one).
Central air conditioning uses a closed loop of refrigerated/cycled air to deliver cool air when needed to combat the North Carolina summer heat. Both your forced air (furnace) and central air (AC) systems use the same parts to cool and heat your home.
The outdoor condenser and compressor, indoor fans, and evaporator coils cycle refrigerant and draw hot air inside while releasing heat, then draw cooled air back through your vents.
In other words, your central air conditioning system is independent of your furnace. The outdoor unit isn’t connected to the furnace at all — but they both use the same distribution system (vents, plenums, and ducts) to cycle cool air into your home.
Other AC Systems
While the distribution system of a furnace is generally the same, your air conditioning system can be a standard, split, or packaged system.
A split AC has both an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit houses the compressor and the condenser coil. The indoor unit regulates the airflow, distributing warm air from the furnace.
A packaged air conditioning system doesn’t use an outdoor unit. All components are in the same place.
Will a Furnace Work Without an AC and Vice Versa?
Not all homes will have HVAC systems that operate the same way. Depending on the climate where you live, your home may have a furnace and AC or you may have an AC but no furnace or vice versa.
Weather in the Triangle region can be hot, humid, chilly, and damp, depending on the season. Raleigh and Durham homeowners use a variety of HVAC system options to keep their homes comfortable year-round.
Some homeowners decide to install single-room air conditioners, where the ACs are housed in a window or wall opening. This is often because warmer climates don’t need a furnace to keep them warm, so an affordable alternative is a room air conditioner or a ductless mini-split AC.
Some homes rely on a heat-only system that functions independently of an air conditioning system. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both can help you determine what’s most efficient for your home and situation.
Do Heat Pumps Function the Same as a Furnace?
Moderate climates without severe weather that rely on both heating and cooling systems will often use a heat pump as an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners.
According to the Department of Energy, today’s heat pump systems can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 50% compared to furnaces and baseboard heaters.
How Do I Know if I have an AC or Heat Pump?
Since air conditioning and heat pump systems look the same, it can be confusing for homeowners to determine what kind of system they have. To discover what you have, check the condenser and/or indoor air handler labels.
Alternatively, you can determine if you have a heat pump if there’s a reversing valve inside the condenser or if you turn on the heat and notice your outside unit turns on.
Do I Have To Replace a Furnace & AC at the Same Time?
It isn’t necessary to replace a furnace at the same time as your AC, but in most instances, it makes sense to do so. This is because of the shared energy savings and efficiency you gain by having equally fit systems. A failing distribution system and leaky ducts can result in efficiency losses, discomfort, and spikes in your energy bill.
Investing in an ENERGY STAR® high-efficiency furnace can save you energy and money, but only if it’s properly installed. When you partner with the professionals at Air Experts, you have a guarantee that your equipment will provide optimal performance for its typical life span.
Air Experts has delivered comprehensive HVAC services to Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill residents since 1986.