Heating and Cooling Systems

Heating and cooling systems in modern homes typically require very little homeowner maintenance.

Most heating systems are “forced air” systems whereby the air is heated and distributed by a furnace and the ducting system attached to the furnace. Other heating system include “hydronic” systems whereby water is heated and circulated to either a radiator set into forced air ducting, to radiators located on walls, or through water piping placed in or under floors.

Cooling systems operate using a system that is similar to a refrigerator. Liquid is circulated through piping where part of the liquid is cooled. Air is blown across the cooled areas of the piping system and the cool air is then distributed through the house. It is usually distributed through the same ducting that supplies your home with heat.

Common Issues

It is rare that the system installed in a new home is not sized correctly for the house – the builder and installer will have tested the heating and cooling system to ensure that it could maintain a comfortable interior climate for your home; however, the following includes a list of some common causes of inadequate heat or cooling within a home:

  • Obstructed Vents – Check for obstructions by lifting the register off the floor and looking down into the duct with a flashlight. Remove anything that could be obstructing the airflow. Always wear heavy gloves when reaching into ducts as sheet metal screws may be protruding from the joints in the ductwork.
  • Dampers – If an area of your home is too cool or too warm, check to ensure the registers are fully open by adjusting the dampers to limit or increase the airflow, especially those where the thermostat is located. This is known as balancing your system.
  • Dirty or Plugged Air Filter – Plugged air filters can also limit airflow from the furnace to the ducts. Inspect and clean, or replace the furnace air filter, at the beginning of the heating season and on a regular basis throughout the winter.
  • Heat Exchangers – The efficiency of the cooling system can be affected by dirt or debris on the heat exchanger for the cooling unit. Consult your ownersʼ manual for the cooling system for directions on cleaning the unit.

Useful Tip:

Some furnaces have an air conditioning coil that is placed in the same cabinet as the furnace. When an air conditioning unit is operating, water present in the air condenses on the coils and runs off. This water is collected and sent to a floor drain near the unit through a small metal or plastic drain line. This drain can become plugged with dirt, dust and occasionally ice crystals. It is important to regularly inspect and clean this drain to keep the air conditioner functioning properly.

Room Temperature Differences

Due to seasonal variations and day-to-night differences in temperatures, it may be challenging heat or cool your home to a uniform temperature everyday of the year. In most homes that have central heating systems, the balance of heat can be affected by the following factors:

  • The number or size of windows in a room;
  • The amount of sunlight that comes through the windows;
  • The number of exterior and interior walls in the room;
  • The location of the room and whether the rooms are located above unheated areas (i.e., a garage or an exterior cantilever);
  • The number of openings that go through the walls and ceiling of the room to (i.e., ceiling lights, plug-ins, etc), creating paths for air movement within the walls;
  • The drapes and furnishing and location of these items in the room.