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3 Essential HVAC Terms Homeowners Need to Understand

White home air conditioner
Proper operation and ongoing maintenance are key if you want your heating and cooling system to run efficiently. Unfortunately, many homeowners lack basic knowledge of their systems, such as common terms and phrases related to their HVAC system. 
Thankfully, help is available for homeowners who do not have much HVAC experience. By learning these essential HVAC terms, you will have a better understanding of your heating and air conditioning system, ensuring it runs in the most efficient manner possible. 

1. Tons

Some homeowners are confused by the terms tons and tonnage - especially when contractors use the terms to refer to a heating and cooling unit.
You should know that the terms have nothing to do with the weight of your system. The terms actually refer to the amount of heat the air conditioner can remove from the home in an hour.
Calculations vary according to the size of your home, layout, air conditioning equipment, and climate. However, most experts agree a 1-ton unit is capable of removing an estimated 12,000 BTUs, or British Thermal Units, out of the home in an hour. BTUs are a measurement of heat.
Contractors use a load calculation to determine what tonnage is necessary for your home and climate's cooling needs. This ensures your home is cooled properly and without using an excess amount of energy.


Your system's filters are important for trapping dirt and debris and for preventing allergens from flowing into your home.
If the filters are clogged, heating and cooling to your desired temperature will be difficult because of the reduced air flow. In addition, you may begin experience allergy symptoms because of the dirt, dust, and allergens lingering in your vents.
You may already understand the importance of replacing your filters, but you may not realize all filters are not the same, which is why you need to learn about MERV ratings.
MERV, or the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, refers to the effectiveness of your filter. Each type of filter ranges from 1 to 16. In essence, the higher the MERV rating, the more effective your filter will be at trapping dust particles and other allergens or contaminants.
However, filters with a higher MERV rating can affect the amount of conditioned air that flows into your home. This can make heating and cooling a bit difficult, decreasing efficiency and making your heating and cooling system more costly to operate. 
Contractors can determine what MERV rating is right for your specific system. Your contractor's recommendation will help you choose a filter that benefits your air quality without affecting your airflow and conditioning needs.


Another important term you need to understand is your system's SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.
The SEER measurement refers to the ratio between the cooling capacity and the energy the system uses. In other words, a system with a higher SEER is more efficient than one with a lower SEER.
In the past, systems were manufactured with a SEER of at least 13. As of January 1, 2015, systems must be manufactured with a minimum SEER of at least 14.
These guidelines state the minimum requirements only. Therefore, you can have a system with a higher SEER installed in your home. Since a higher SEER will be more expensive, you should consult your contractor to determine what SEER is the best for your home, climate, budget, and cooling needs.
If you feel like you do not understand the components and function of your heating and cooling system, then professionals can help. For more information on your heating and cooling system, contact our team at Riverside Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. today.