Whether you live in the hot and humid South, like Central Georgia, or the cold and blustery North, your HVAC system is one of the most critical parts of your home. In the summers, your air conditioning keeps your family cool and helps to remove the humidity that fosters mold growth in your home. In the winter, your furnace protects you from the worst of what mother nature throws your way.
Have you ever really wondered how your HVAC system does its magic, or if the system you have is right for your home and budget? In the HVAC world, two big solutions dominate almost every household: central or zoned. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and which one is best depends on many factors. Here’s a breakdown of traditional vs. zoned HVAC for your Savannah, GA home.
How Does an HVAC System Work?
HVAC systems have a ton of moving parts that all work in harmony to keep your home at the perfect temperature for you.
The brain center of your HVAC system, this is the piece of your HVAC system you’ll probably interact with most. The thermostat reads the ambient temperature in your home, and when the temperature goes above or below the setting, the system kicks on.
If you need to be toasty warm, this guy is your best friend. The furnace unit has a heating element which is generally electric or gas powered. The heating elements heat the air, and the blowers distribute the hot air through your ducts.
Evaporator coils are used to cool down the air when your thermostat is set low. The cold air is then pumped into your home.
This is the large unit found outside the home. It’s filled with a refrigerant gas. The refrigerant is pumped as a liquid to the evaporator coil. It cools the air at the coil and is then returned as gas to the condenser.
These are the lines that carry the refrigerant from the condenser to the evaporator and back.
These are the outlets inside your home that distribute the air inside your ducts to the various rooms in your home. They’re usually found near the ceiling or floor and have angled slats to direct airflow; most can also be used to stop airflow to a room.
This is a very basic explanation of how these complex systems work, but in their essence, any HVAC system operates on these principles. Either a heating element heats the air, or a cooling unit cools the air in a fixed unit, and blowers distribute it through your ducts. So, the most important question is: "Ducts or no ducts?"
Traditional HVAC Systems
The traditional HVAC system is a split system with units inside and outside the home. The furnace is usually in a basement or garage, while the air conditioner’s condenser unit is outside the home to cool the refrigerant gas which cools the air inside the evaporator located in the furnace unit.
The biggest part of these types of systems is the ductwork. Metal ducts run through each room of the home and use a series of vents to heat or cool different rooms. These types of systems can be whole home or zoned.
Whole-home systems blow their air throughout the entire duct system, and heating and cooling are controlled by the thermostat and which vents are open. Zoned systems use special dampers within the ductwork to open and close off certain areas; that way you can control which areas of the home do not receive air.
Four Advantages of a Traditional HVAC System
Consistent Temperature All Year Long
Probably the biggest benefit of a central split system is consistency. If you live in the South where summers are extremely hot, this type of system will keep your home at a constant temperature. Likewise, if you live in the North, this type of system will keep your home warm all over.
Because these types of systems push air throughout the entire home, you can install HEPA filters to improve the indoor air quality of your entire home.
Central HVAC systems can have a programmable thermostat installed. These systems can let you program cycles of heat and air conditioning based on need. These can be programmed by time of day or day of the week, saving you money by running less frequently when you’re not at home.
Heating and Air Combos
Central systems can be either single-stage systems, meaning they offer either heat or cooling, or single splits where they combine the two. This means that with one system, you can maintain a constant temperature within your home.
Ductless Zoned Systems
Ductless systems, or mini-splits, are designed to work without ducts. They are composed of a heat pump or air conditioner with a small fan coil which is connected to an outdoor unit. They offer accessories like air purifiers and cleaners. These systems are generally more expensive to install at the onset but pay for themselves in the long run because they are generally more energy efficient.
These systems are designed to work in zones, so individual units are installed in different areas of the home and are used in tandem to control the temperature. These systems save energy by heating and cooling only the areas of the home that are in use.
Four Advantages of Ductless Mini-Splits
Central systems heat the whole home and force air through ducts. If there are any leaks in the ductwork, you lose efficiency since you also have to heat or cool the entire duct system. Ductless systems heat or cool only the areas you need so that you can cool one area and heat another.
While the initial cost of installation may be more than a central system, ductless systems will pay for themselves over time. There is no ductwork to deal with, meaning there is no chance of leaks that can cause energy loss. You also are heating and cooling only the areas you need, and you don’t have to force air through the whole home.
Indoor Air Quality
Unlike traditional HVAC systems, you have much less chance of air contamination from ductless systems. There is no return air to filter, and no ductwork that can store a buildup of contaminants which get spread through the home.
Quick and Easy Install
Because you’re not installing ductwork throughout the home, these systems are a breeze to install. Traditional systems can take weeks to install and disrupt the flow of daily life, but ductless systems can be up and running in a day.
Which Should You Choose?
This really depends on what your specific needs are. Traditional systems are great for large houses that have a need for consistent temperature control. Multi-floor homes also benefit from central systems. If you live in an area that experiences extremes in temperatures like the deep South or upper North, central systems help fight off the harshest of what Mother Nature can throw at you. There are some things to consider, as well. The seal on your system is important. If your envelope seal is leaky, then outdoor air will get in and your results will be inconsistent.
Ductless systems are great for smaller areas, or homes where the central system needs assistance like new additions or older homes with no existing ductwork. These systems are quick to install, generally taking not more than a day, and are great for heating an area in zones. This means that if you like things on the cool side, your room can be one temperature while the rest of the family can be toasty warm. These systems are zoned, however, so multiple units are needed to cool an entire home. While the initial installation can be expensive, the cost savings can pay for the unit in the long run.
Whichever system you choose ultimately comes down to the specific needs of your home and your family. The experienced pros at Byrd Heating and Air Conditioning are more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Call today for a free estimate at 912-373-8447.
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