Jumbled Jargon Part 2: HVAC

As mentioned in our most recent blog, the average person can easily misuse the lingo and/or mistake the actual root issue. While our team of certified experts will inevitably get to the bottom of the issue, we thought it useful to compile a short list of industry terms and their definitions that people often mistake. We have covered some easily misused plumbing jargon. Now, today, we want to dive into some HVAC terminology.

Furnace- A furnace system runs on natural gas, propane, or electricity. It heats up air and pushes it through the ductwork of your home using a blower. This creates a high level of ambient temperature in the home, but the air is sometimes less comfortable due to dryness.

Boiler- (different from the term “furnace”) A boiler is a closed vessel in which water is heated. The heated or vaporized water exits the boiler for use in various processes or heating applications. Boiler systems run via natural gas, oil, electricity, or even wood pellets. They use a special pump to heat radiant flooring systems, cast iron radiators, or baseboard radiators throughout your home. Due to the lack of a blower, radiantly heated air is often the most comfortable option for use inside your home.

Floor Radiant Heating- Radiant heating systems supply heat directly to the floor or to panels in the wall or ceiling of a house. The systems depend largely on radiant heat transfer — the delivery of heat directly from the hot surface to the people and objects in the room via infrared radiation. There are three types of radiant floor heat — radiant air floors (air is the heat-carrying medium), electric radiant floors, and hot water (hydronic) radiant floors.

Thermocouple- Thermocouples are sensors used to measure temperature. It is a device used inside a gas furnace and/or water heater, to assist the pilot light in keeping your furnace running and safe. It works rather like a fail-safe to keep unburned gas from accumulating and burning, exploding, or causing another type of health risk. The thermocouple working principle is based on the “Seeback Effect.” This effect states that when a closed circuit is formed by jointing two dissimilar metals at two junctions, and junctions are maintained at different temperatures then an electromotive force (e.m.f.) is induced in this closed circuit.

Flue- (Not to be confused with the flu.) A duct for smoke and waste gases produced by a fire, a gas heater, a power station, or other fuel-burning installation.

Flue Vent- A metal chimney which is “thin walled” – either a single wall of metal or a thin double wall in some areas is called a “vent”. A double-walled metal flue used for venting gas fired appliances in the U.S. and Canada is a Type-B vent. In some areas a single-walled vent might be used for gas-fired equipment such as a water heater. A single-walled metal vent or a Type-B vent would be unsafe if used to vent a woodstove or oil-fired equipment.

Composite Heating Element- (such as a “heating coil”) Tubular (sheathed) elements normally comprise a fine coil of nichrome resistance heating alloy wire, that is inside a metallic tube (of copper or stainless-steel alloys) and insulated by magnesium oxide powder. The heater generates the electric current which flows into the coil. The heating coil transfers the electric energy into heat energy. It may be directly immersed in the medium to heat it up or radiate heat through an open space.

                Now that we’ve covered some common terms, we hope we’ve helped to better educate some folks out there! Again, we here at Alpine want to help spare you as much stress as possible in keeping your home at its best. Feel free to give us a call Monday through Thursday, 8am-4:00pm (Fridays 8am-3pm), at 406-252-7100 and we will try our might to figure things out together!