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The Homeowner's Guide To Gas-Powered Forced-Air HVAC Systems And Their Maintenance Requirements

by Feride Halma

If your new home has a gas-powered forced-air HVAC system and you are unfamiliar with how it works, then it's important you understand its basic parts and how they function. With a clear understanding, you can easily troubleshoot problems and perform basic maintenance on the system when it becomes necessary.

Below you will find a list of gas-powered HVAC system parts and how they function, followed by some information about how to care and maintain your system between professional inspections and repairs:

The Main Parts of All Gas-Powered HVAC Systems

While HVAC systems made by various manufacturers may have differences in the way they look, they all contain the same basic parts and they all work in the same way. Once you can identify each part and know what its function is, then you can easily troubleshoot problems to determine when a repair is something simple you can handle yourself or when it's more complex and a professional heating repair service is necessary.

The main parts of your gas-powered HVAC system are:

The Gas Line

To provide a steady stream of natural gas or propane, your heater has a gas line that is either connected to a utility gas line or to a line fed by a tank in your yard.

The Ignition Source

The ignition source in a gas-powered heater is the part responsible for lighting the gas burner. Typically, the ignition source will be a standing pilot light, an electric spark, or a hot-surface ignitor.

The Burner Unit

The burner unit burns the gas and heats up the air inside of the system's heat exchanger.

The Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is the box-looking part that contains the burner unit. The ambient air is brought into the heat exchanger for heating by the burner just before it is expelled into the home's duct system.

Anti-Explosion Safety Devices

All gas-powered heaters also have safety devices installed to prevent unburned fuel or combustible gases from coming into contact with the ignition source to eliminate the explosion risk.

How to Safely and Properly Maintain Your Home's Gas-Powered HVAC System

Now that you understand the basic parts of your HVAC system and how they work, it is important to take regular action to protect them by:

  • Changing the furnace filter when it becomes soiled

  • Calling for a professional cleaning when the system looks dusty

  • Calling for a yearly professional system inspection and cleaning each fall

  • Having the ductwork cleaned every other year

You should also call an HVAC technician if you hear unusual noises or smell odors when the system is running.

Finally, if you ever smell gas, call your local utility or 911 immediately. If gas collects in your home and is ignited by a spark, it can cause a fatal explosion.