An In-Depth Look At Central Air and Forced Air Systems

The HVAC industry is filled with technical terms that the average homeowner tends not to be very familiar with. You might’ve heard of them from your local technician who regularly repairs your unit or from the specialist in charge of your unit’s installation. You may have even seen them pop up elsewhere, like in a catalog or on a billboard.

One of the many sources of confusion when it comes to everything HVAC-related centers around the terms “central air” and “forced air.” Both refer to the HVAC systems themselves, but how do they differ from one another? Read more about it below to find out!

A Small Difference

There’s a difference between central air and forced air systems, albeit a small one. The term “central air system” usually refers to a cooling unit, while “forced air” often pertains to a heating unit. However, many people, including HVAC contractors, use both terms interchangeably. Here are the notable differences between the two:

  • “Forced air” refers to any HVAC system that conditions or changes the air temperature in a central location within a home or building by warming or cooling it and then pushing it through a network of ducts and vents. Furnaces and heat pumps are examples of forced air systems, with the primary unit located indoors.
  • “Central air,” meanwhile, refers specifically to the cooling aspect of the forced air system. While a typical forced-air system is located indoors, a central air conditioning system is found outdoors. It has three main components: a condenser, compressor and evaporator coil. These work in a loop by cycling refrigerant and pulling in hot indoor air, moving the heat outdoors and pulling the cooled air back through the ductwork to be distributed throughout the home or building.

The Pros of Forced Air Systems

Forced air systems are an effective and affordable option for providing quick indoor heating during the colder months. The process of distributing warm air throughout your home or business takes little to no time compared to other systems in which air distribution starts from a central system or water needs to be heated up first.

When it comes to the installation, forced air heating units work with existing systems inside your home or business. Do you have ductwork for your AC unit? For HVAC installation technicians, this means the installation process is much faster because the ductwork for the furnace works with that of the existing AC.

Another notable advantage of forced air systems is that they’re cost effective. For one thing, they’re not as expensive as, say, radiant heaters. For the efficiency of the heating you’re getting, forced air systems are highly effective at a reasonable price.

The Cons of Forced Air Systems

Of course, forced air systems have their share of downsides that need to be considered if ever you want to install one in your home or business. One of them is the potential health risks that can be experienced by the entire household. Air that’s pushed through every room in your home or every area of your building may carry dust, mold and other airborne particles.

As with most HVAC systems, regular maintenance is the key to ensuring not just consistent comfort but also good indoor air quality. The changing of air filters must be done at least once but may be necessary up to three times a month depending on the general indoor environment.

Another disadvantage of forced air systems is the likelihood of leaks within the ductwork. These will not only introduce pollutants into your home or business, but could also cause an increase in your monthly energy bills. Proper duct design, installation and maintenance are vital for the long-term performance and efficiency of forced air systems.

The Pros of Central Air Conditioning Systems

Living in the southern part of the country means that summers can get hot and muggy. An outdoor AC unit, however, helps ensure a consistent temperature throughout your indoor spaces during this time of year. It also allows you to feel a certain level of comfort compared to what you would feel if you installed individual window AC units in every room or area. In other words, a central AC system helps ensure that the indoors don’t experience uneven temperatures where one room is cool while the other isn’t.

Another benefit of having a central air conditioner as part of your forced air system is that it often runs so quietly you won’t even notice it’s turned on. While the unit is running, you may hear faint clicks and a blowing sound being produced as the thermostat kicks it into gear. A wide range of central AC units are available on the market with this innovation, which is a good thing, as your unit won’t disrupt your enjoyment while inside the comfort of your home or business.

Also, central AC systems are installed outdoors, but they aren’t visible to everyone, improving the aesthetics of homes and businesses. In residential installations, they’re usually found either at the back or side of the house. In commercial installations, they’re commonly found on the rooftops of buildings alongside generators and other equipment.

The Cons of Central Air Conditioning Systems

Central air systems offer several advantages, but like forced air heating systems, they also have their share of disadvantages. Ductwork, for instance, means an additional expense on the part of the home or business owner. Internal humidity might also prevent the central air system from effectively keeping everything cool, which is why the ducts should be properly designed and installed. This is especially true for homes and businesses in hot, humid locations like ours.

Another drawback of central air conditioning systems is the potential for inefficient cooling. If not properly sized and installed based on the dimensions of your residential or commercial property, it may not be able to adequately cool the entire indoor space. It also means closing all the doors every time it runs to ensure the cool air stays within each room. As a result, the unit might have to work twice as hard to maintain comfort, leading to a spike in energy bills.

For your heating and cooling needs, turn to Custom Air Systems. We have the most qualified and well-trained HVAC technicians. We’ll provide you high-quality repair, installation, maintenance and replacement services. We offer products from three of the top HVAC manufacturers—Carrier®, Trane® and Lennox®. Call us today at (281) 426-0067 or fill out our contact form to schedule a service appointment.