Homeowners in Peoria rely on their HVAC systems every day, but we still get a lot of questions about what HVAC actually stands for and how HVAC systems work. As your local HVAC contractor serving the greater Peoria area, we’re breaking down the components that make up an HVAC system and introducing you to a few terms that are commonly tied to these systems.

What Does HVAC Stand For?

“HVAC” stands for “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning” and is used to refer to the mechanical systems that keep your home comfortable and healthy, year-round. We group these systems together under a single term because they are often controlled using one interface (i.e., your thermostat.)

How Do HVAC Systems Work?

How your HVAC system works depends on what types of heating and cooling equipment you have installed. The most popular types of HVAC equipment here in Illinois are…


A furnace burns a fuel such as natural gas or oil to generate heat for your home. After generating heat, the furnace sends that heat into a system of ductwork to be distributed throughout your home.


While furnaces heat your home using warm air, boilers heat your home using warm water. A boiler burns a fuel like natural gas or oil to heat up the water inside the boiler. This hot water is then distributed throughout your home via a system of radiators. (Many homes with boilers in this area have baseboard radiators.)

Air Conditioners

An air conditioner cools your home by collecting excess heat from inside your home and sending it outdoors. Refrigerant in your air conditioning system absorbs the heat, leaving behind only cool air which is then distributed throughout your home through ductwork. Because both air conditioners and furnaces use ductwork to distribute conditioned air throughout your home, these types of HVAC equipment are often paired together.

Air Source Heat Pumps

An air source heat pump is a lot like an air conditioner in that it removes heat from your home to keep it cool; but it also has a reverse function that allows it to move heat into your home to keep it warm. This makes the heat pump a dual-purpose cooling and heating unit.

You can install a central heat pump which utilizes your ductwork to distribute conditioned air throughout the home, or you can install a ductless (mini split) heat pump. Ductless heat pumps feature an indoor air handler which is installed directly in the area it conditions — eliminating the need for ductwork.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

The outside air isn’t the only source of heat. Geothermal heat pumps use naturally occurring heat underneath the earth’s surface to keep your home comfortable. In the winter, this type of heat pump transfers heat from the ground into your home. In the summer, it transfers excess indoor heat back into the ground, leaving cool air inside your living space.

Optimize Your HVAC System for Greater Home Comfort

Many different components of your HVAC system work together to keep you comfortable year-round. Are you wondering if there is something you can do to get more from your HVAC system? Maybe it’s time to repair your air conditioner, or perhaps you’re considering upgrading to a more energy efficient furnace. Maybe it’s even time to install new insulation to reduce the workload on your HVAC equipment. Whatever the case, AAA Northgate One Hour Air is here to help you get the most from your HVAC system and maximize your home comfort with smart home upgrades.

Need help with your HVAC system in Peoria, IL? AAA Northgate is your local heating and cooling specialist. Call 1-309-408-0737 or contact us to schedule an appointment!