What Are Forced Air Systems? Here Are 3 Things You Should Know

Posted on: March 9, 2015 | by: HVAC.com April 17, 2019

In the recent post, “Understanding The Different Components of Your HVAC System,” we discussed the three most common types of residential heating systems and what they do. Today, we want to take the time to make sure you have all the information you need to decide whether or not a forced air system — the most common type of heating system in North America — is the right HVAC system for you.



If you’re considering purchasing a forced air system, or you’re just curious why forced air systems are the most popular in North America, here are the three most important things about forced air systems that you need to know:


Ventilation sign icon. Ventilator symbol.

What You need to know:

  • How they work

    First, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how forced air systems work. Forced air systems use a furnace or heat pump to heat the air and then disperse it through the house via ductwork and in-room vents.


    Once the temperature is set at the thermostat, cold air from the home is pulled into the system where it passes through the air filter, removing allergens like pollen and dust. It then blows the air through the air handler where it is warmed via the furnace’s heat source and spread to the home through the ducts via the blower motor. If a heat pump is your primary source for heat, it will immediately begin pulling heat out of the air at the outdoor unit, pass it through the refrigerant lines going into your home, and then through the air handler and into your ducts.

    These heating processes repeat themselves until the temperature of the home matches the temperature set at the thermostat.


  • The pros

    A forced air system has a number of beneficial features that make it a great system for controlling the air quality and temperature in your home. Here are some of the more important benefits you should know about:

    • Air quality and comfort. With regular furnace filter maintenance, a forced air system can improve the air quality in your home. Furnace filters in forced air systems trap allergens and airborne particles that can make breathing difficult or get your family sick. Additionally, dehumidifier or humidifier units can be added to forced air systems to keep the air in your home at a comfortable humidity level without adding excess energy usage.
    • Energy efficiency. The government now requires new forced air systems to operate at higher efficiency levels than ever before. These efficiency ratings ensure that your fixed air system will heat your home efficiently, without wasting precious heat and hurting your bottom line.
    • Combined heating and cooling. Forced air systems are the only HVAC systems that can combine heating and cooling. The ductwork used for the heating aspect of your forced air system can also distribute central air conditioning throughout your home.


  • The cons

    It’s always good to understand the disadvantages of any system you are adding to your home. When it comes to forced air systems, the disadvantages are few and far between, but we’ve highlighted some of the more popular cons here:

    • Uneven air distribution can occur. Forced air systems rely on ducts and vents to distribute air into the rooms of your home. If these vents are blocked — for example, by furniture, interior design elements, or poor vent placement obstructing the airflow — rooms may heat unevenly.
    • Can create an unhealthy environment. Without regular furnace filter maintenance, your system could actually spread the kind of airborne particles it is meant to filter out. Forced air systems require simple, regular maintenance that not all homeowners want to provide.
    • Can be noisy. One of the biggest cons for forced air systems is the level of noise they produce. Each time the system cycles on, homeowners will hear its fans turning and air being pushed through the vents.


Now that you have a better idea of  how forced air systems work, the pros of having a forced air system in your home, and the potential cons you may encounter, you’re more prepared to make decisions regarding your home’s HVAC system.


If you have a radiant or geothermal heating system, or you want to learn more about all of your options before choosing your new HVAC system, keep an eye on our blog for similar in-depth reviews of each system.


What kind of forced air system do you have? Gas? Electric? Oil? Let us know in the comments below!


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