What Are Fan Coil Units? | Everything You Need to Know

Everything You Need to Know About Fan Coils

Understanding what fan coil units are is essential when you are deciding on the best components for your HVAC system or heating and cooling system for a new room or addition. Fan coil units are an efficient and effective way to heat or cool your home, whether you are looking to provide a consistent temperature in a smaller space or your whole house. Read on to answer the question what is a fan coil unit, how they function, and their needed maintenance.

Or, if you’re ready to add a new fan coil to your home, you can contact Superior Home Supplies today to talk to one of our HVAC sales specialists.

What is a fan coil unit?

What are fan coil units? Fan coil units, or FCUs utilize a fan and coil to provide heating and cooling to a room without requiring ductwork. The air from inside will move over the coil in the system, where it will be heated or cooled before being pushed back out into the room by the fan. They come in various configurations, such as freestanding, floor-mounted, and ceiling-mounted.

These systems have high energy efficiency, are easier to install than a ducted unit, and are often but not always a part of ductless mini-split systems.

How does a fan coil unit work?

Fan coil units are primarily operated by a motorized fan and a heating coil, cooling coil, or combo coil. The fan will draw in fresh air from the room and move it across the coils, where it will be heated or cooled before it is pushed out of a diffuser. After the air is circulated in the room, it will be returned through the return grille, where the process will repeat itself. The units are quite simplified versions of a fan and heat exchanger. Understanding how a fan coil unit works will help you determine if it is the right heating/cooling option for you.

What is a fan coil unit in HVAC?

Another critical factor in your decision is knowing what are fan coil units regarding your HVAC system. A fan coil system is a standalone system designed to circulate air in a specific space. Yet, when part of a larger HVAC system, they are the air handling units or AHUs. As part of your HVAC system, the unit is responsible for cooling and redistributing the air in your home through your ductwork system.

What does a fan coil unit do?

What is a fan coil unit, and what it does is a critical part of determining whether it should be used for your home’s heating and cooling. They are designed to provide warm air in the winter and cooled air in the summer. They do not require ductwork, so they are often used with ductless heat pump systems.

Where can I find my fan coil at home?

The location of your fan coil unit will depend on whether you have a standalone unit or your fan coil unit is the air handler portion of a larger HVAC system. If the unit is independent of a ducted HVAC system, it will likely be found on a ceiling. This can be especially true if it is in an office space.

If the unit is part of your HVAC system, it will be part of the interior portion of your HVAC system, typically found in the attic, basement, or closet of your home.

What are the components of a fan coil unit?

What are fan coil units, and what components help to make them up? While components may vary based on the type of system, in general, fan coils will have the following:

  • Casing around the unit, if the system is cased.
  • An air intake and discharge grille where the indoor air is drawn in and pushed out,
  • An air filter that will trap debris and remove it from the circulating air.
  • A fan that draws air in and pushes it over the coils and into the room.
  • A cooling coil that cools down the air to be delivered into the room.
  • A heating coil that warms the air to be delivered into the room.
  • An on/off switch and speed controller.
  • A wall or duct-mounted thermostat to control the temperature.

Types of FCUs

To understand what is a fan coil, you will need to know the different types of FCUs available and how each one works to achieve a comfortable temperature in your home.

Direct Expansion FCU

Direct expansion systems, or DX systems, have an evaporator in the area that will need refrigeration. The refrigerant in the evaporator coil will expand, and the heat in the room will be absorbed in it, leaving cooled air to be pushed out into the room.

Chilled Water FCU

Chilled water fan coils work a little differently. They will transfer the heat from the air that passes over the heat exchanger to chilled water provided by the chiller unit or reversible heat pump.

Ducted Concealed Type

Ducted, concealed fan coils are designed to provide hot and cool air to a room while staying completely hidden. They are ideal when aesthetic and quiet operation is needed, such as in hotel rooms.

Non-Ducted Exposed Type

Exposed non-ducted FCUs typically have a decorative casing as they will be part of the room aesthetic. They are typically on the ceiling or floor and have a covering for the fan and coils so the unit is visible and exposed. They will not connect to ductwork and use discharge grilles to disperse the air.

How to clean fan coil unit

Cleaning a fan coil unit is simple and only requires a few simple steps, making it easy to do DIY. It is essential to keep your system clean to ensure optimal energy efficiency. To clean your fan coil, you will need to:

  1. Turn off the unit and let it cool down.
  2. Detach and remove the cover panel.
  3. Vacuum out built-up dust and debris using a vacuum attachment.
  4. Wipe down the casing with a clear, dry cloth.
  5. Closing the panel and cleaning around the unit.

Seasonal maintenance for FCUs

Along with cleaning, seasonal maintenance can help to keep your fan coil unit operating as it should. The filter, the coil, and the motor are the three main components to take care of during maintenance and should be performed at least twice a year. During your maintenance you will want to:

      • Check and change the filter as needed.
      • Lubricate all of the parts of the motor and the belts according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
      • Examine all of the parts for damage and wear and tear.
      • Clean dust and debris off of the various components.

        Troubleshooting a fan coil unit

        Now that you understand what are fan coils, it is also crucial to understand what can go wrong with them and what type of issue may warrant professional repairs. Below are some of the common problems that can occur with fan coils.

        Cooling fan problems

        If the air coming out of your system is not as cool and you are operating a chilled-water cooling system, there may be problems with one of your chilled-water coils, or there may not be enough of them to cool the area efficiently. If the problem is the latter, purchasing a new system is often necessary.

        Airflow and air quality fan problems

        Another problem with a fan coil is issues with the system’s airflow. Dirty plenums, filters, and coils can increase resistance and lower the air volume, which can affect airflow and lower the unit’s ability to heat or cool the space. Properly cleaning the unit can help rectify this problem.

        Noise and fan problems

        While fan coil units aren’t designed to be entirely noise-free, they should have a fairly quiet operation. Noise can be caused by issues ranging from a frayed belt to damaged parts to poor installation, and you may need the services of an HVAC technician to identify the problem.

        Fan coil unit replacement

        Fan coil units are designed to be durable, but they can need a replacement for several reasons. Below are a few issues that may warrant a replacement over a repair.

            • Inconsistent temperature: When your unit can no longer maintain the temperature in the room, it can be a sign of significant problems, such as refrigerant leaks.
            • Excessive noise: Gurgling noises, or loud noise when the fan is running, could mean that the motor is failing, and it is often the better option to replace the unit.
            • An older system: Your system is designed to last 10 to 15 years. If you have a significant issue or need repairs, and your unit is older than ten years, replacing it with a more energy-efficient option will likely be your best option.

              Fan coil unit recommendations

              If you think a fan coil unit will be the right option for your home, you need to decide which brand and model will best suit your needs. While Superior Home Supplies offers a wide range of fan coil units from top brands, below are two of the best FCUs on the market.

              Goodman Packaged Air Conditioners

              Goodman is one of the top names in HVAC for a good reason, and their Goodman 15 SEER 3 TON Packaged Air Conditioner Unit is the perfect FCU for many homeowners. This packaged AC system has an efficient scroll compressor, a multi-speed ECM blower motor, and an all-aluminum evaporator coil.

              Amana Heat Pumps Systems

              The Amana PTAC 12,000 BTU 11 EER Air Conditioner Heat Pump W/ 3.5kW Heater is an ideal option for those looking for a packaged unit with both cooling and heating capability. The system features a wireless remote thermostat, a constant fan mode, increased dehumidification capacity, and quiet operation.


                  • Fan coil units can be independent units or part of a large HVAC system.
                  • They are designed to provide heating, cooling, or both for your home.
                  • Most fan coil units consist of coils, fans, and vents for intake and discharge.
                  • While fan coil units can be attached to ducted systems, they do not require ductwork.
                  • Fan coil units are popular alternatives to ductless mini-split systems and are often used with heat pumps.

                  Choose from a wide range of fan coil units at Superior Home Supplies

                  Now that you can answer the question of what is a fan coil unit, now is the time to determine if it is suitable for your home. Check out the available inventory at Superior Home Supplies or contact one of our customer service specialists today to find out more.

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