If you’re not familiar with the vocabulary of HVAC, you may feel lost when it comes to understanding what’s happening in your home’s heating and cooling systems. Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.
HVAC stands for:
- H heating
- V ventilation
- A air
- C conditioning
It’s a system that provides comfort to people by adjusting the temperature, humidity, and air quality of a space. There are three main parts of an HVAC system:
Heating: This process warms up the air inside your home or office. It can be done with natural gas or electricity.
Cooling: This process cools down the air inside your home or office. It can be done with refrigerants such as Freon (R-22). These days, most cooling systems use a type of refrigerant called R410A because it’s more energy efficient than R22. Eventually, they’ll stop using R410A. It’s bad for the environment when released into the atmosphere at high concentrations. It depletes ozone levels in our atmosphere!
Ventilation: This process helps remove moisture from indoor spaces to keep them dryer and healthier for people who live there. There are many different types of ventilation systems for residential and commercial buildings.
The Most Common HVAC Terms You Should Know
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common HVAC terms you should know so that you can better understand your unit’s maintenance needs and how to keep it running smoothly.
- AFUE (Annual Fuel Efficiency Ratio): A measure of how much energy your furnace uses to heat your home and how much you save on heating bills each year.
- AHRI: The Air-Conditioner, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute is a nonprofit organization that develops standards for the HVAC industry.
- Air Filter: An air filter helps clean dust from the air before it enters your home through ductwork. Air filters keep it fresh and clean for you and your family!
- Air Flow: The amount of air that moves through an HVAC system.
- Air Handler Unit: A unit that houses an air handler and often also contains a heat exchanger, fan coil units, and other components needed to distribute conditioned air throughout a building.
- Air Permeability: The ability of material to allow airflow through itself.
- ASM: Air Sealing Material. Materials are used to seal gaps between elements in an HVAC system to improve efficiency and reduce energy loss.
- Auxiliary Heat: Heat generated by an oil-fired boiler or gas burner, used to supplement the primary heating system in a home.
- Boiler: A device that burns fuel to produce hot water or steam for heating, cooling, or power generation.
- Blower: A device that moves air at high velocities.
- Btu: British thermal unit, a measurement of heat energy.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO): This is a colorless, odorless gas produced by fossil fuel combustion. Faulty appliances, such as furnaces, can produce it. It can cause serious health problems or even death if you inhale too much. It would be best to have your CO detectors checked annually to ensure they are working properly.
- Central Air Conditioner: A large unit that cools your entire house through ductwork; also called an air conditioner unit (ACU). It generally includes a condenser, evaporator coil, blower fan(s), filter(s), and compressor(s).
- Central Heating System: A system that uses one or more furnaces to provide heat to all rooms in your home through ductwork; also called a forced-air system because it uses blowers to move heated air throughout your home’s ductwork network.
- Coils: A coil is a part of an HVAC system that helps transfer heat from one place to another. Usually, from outside air into your home or building through vents, then back again when it’s cooled down enough for comfort.
- Compressor: This is the heart of an air conditioner or heat pump. It’s what pumps refrigerant through your system to circulate coolant throughout your house or business.
- Condenser: A device that transfers heat from one substance to another using vaporization and condensation. In an HVAC system, heat is transferred from refrigerant to outside air before circulating throughout your home via ductwork.
- Dehumidification: The process of removing excess moisture from the air, which can lead to better comfort and lower energy costs.
- Energy Efficiency: This refers to the energy efficiency of your home’s HVAC system. An energy-efficient system will help reduce your utility bills and decrease your carbon footprint.
- Energy Star: A rating system for cooling equipment that uses less energy than standard cooling equipment without sacrificing performance or comfort. It does this by using advanced technology and having high-quality insulation on its components.
- EPA: Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA regulates the production, emissions, and use of HVAC systems.
- EER: This means Energy Efficiency Ratio. It measures the efficiency of a heating or cooling system by comparing it to the amount of energy it consumes. The higher the EER, the better.
- Evaporator Coil | Evaporator Pad | Evaporator Pad: This is another key component of HVAC systems: It’s a device that takes heat away from inside your home or business and releases it outside as water vapor. An evaporator coil is used in air conditioning systems that cools the air by evaporating water from the refrigerant.
- Ductwork: Ducts are pipes that carry heated or cooled air from one place in your home or business to another. For example, from the furnace/heat pump to the rooms where you need it most, like your living room or bedroom.
- Forced Air System: A forced air system uses fans to move warm air into the most needed rooms, like bathrooms or kitchens. These units also work well in large spaces where circulation might otherwise be poor.
- Fresh Air Intake: The part of an HVAC system that brings in fresh air from outside, reducing indoor pollutants and increasing comfort levels for occupants.
- Furnace: A device that produces heat by burning fuel and moving it through a heat exchanger.
- Heat Loss: Heat loss can be caused by poor insulation or inadequate ventilation in your home. If you want to keep your energy bills low, consider upgrading your insulation or installing new windows with better insulation materials. For example, tinted glass panes block UV rays from entering the room.
- Heat Pump: An HVAC system that transfers heat from one area of your home or business to another rather than just cooling it down by removing moisture from the air. The heat pump transfers heat from one area to another using a refrigerant as the transport medium instead of electricity or gas. The refrigerant is pumped through coils inside the unit as it cycles through various temperatures. These temperatures vary depending on whether it’s extracting or adding heat from the surrounding environment. Heat pumps can be used indoors (as part of an air conditioner) and outdoors (as part of a heating system). Outside temperatures will determine which type best suits your needs at different times during the year.
- Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV): A device that uses energy recovery technology to ventilate homes while recovering heat from exhaust air and exhausting fresh air into the home.
- Heat Transfer: The process by which heat flows from one location to another. In HVAC systems, heat transfer occurs between the inside and outside of your home. It also happens between rooms within your home.
- HEPA: A filter that removes 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns and larger.
- HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor): This number represents how well an air conditioner can heat a room over time during different seasons. Summer or winter months, when temperatures outside change drastically due to weather conditions such as snowstorms or heat waves, affect the HSPF. So, it’s important to choose an air conditioner with high HSPF.
- Humidifier: A device that adds moisture to the air. Humidifiers add moisture back into dry air to prevent several health problems caused by dry air (e.g., dry skin). Humidifiers are not designed to work on their own. They need to be connected to an existing HVAC system to feed water into your home’s heating/cooling system.
- Maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential for keeping your air conditioner running efficiently. It helps extend the life of your unit and reduces repair costs.
- MERV: A filter rating system that measures the efficiency of filters at removing allergens from the air. The higher the MERV number, the better it is at filtering allergens out of the air. The scale ranges from 1 to 16, with 16 being the best at filtering allergens out of the air.
- NATE Certification: National Air Duct Cleaners Association certification signifies a quality HVAC professional.
- Outside Air Temperature: The temperature of the air outside your home. This can affect how quickly your HVAC system cools or heats your home by allowing more or less outside air into your system.
- Packaged Unit or RTU (Rooftop Unit): A device that contains all of the components needed for an HVAC system, including:
- outdoor condenser unit (the cooling component)
- an indoor evaporator coil unit (the heating component)
- electrical components like fans and blowers help circulate air throughout the house.
- Refrigerant: Refrigerant is a substance that absorbs and releases heat. The most common refrigerants are ammonia, hydrocarbons, and halocarbons. In HVAC systems, refrigerants are used to move heat from one place to another. They’re used in air conditioners and heat pumps, which can be found in both residential and commercial settings.
- Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): A SEER is a unit of measure for heating efficiency. It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.
- Thermostat: The thermostat is an electronic device that senses temperature changes. It turns on or off the HVAC system based on what you’ve pre-programmed it to do.
- Zoned: Zoned systems offer more control over your heating and cooling costs by allowing you to adjust the temperature in certain areas of your home or business. For example, rooms that aren’t being used much can be kept cooler than those that are used frequently.
An Important HVAC Term: The Cooling Company (TCC)
HVAC terms can be confusing. We get it! Is an air handler a fan? Is a heat pump a furnace? How does a humidifier differ from a dehumidifier? We’re here to help! At TCC, we understand that sometimes the words you need to know are more complex than they seem.
At TCC, we’re here to help you understand the terminology so you can make the most informed decisions about your home’s HVAC system and keep it running smoothly for years to come.