20 HVAC Industry Terms for Multifamily, Commercial, and Singlefamily Property Managers
Feeling confused and overwhelmed when you meet with your HVAC technician? In the market for a new HVAC unit and feeling lost in the jargon? From common system types to HVAC components and efficiency ratios, here are the top terms in the HVAC industry that will help you in your purchasing and maintenance journey.
- AFUE: Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency measures a gas furnace’s efficiency to convert fuel into energy. This percentage shows how much of the fuel is directed towards heating your space. The higher the AFUE, the greater energy efficiency and lower your incurred costs. If you have an AFUE of 85, then 85% of the fuel directly heats your home, while the remaining 15% is lost in the process.
- Antimicrobial Flex Duct: These ducts prohibit the buildup of bacteria and resist mold growth to increase the health of your air quality and decrease bacterial odors.
- BTU: British Thermal Unit is a common unit of heat energy in the heating and air industry. A BTU refers to the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of a pound of water by 1° F. The higher the BTU rating, the more powerful it is at heating up and cooling down spaces quickly. Considering the BTU of an HVAC system is essential when determining the size of the air conditioning unit. However, it’s not always better to have the most powerful system. If your unit is too powerful when cooling, the unit won’t have enough time to remove moisture from the air. It will run through more cycles, and will put your system at risk for breaking down faster than anticipated. However, if your unit does not have enough power, it will run constantly. This will cause the system to wear out quicker and increase your energy consumption.
- Compressor: This component compresses refrigerant and ensures the right amount of pressure and temperature before the refrigerant enters the condenser coil.
- Condenser Coils: In a split system, an outdoor set of coils receives refrigerant in the form of gas and converts it into a liquid which in return, removes the unwanted heat.
- Condensate Safety Switch: This safety switch is mounted on the side of the condensate drain pan or to the evaporator coil. Within the switch, if the water level rises too high, the equipment will turn off.
- Ductwork: Specialized pipes or channels for airflow throughout your home.
- EER: The Energy Efficiency Ratio demonstrates how much cooling capacity (measured in BTU) the unit provided from a specific amount of energy used (measured in watts) over a specified period of time. When looking for a system with a high EER, you can save on energy, lower your carbon footprint, and potentially save on maintenance costs as it’s less likely to breakdown.
- Evaporator coil: In a split system, the evaporator coil is an indoor component of the air conditioning or heat pump that absorbs the heat within the air. This coil allows the refrigerant to evaporate from a liquid to gas while absorbing the heat in the process.
- Filter Drier: Absorbs containments and removes moisture from the refrigerant.
- Heat Pump: Depending on if you’re heating or cooling, a heat pump is a device that removes the heat in the air and moves it inside or outside. If you’re cooling your space, the heat pump absorbs the inside heat, and moves it outside. However, if you’re heating your space, the heat pump will remove the heat from the outside air and move it inside.
- HSPF: Stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor and measures the efficiency of your heat pump in heating mode. A higher rating for HSPF can result in energy and utility savings – typically a rating between 8 and 10.
- Locking Caps: Caps are installed to prohibit refrigerant leakage. This reduces risk of inhalation.
- Low Pressure Switch: Monitors the refrigeration system for loss of refrigerant charge.
- MERV: Known as Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, measures the efficiency of an air filter based on the effectiveness of catching particles. The higher the MERV rating, the more air particles your air filter is catching.
- Packaged Unit: A unit where all parts of the system reside in one metal cabinet outside including the evaporator coil, condenser, and compressor in order to save space inside. This type of unit is ideal for homes with little indoor space or lack of underground spaces. These types of units are great for easy installation, they’re less invasive, and quiet. However, they are more prone to rust and weather damage.
- Refrigerant: The substance that produces a cooling effect when it is expanded or vaporized.
- SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio measures the air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency. The higher the SEER rating, the greater the energy efficiency. Most modern air conditioning units range from a SEER rating of 13-21. This rating can vary depending on the size and ductwork of your home. Finding a unit with a high SEER number can help lower your energy bills as the rating is a direct indicator of the unit’s performance and energy consumption. However, the higher the SEER unit, the more likely you will pay more for the unit. Finding a balance between the initial cost and potential monthly energy bill savings is key to finding the right unit and SEER.
- Split System: A unit where the condenser and compressor are held in an outdoor unit, and the evaporator coils and a fan are inside. These units are more efficient than packages systems, offer greater customization, and require lower maintenance. However, these units can be labor intensive and potentially encounter more leaks with the increased amount of moving parts.
- Zoning: Control which areas receive cooling and heating and when they receive it by use of tools such as thermostats and sensors. Zoning can help save energy and money by reducing the heating and cooling to areas not in use.
Now that you’re familiar with these top industry terms, you will be able to increase your communication with your technician and better understand what is happening with your HVAC system.