What Everyone Needs To Know About HVAC Systems

It's Like A Foreign Language! Learn The Meanings Of Common HVAC Terms

by Amelia Martin

When you're getting a new HVAC installation – or even when you need to have your HVAC system repaired – it's sometimes hard to figure out what's going on if you don't know what the terms your contractor uses mean. To simplify the buying process and help you make informed decisions, here's a look at the meanings of common HVAC terms.

BTU: This stands for "British Thermal Unit." It is a measure of the rate at which a device can heat or cool the air. The more BTUs an AC unit or furnace offers, the larger a space it is capable of heating or cooling.

Coil: The coil is the piece of equipment that actually transfers or removes heat from the air. In a central AC system, it is the device that's located inside your home.

Condenser: This is the part of the AC system that actually ejects the heat from the system after it has been removed from the air. In a central AC system, the condenser unit is located outside.

Heat pump: In some areas, heat pumps are used in place of a separate AC unit and furnace. The heat pump's "direction" can be changed as the seasons change. In the winter, it can be set to heat the home, and in the summer, it is set to cool the home. Heat pumps work by transferring heat, either from the outdoors in or the indoors out, depending on the setting.

Radiant: Radiant heating systems warm a space by warming up a solid object and allowing that heat to "radiate" from the object into the air. Boiler heating systems, heat water and circulate it through a series of metal radiators, are the most common type of radiant heating systems.

Two-Stage: This terms is used in reference to air conditioners. Two-stage AC units have two settings – a sort of "high" setting for very hot days and a "low" setting for moderate days. In very hot climates, two-stage AC units tend to be more efficient than standard one-stage systems.

Zoning: A zoned heating or AC system allows you to control the temperatures in various parts of your home separately. For instance, you might have one thermostat upstairs and another one downstairs. In this case, you would have two HVAC zones.

If your HVAC contractor uses other terms you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. These terms are so commonplace to them that they sometimes forget the average homeowner may not thoroughly understand.