Commonly Used HVAC Terms & Definitions

Sometimes it seems like heating and air conditioning contractors speak their own language, and that is true to some extent. Every business has its own special lingo, and without a thorough understanding of those terms, it can be hard to know which way to turn. Whether you are scheduling a tuneup for your existing HVAC system or getting ready to replace the old dinosaur in your basement, it is a good idea to brush up on your terminology.

Knowing the lingo will make your life a lot easier, and it could save you money as well. Once you know what to look for, and what your HVAC technician is talking about, you can converse more intelligently and understand exactly what needs to be done. With that in mind, here are some of the most commonly used HVAC terms and their definitions.

HVAC – Whenever you have your heating and cooling system worked on, you will be working with an HVAC technician. HVAC is simply shorthand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, a pretty straightforward definition.

AHRI – Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute – The AHRI is a trade association responsible for developing standards in the HVAC industry.

Air Handler – The air handler is the indoor portion of the air conditioning system or heat pump.

BTU – BTU is short for British Thermal Unit, a unit of measure that represents the amount of heat needed to raise a pound of water by one degree.

Carbon Monoxide – Carbon Monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can cause injury or death when concentrated indoors. Carbon monoxide detectors are used to prevent accidental CO poisoning.

Central Air – Central air conditioning is a system by which air is chilled in a central location and distributed throughout the indoor living space.

Compressor – The compressor is the outdoor portion of the air conditioning system or heat pump.

Condenser – The condenser is used to release or collect heat, depending on the time of year and home comfort needs.

DOE – DOE is short for the Department of Energy, the part of the U.S. government responsible for setting energy policy.

Electric Air Cleaner – The electric air cleaner is used to reduce the amount of airborne particulates in an office or living space.

ENERGY STAR® – ENERGY STAR® ratings are used to indicate the efficiency of heating and cooling systems and home appliances.

Heat Exchanger – The heat exchanger is located in your furnace, and its job is to transfer heat to the surrounding area.

ISO 9000 – International standards of quality assurance.

Off-Grid – Off-grid refers to the generation of electricity that is independent of the utility grid.

Programmable Thermostat – A thermostat that can be set to individual temperatures depending on the time of day and the individual desires of the homeowner or business owner.

Two-Stage Operation – Refers to two levels of heating or cooling output. Two-stage operation provides enhanced comfort and finer control than a single-stage unit.

Understanding common HVAC terms will make it easier to keep your home comfortable all year long. Whether you are scheduling your annual checkup or responding to a sudden breakdown, knowing the terms listed above will enhance your knowledge and help you work more efficiently with your HVAC technician.

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