How to Speak HVAC Like a Pro

At Quality Heating, our goal is to make heating, cooling and ventilation easy to understand. We want you to be able to identify the parts and equipment that make your HVAC system work, and get answers to any questions you may have in mind.  Like every industry, there are certain terms that may be unfamiliar you. If you want to, and only if you care to,  you can learn the lingo.

We’ve put together the following glossary of HVAC terms to help. Entries are broken down by category for easier searching.

Cooling-Specific Components

Air Conditioner: a cooling component of an HVAC system which uses refrigerants to cool and transfer air.

Compressor: a device which compresses and pumps refrigerated air from an outdoor air conditioner or heat pump into your home.

Condenser Coil: the outdoor portion of an air conditioner or heat pump which can release or absorb heat depending on the time of year.

Evaporator Coil: the component inside the air handler or attached to your furnace which absorbs heat from the air in your home. The air that is pushed through the coil from the blower fan will move over the coil where the refrigerant in the evaporator will absorb the heat. Are you unsure if your evaporator coil is working properly, or think it’s in need of cleaning? Contact Quality Heating, Electrical and Air Conditioning at (360) 613-5614 today to schedule a maintenance visit. 

Refrigerant Lines: the two copper pipes running between an indoor evaporator coil and external air conditioner or heat pump. Copper is the metal of choice when it comes to this important part of an air conditioning unit, and for good reason. Copper pipes are durable, work well with refrigerants, and don’t take a lot of material to be made.

Heating-Specific Components

Air Handler: the indoor component which moves warmed or cooled air through the ductwork. Air handlers are the “lungs” of your home. Paired with heating or cooling equipment, they manage the airflow keeping your home comfortable and clean in any season. The air handler cabinet houses indoor components of your HVAC system and can fit additional devices that improve air quality and ventilation

Ductwork: the passageways through which air channeled from the furnace or blower coil flow throughout your home.

Furnace: the component of an HVAC system where the air is heated and transferred; a furnace may run from one of several different fuel sources. There are four main types of furnaces: natural gas, oil, electric, and propane. Electric furnaces can heat the air by exposing heated elements, while other types of furnaces typically require a heat exchanger or chamber that warms the surrounding air.

Heat Exchanger: the component inside a furnace which transfers heat to the surrounding areas, which in turn is pumped throughout your home.

Humidifier: the device which adds moisture to the heated air as it leaves the furnace. 

HVAC Components

Blower: the device inside an air handler or furnace consisting of a motor and wheel which moves air through your HVAC system

Damper: the movable plate in the ductwork which can be adjusted to redirect or regulate airflow; most commonly found in zoning systems.

Electronic Air Cleaner: the device which filters bioaerosols and large particles from indoor air.

Heat Pump: the device which takes the place of traditional furnaces and air conditioners by exchanging warm and cool air between the inside and outside of your home, depending upon your temperature settings.

Humidistat: anautomatic device which maintains a set level of humidity.

Programmable Thermostat: an electronic thermostat which may be programmed to activate multiple temperature settings for your HVAC system throughout the day.

Scroll Compressor: a specially designed compressor which has circular movement instead of piston-like.

Sequencer: a relay which opens circuits in a timed sequence; often found in electric heating units.

Solenoid Valve: a valve designed to stop the flow of fluids or refrigerant gasses.

Thermidistat – a device similar to a thermostat, but measures humidity instead of temperature.

Thermostat: a temperature control device containing sensors which detect changes in temperature and relay commands to the HVAC unit based on your temperature settings; most modern thermostats are digital but older models used mercury or other temperature-sensitive methods.

Variable Speed Motor: thefan motor designed to adjust the fan’s speed based on input from the thermostat; is less noisy, increases dehumidification, and more energy-efficient than standard fan motors.

HVAC Terminology

Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE): incremental measurement of heating system efficiency.

Bioaerosols: microscopic airborne organisms which breed in warm, humid air.

British Thermal Unit (BTU): amount of heat required (or removed, for cooling measurements) in an hour to change one pound of water by one degree.

Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM): airflow measurement denoting how many cubic feet off air passes a stationary point within one minute.

Energy Star®: designation to show that an appliance meets or exceeds the Federal guidelines for energy-efficient performance.

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF): incremental rating which reflects the efficiency of a heat pump.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV): rating which measures the size of an air filter’s holes; a higher number equates to smaller holes and higher filtering efficiency.

Micron: one millionth of a meter (1//1000 millimeter).

Particles: substances measuring below 100 microns in diameter; particles measuring less than 2.5 microns can have serious health effects when airborne.

Refrigerant: achemical, such as Freon, which has a cooling effect when expanding or vaporizing.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): a measurement scale which gives an increasing efficiency rating for heat pumps or cooling units.

Supply: refers to the air coming from an air handler or furnace to indoor ventilation openings such as grills or air vents.

Ton: aunit of measurement; in HVAC, one ton equals 1200 BTUs per hour in cooling capacity.

Vapor: a gaseous state of liquids, including refrigerants.

Ventilation: referring to both devices and openings in HVAC systems which allow air to vent from one area to another.

Windings: the electrical coils found in many electrical components, including compressors, contractors, and relays.

Types of HVAC Systems

Central Air-Conditioning System: asystem where air is cooled in a central location and distributed outwards.

Horizontal Flow: an air handler or furnace which is oriented on its side and circulates air from one end to the other; commonly used in crawl spaces or attics.

Packaged Unit: an HVAC system contained in a single outdoor unit.

Smart Home: a home in which multiple functions, including HVAC, are controlled automatically or by remote devices.

Split System: an HVAC system in which the components are in two different locations; usually an outside air conditioner and inside furnace.

Two-Stage Heating/Cooling: asystem which runs at a lower, energy-saving speed but may switch to a higher secondary stage as needed.

Upflow: a furnace or air handler installed vertically in basements or small spaces which circulates air from the side and out through the top.
VRF/VRZ:  A VRF system, (stands for Variable Refrigerant Flow), is a technology that circulates only the minimum amount of refrigerant needed during a single heating or cooling period. This mechanism introduced the opportunity for end users to individually control several air conditioning zones at one time.  Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC systems consist of outdoor units connected to multiple indoor units via refrigerant piping to provide cooling and heating to individual zones. With a VRF system, your building will have multiple indoor units utilized by a single outdoor condensing unit, either with a heat pump or heat recovery system.

Zoning System: any HVAC system capable of creating custom temperature zones throughout your home, allowing for better efficiency and comfort. [QHEAC]

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