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What Are the Different Types of HVAC Systems?

December 18th, 2018

To many people the systems that heat and cool our homes are complicated and mysterious. In fact, the basics of heating and air conditioning are fairly easy to understand. Time for an HVAC lesson.

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. It’s a whole system with the sole purpose of making the indoor environment comfortable.

HVAC systems are currently available in four different types. These four types of HVAC systems all come in different sizes and specifications to suit your business or home.

The Four Types of HVAC Systems

  1. Heating and Air Conditioning Split System

It’s called a split system because there is an outdoor unit containing the condenser and compressor, and an indoor unit containing the evaporator coil and blower. Split-system central air conditioning is most popular type of residential heating and air conditioning. The indoor unit is often connected to a furnace or heat pump.

If you have a furnace but no air conditioner, a split-system is the most efficient and cheapest to install.

HVAC split systems will typically have:

  • An outdoor unit that houses the condenser coil, compressor, electrical components, and a fan.
  • Refrigerant that circulates to and from the indoor and outdoor unit via a series of pipes (refrigerant lines).
  • An evaporator coil that usually sits above the furnace inside the home.
  • A blower that sends warm air over the cold evaporator coil, which absorbs heat from the air.
  • Ducts that carry air throughout your building. Supply ducts pull in air while return ducts blow it out.
  • A thermostat that controls the systems and sets your desired temperature.
  • The occasional optional accessories for quality indoor air, such as air scrubbers, purifiershumidifiersUV lamps, and so on.
  1. Hybrid Heat Pump System

In a hybrid heating and cooling system, a heat pump (powered by electricity) is used in conjunction with a furnace that burns natural gas, propane, or fuel oil.

Heat pumps are air conditioners that can also work in reverse to efficiently heat your home. One device that efficiently heats and cools your home.

The problem is that when temperatures dip below 40 degrees, the heat pump isn’t very efficient. That’s when the furnace kicks on to do the heating.

On all but the coldest of nights (where you’ll need a furnace backup), a heat pump can take heat out of the air outside and transport it into your home. And in the summer, it functions just like an air conditioner, so you’ll get year-round energy savings from one product.

An ideal hybrid heat split system will have:

  • A heat pump that heats and cools the refrigerant.
  • A furnace, plus the evaporator coil for conversion of the refrigerant and circulation of air.
  • Ductwork to channel the air around your building.
  • The thermostat for adjusting and controlling the system.
  • Optional accessories for improved indoor air quality.
  1. Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump

A duct-free HVAC system provides a solution for spaces where conventional ducted systems aren’t compatible. They can also be great compliments to existing ducted types of HVAC systems.

Ductless mini-split units are installed directly into the zones of the home that need heating and cooling. You can have as many as four indoor air handling units (four zones or rooms) for each outdoor unit.

Ductless mini-split systems will have the following:

  • The heat pump unit outdoors that contains the usual compressor, condenser, and fan.
  • A fan coil that is compact.
  • Wires and tubing for the refrigerant (only requires a 3-inch hole), connecting the outdoor unit to the fan coil.
  • The thermostat (aka control panel).
  • Optional accessories to clean the air and make it more pleasant before its distribution through the house.
  1. Packaged Heating & Air Conditioning System

A packaged HVAC system contains the compressor, condenser, and evaporator all in one unit, often located on a roof or near the foundation.

It is a good solution for homes and offices without adequate space for all the separate components of split systems. They are sometime used in small commercial buildings and often include electric coils or a furnace for heating.

Packaged HVAC systems include:

  • The air conditioner/heat pump together with the evaporator/fan coil in one unit.
  • Thermostat/control interface for a complete control of the system.
  • Optional air quality improvers. Things like the air purifiers, cleaners, ventilators or UV lamps, which gear towards making the air extra clean before it circulates your home or office.

That concludes our lesson in HVAC for now. Hopefully it has educated you a little more on the various types of HVAC systems and what each of them contains.

The primary goal for any HVAC system is to provide indoor comfort for every room in the building. With good knowledge of the available types and an understanding of your specific needs, it cannot be too hard to know what kind of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system you would need.

Don’t underestimate the value of a quality HVAC installation by a reputable HVAC company. A quality installation ensures you will get the energy efficiency and comfort you expect. Ask these 20 questions when shopping around for superior service.

And to make sure your expensive home comfort system remains efficient and reliable for many years to come, remember to schedule annual maintenance every year for your heating and cooling system. Or, sign up for a Maintenance Value Plan (MVP).

Related Resources:

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