Do you feel like you’re trying to understand a foreign language when learning about your home’s heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems? Here is a glossary of common terms to help.
The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is a measurement of a heating system’s efficiency in turning fuel into energy. An 85 percent AFUE rating means that 85 percent of the fuel the system uses is turned into energy.
The indoor part of a split heating and/or cooling system that circulates air.
A boiler is part of a heating system that heats water to provide steam or hot water for heating. The steam or heated water is distributed through pipes to radiators or baseboards.
Stands for British Thermal Unit. It is a measurement of heat energy. For heating systems, the BTU number measures the heat output; for air conditioning systems, BTU measures the cooling capacity.
Central air conditioning
A system where air is cooled at a central location and then distributed throughout the house using ductwork. Most residential central air conditioning systems are split systems, so that part of the system is indoor and part is outdoor.
In a central air conditioning split system, this is the part of the unit that is outside the home. The condenser’s job is to release the heat accumulated by the indoor portion of the air conditioner.
As your air conditioners’ condenser cools heated air, it produces condensation. This water drips down a through a drain line. The condensate line can get clogged, causing water to overflow.
These cooling systems have indoor and outdoor units, but do not require ducting. Single-zone systems are designed for one area and have one indoor air handler and one outdoor condenser unit. Some ductless mini-split systems let you have up to four indoor units for cooling multiple areas in your home.
The system of ducts (metal or plastic) that distribute air from your central heating or cooling system throughout your house.
Also known as a swamp cooler, works by cooling air through the evaporation of water. This type of cooling works best when the humidity is 60% or less, such as in the southwestern U.S., where the air is hot and dry.
In a central air conditioning system, this resides indoors with either the furnace or air handler. It holds the chilled refrigerant that is used to draw out the heat from the air in your home.
A heating system that heats air and distributes it through the house using ducts. Often combined with central air conditioning.
Stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This term is typically used to describe home heating and cooling systems.
Handles both heating and cooling. Heat pumps transfer heat between your home and the outside to provide both heating and cooling. They work best in moderate climates where temperatures do not regularly fall below freezing.
Also called an all-in-one system. All parts of the system are contained in one outdoor unit that is usually installed on a roof or next to the home on a slab.
Used in an air conditioning system to absorb heat from indoor air.
Also called Freon. The production and use of R-22 is being phased out, as it depletes ozone. Other, more environmentally friendly types of refrigerant are replacing R-22.
Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio measures the efficiency of air conditioners. A higher SEER rating means that the system is more efficient.
The most common type of residential HVAC system, it has two main components: an indoor component (the air handler), and an outdoor one (the condenser).
See evaporative cooler.