Confused by terms like air handler, heat pump or condensate? No need to worry. Understanding common HVAC acronyms and terms can help you make better choices about your heating and cooling system.
Terms and Definitions

HVAC – Stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. A system that provides different types of heating and cooling services to residential and commercial buildings, and for various types of vehicles according to industry standards.

Air Handler – This part of a heating and/or cooling system uses a blower fan to force warm or cool air through the ventilation system.

BTU – Acronym for British Thermal Unit. Most heating systems measure heat output in BTUs. One BTU equals the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree, or 252 calories.

Compressor – Used in heat pumps and air conditioners, this device controls the level of pressure put on the refrigerant. By applying pressure to refrigerant gases, the compressor turns the gas into a cold liquid.

Condensate – When the compressor applies pressure to the refrigerant gas, it condenses into a liquid or condensate.

Condenser Coil – This is a coil of metal tubing in the outdoor section of a heat pump or air conditioner, through which refrigerant passes. This is where condensate forms. The air handler blows across the condenser coil to get cold air flowing through the ventilation system.

Damper – This device is simply a lever or knob in your ductwork that directs air to the room or closes off air to certain rooms.

Evaporator Coil – The evaporator coil is located indoors. It returns condensate to its gas form in a split system or heat pump.

Heat Pump – This heating system works much like an air conditioner, using condensing coils to cool or heat air, transferring warm air outside for cooling or transferring cool air outside for warming.

HEPA Filter – HEPA is an acronym for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters can remove smaller particles from the air than a standard filter can. These are important for people who suffer from allergies.

Refrigerant – This gas condenses to form a cool liquid. Most systems today use Freon as a refrigerant, but government regulations are changing that. Going forward, new systems will use R410A, a refrigerant gas that doesn’t damage the ozone the way Freon does.

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is the measure of efficiency for heating and cooling systems, or the average BTUs of cooling or heating delivered during a specified unit of time.

Thermostat – A sensor that monitors the room temperature and turns the heating and cooling functions of your HVAC system on or off to maintain the desired temperature.


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