What Are the Different Types of HVAC Systems?

If you aren’t working in the HVAC industry, hearing words such as “heat pump”, “chilled water systems”, and “packaged unit” holds no value in your mind. It sounds technical, confusing, and it sounds like a pain to deal with. Everyone should have an idea on what type of HVAC system is available for them; so, let me help. There are 6 systems that I’ll mention:

Cooling Only Split-System
A split system is a combination of an indoor unit that handles air and an outdoor unit that condenses it. The indoor unit contains a fan and refrigerant heat exchanger (cooling coil). The outdoor unit consists of a compressor and a condenser coil. These systems have the highest EER and SEER rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the air conditioning system operates. These type of systems are typically found in residential or small commercial buildings.

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Cooling-Only Packaged System
A packaged system is a single unit that combines everything that’s in a split system. This unit is docked outdoors and indoor air is ducted from the building to the system and back through a system that distributes air. Since it’s cooling-only, an alternate method needs to be used if the client wants heating.

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Heat Pump
A heat pump is similar to a cooling-only package system with one exception: it can reverse the refrigerant cycle. What does that mean? Normally, refrigerant is used to cool the air by rejecting heat to the outdoors. But when the valve is reversed, the air is heated. These units are manufactured as a split or packaged system.

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Chilled Water System
In a chilled water system, liquid water is pumped throughout the building to coils specifically made to cool the water. A “cooling plant” is where they cool the water and can be referred to as a chiller plant.

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Window Air Conditioners
This type of system cools only small areas and is typically installed in a window or a custom opening on the wall.

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Packaged Terminal Heat Pump
PTHP (or packaged terminal heat pump) is similar to a window-mounted air conditioner. These are installed in a sleeve passing through the outdoor wall. Outdoor air is used as the heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer.

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I hope now you have an idea of what type of HVAC systems there are available. Be it commercial or residential, it’s ideal for the customers to learn what they can about systems being offered to them by heating and air conditioning contractors. Doing so will help prevent unnecessary equipment being bought and costly invoices. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at lawrence@californiaac.com. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

-Sir Lawrence Hernandez


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