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Glossary

of HVAC Terms
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) is
a major sub-discipline of mechanical engineering.
The goal of HVAC design is to balance indoor
environmental comfort with other factors such as
installation cost, ease of maintenance and energy
eciency. There is a large number of specialized
terms and acronyms, many of which are
summarized in this glossary.

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Terms Index
A B
*
*
*
*

Air Changes per Hour


Air Conditioner
Air Handler
British Thermal Unit (BTU)

C
*
*
*
*
*

PAGE 4

Chiller
Coil
Condenser
Constant Air Volume
Controller

D - E


*
*
*
*
*

PAGE 3

PAGE 5

Damper
Deep Lake Water Cooling
Delta () T
Duct
Evaporator

F - G


* Fan Coil Unit
* Flow
* Fresh Air Intake
* Furnace
* Grille

PAGE 6

H - L

PAGE 7

* Heat Gain / Load / Loss


* Intermediate Fluid
* Louver

M - O

PAGE 8

PAGE 9


* Makeup Air Unit
* Minimum Outside Air
* Outside Air Damper

*
*
*
*

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner


Packaged Unit
Plenum Space
Psychometric

R - T


*
*
*
*
*

PAGE 10

Rooftop Unit (RTU)


Smoke Damper
System
Terminal Unit
Thermal Zone

U - V

PAGE 11


* Underoor Air Distribution
* Variable Air Volume

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

A - B

* Air Changes per Hour ACH


* The number of times per hour that the volume of a specic room or
building is supplied or removed from that space by mechanical and
natural ventilation.
* Air Conditioner A/C
* An appliance, system or mechanism designed to dehumidify and
extract heat from an area. Usually this term is reserved for smaller
self contained units such as a residential system.
* Air Handler [Unit] AH or AHU
* A central unit consisting of a blower, heating and cooling elements,
lter racks or chamber, dampers, humidier and other central
equipment in direct contact with the airow. This does not include
the ductwork through the building.
* British Thermal Unit BTU
* Any of several units of energy (heat) in the HVAC industry. One BTU
is the energy required to raise one pound of water one degree
Fahrenheit. In the US the power of HVAC Systems is sometimes
expressed in BTU/hour instead of watts.

Fun Fact: The modern Air Conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis
Carrier for a publishing company. The A/C kept the temperature and
humidity low to keep the paper from expanding and contracting.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

* Chiller
* A device which removes heat from a liquid via a vapor-compression
or absorption refrigeration cycle. This cooled liquid ows through
pipes in a building a passes through coils in air handlers, fan-coil
units or other systems, cooling and usually dehumidifying the air in
the building. Chillers can be either air or water cooled.
* Coil
* Equipment that performs heat transfer to air when mounted inside
an air handling unit or ductwork. It is heated or cooled either by
electrical means or by circulating liquid or steam within it.
* Condenser
* A component in the basic refrigeration cycle that ejects or removes
heat from the system. The condenser is the hot side of an air
conditioner or heat pump. Condensers are heat exchangers and can
transfer heat to air or to an intermediate uid.
* Controller
* A device that controls the operation of part or all of the system.
Most controllers are automatic but have user input such as
temperature set points (i.e. a thermostat). Controls may be analog
or digital.

Fun Fact: Air conditioning has helped increase life expectancy and
advances in medicine. Hospitals with A/C helped allow advances in
surgery, decreased infant mortality rates and inhibited bacteria.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

D - E

* Damper
* A plate or gate placed in a duct to control air ow by increasing
friction in the duct.
* Deep Lake Water Cooling
* The heat is rejected to deep lake regions to cool homes and oces,
reducing energy costs.
* Delta T T
* A reference to a temperature dierence. It is used to describe the
dierence in temperature of a heating or cooling uid as it enters
and leaves a system.
* Duct
* Specialized housing for air ow.
* Evaporator
* A component in the basic refrigeration cycle that absorbs or adds
heat to the system. Evaporators can be used to absorb heat from air
or from liquid. The evaporator is the cold side of an air conditioner
or heat pump.

Fun Fact: Movie theaters were very quick to adopt air conditioners.
Summer Blockbusters exist because people used to ock to the
movies to escape the summer heat.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

F - G

* Fan Coil Unit FCU


* A small terminal unit that is often composed of only a blower and a
heating and or cooling coil, as is often used in hotels, condominiums
or apartments.
* Flow
* A transfer of uid volume per unit time.
* Fresh Air Intake FAI
* An opening through which outside air is drawn into the building.
This may be to replace air in the building that has been exhausted
by the ventilation system or to provide fresh air for combustion of
fuel.
* Furnace
* A component of an HVAC system that adds heat to air or an
intermediate uid by burning fuel in a heat exchanger.
* Grille
* A facing across a duct opening, often rectangular in shape,
containing multiple parallel slots through which air may be delivered
or withdrawn from a ventilated space. The grille directs the air ow
in a particular direction and prevents the passage of large items.

Fun Fact: Climate control has changed the way houses are built. High
ceilings and large windows (to allow breeze through the house) are no
longer needed now that central air can cool all areas of the house.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

H - L

* Heat Gain / Load / Loss


* Terms for the amount of cooling (heat gain) or heating (heat loss)
needed to maintain desired temperatures and humidities in
controlled air. Regardless of how well-insulated and sealed a
building is, buildings gain heat from sunlight, conduction through
walls and internal heat sources such as people and electrical
equipment. Buildings lose heat through conduction during cold
weather. Engineers use Heat Load Calculations to determine the
HVAC needs of the space being cooled or heated.
* Intermediate Fluid
* A liquid or gas used to transfer heat between two heat exchangers.
An intermediate uid is used when the hot and cold uids are too
bulky (such as air) or too dicult to handle (such as a halocarbon
refrigerant) to directly transfer the heat.
* Louver
1. Components made of multiple smaller blades, sometimes
adjustable, placed in ducts or duct entries to control the volume
of air ow.
2. Blades in a rectangular frame placed in doors or walls to permit
the movement of air.

Fun Fact: AC has revolutionized many other industries besides medicine:


Computer & chipsets manufacturing; production, delivery & storage of
food; pharmaceutical manufacturing and chemical manufacturing.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

M - O

* Makeup Air Kit MAU


* An air handler that conditions 100% of outside air, typically used in
industrial or commercial settings.
* Minimum Outside Air
* The lowest amount of fresh air ow that can be allowed into a
recirculating system. This limit is set to insure that the interior air
remains safe and comfortable to breathe.
* Outside Air Damper
* An automated louver or damper that controls the fresh air ow into
an air handler and modulates to the most energy ecient setting.

Fun Fact: Before air conditioning was invented, most industries


traditionally slowed down or stopped during the summer when buildings
were hot and workers sluggish.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

* Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner PTAC


* An air conditioner and heater combined into a single, electrically
powered unit, typically installed through a wall and often found in
hotels.
* Packaged Unit
*

a.k.a. Rooftop Units RTU

* An air-handling unit, dened as either a recirculating or once-


through design, made specically for outdoor installation. Often
include their own heating and cooling devices. Very common in
some regions, particularly in single-story commercial buildings.
* Plenum Space
* An enclosed space inside a building or other structure, used for
airow. Often refers to the space between a dropped ceiling and
the structural ceiling or a raised oor and the hard oor. Distinct
from the ductwork as a plenum is apart of the structure itself. Cable
and Piping within a plenum must be properly rated for re and
smoke indices.
* Psychometric
* The study of the behavior of air-water vapor mixtures. Water vapor
plays an important role in energy transfer and human comfort in
HVAC design.
Fun Fact: Before A/C became popular, the Northeast was the economic
powerhouse of the US. Since 1960, 60% of the economic growth has
taken place in the South.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

R - T

* Rooftop Unit RTU


* Same as a Packaged Unit see previous page.
* Smoke Damper
* A damper or adjustable louver designed to augment the ventilation
of a space during a re.
* System
* General term used to refer to the set or a subset of components
that perform a specic HVAC function within a building.
* Terminal Unit TU
* A small component that contains a heating coil, cooling coil,
automatic damper or some combination of the three. Used to
control the temperature of a single room.
* Thermal Zone
* An individual space or group of neighboring indoor spaces that the
HVAC designer expects will have similar thermal loads. Building
codes may require zoning to save energy in commercial buildings.
Zones are dened in the building to reduced the number of HVAC
subsystems, and thus initial cost. For example, for perimeter
oces, all oces facing west can be combined into one zone. Small
residences typically have only one conditioned thermal zone plus
unconditioned spaces such as garages, attics, crawlspaces and
basements.
Fun Fact: Scientic studies show that spending too much time in cool
environments (i.e. in the air conditioning) erodes our natural tolerance
for heat.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

U - V

* Underoor Air Distribution UFAD


* A method for providing ventilation and space conditioning by using
the air plenum below a raised oor to distribute conditioned air
through diusers directly to the occupied zone.
* Variable Air Volume VAV
* An HVAC System that has a stable supply-air temperature and varies
the air ow rate to meet the temperature requirements. Compared
to constant air volume systems, these systems conserve energy
through lower fan speeds during times of lower temperature
control demand. Most new commercial buildings have VAV
systems. VAVs may be bypass type or pressure dependent.

Fun Fact: The advent of Air Conditioning, strangely, did NOT aect
education. Summer vacation exists because hot, stuy schools were
intolerable and advocates worried about the spread of disease in such
poor conditions. Even though A/C has made it possible for students to
be comfortable year-round, the vacation schedule never changed.

GLOSSARY OF HVAC TERMS

Additional Resources
Now that you have a better
grasp on HVAC Terminology,
you can contact your local HVAC
Company to nd out which
system is right for you.

Depending on your budget and
household needs, there are
many combinations of HVAC
Systems that can work for you.
Be sure to take Comfort, Value,
and Energy Eciency into
consideration when speaking to
your Sales Representative.
Many companies oer a free estimate on a new HVAC
Systems. You should also be sure to inquire out about
Warranty information and Preventative Maintenance plans
for your current or new system.
Learn more
Types of HVAC Systems
Preventative Maintenance Plans
Free Estimates on a new HVAC System