The HVAC industry can be a maze of unfamiliar acronyms and industry terms. This dictionary will help you navigate the most common terms you’ll come across.
AC Alternating Current – A type of current where the polarity is perpetually reversing causing the directional flow in a circuit to reverse at regular intervals.
ACCA – Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
Acoustical – Relating to sound, the science of sound, or a sense of hearing.
AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. A measurement used to rate furnace efficiencies by dividing the ratio of heat output by heat input.
AGA – American Gas Association, Inc.
Air Conditioner – A device that changes humidity levels, temperature or quality of air.
Air Flow Volume – Measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm), this is the amount of air circulated in a space.
Air Handler – Parts of a system including the fan-blower, filter and housing.
ARI – Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.
ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers.
BTU – British Thermal Unit. Measures the amount of heat required to raise or lower the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.
BTUh – British Thermal Units per hour.
Burner – The device that facilitates the combustion of air and gas.
Burner Orifice – The opening in the burner through which the gas or fuel passes prior to combustion.
Capacity – HVAC capacity is the output produced by the heating or cooling unit and is measured in BTUs per hour.
Celsius – A temperature scale that registers the freezing point of water as 0° and the boiling point as 100° under normal atmospheric pressure.
CFM – Cubic Feet per Minute. A measurement of airflow volume.
Charging a System – Adding coolant, or refrigerant, to an HVAC system.
Compressor – A pump that increases the pressure of gas.
Condensate – Vapor that is turned into a liquid as its temperature is lowered.
Condenser Coil – Also an outdoor coil. A device that removes heat from the refrigerant, allowing the refrigerant to be converted from vapor to liquid.
Condenser Fan – A fan that passes air over the condenser coil to facilitate the removal of heat from the refrigerant.
DC – Direct Current. A type of electrical current that only flows in one direction.
Damper – Found at the exit point of ductwork, this plate usually contains grates that can be opened or closed to control the flow of air into a zone.
Degree-Day – Calculated by subtracting the average outdoor temperature for an area from 65º Fahrenheit. This measurement is used to estimate the amount of heating or cooling a home or building will need.
Dehumidifier – A device that removes humidity, or moisture, from the air.
Diffuser – A grille over an air supply duct with vanes that distribute the discharging air in a specific pattern or direction.
DOE – Department of Energy.
Downflow Furnace – A furnace with an intake on the top and an air discharge at the bottom.
Drain Pan – Also a condensate pan. As the refrigerant vapor is liquefied, the drain pan collects the condensate and funnels it to the drain line.
Dry Bulb Temperature – The temperature as measured without the consideration of humidity.
Ductwork – A network of metal, fiberboard or flexible material flowing throughout a space which delivers air from an HVAC unit to the respective zones of a home or office.
EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio.
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency.
Expansion Valve – A valve that meters the levels of refrigerant through a temperature or pressure control.
Evaporator Coil – Also an indoor coil. A device that is designed to absorb heat in the air in order to change the liquid refrigerant that flows through it into a vapor.
Fahrenheit – A temperature scale in which water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees at normal atmospheric pressure.
Fan – A device that creates air flow.
Filter – A device that acts like a strainer to remove dirt or undesired particles.
Flue – A vent that removes the byproducts of combustion from a furnace.
Furnace – The major component in heating a home. A device that facilitates the combustion of fuel and air to create heat.
Fuse – A delicate metal strip connecting two parts of an electrical circuit. This strip breaks, or melts, in the event of excess electrical charge, breaking the electrical circuit.
Heat Exchanger – A device through which heat is transferred to a cold area or surface.
Heat Gain – The amount of heat added or created in a designated area.
Heating Coil – A coil that acts as a heat source for a heating system.
Heat Loss – The amount of heat subtracted from a designated area.
Heat Pump – A device used for either the heating or cooling of a space by transferring heat between two reservoirs.
Heat Transfer – Moving heat from one location to another.
HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. This factor rates the efficiency of the heating portion of the heat pump.
Humidifier – A device that adds humidity, or moisture, to the air.
Humidistat – The device that measures humidity and turns the humidifier on and off.
Humidity – Dampness in the air caused by water vapor.
HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.
Ignition – Elevating the temperature of a substance to the point of causing a combustion reaction.
Kilowatt (kW) – 1,000 watts.
Latent Heat – A type of heat that when added to an area produces an effect other than an increase in temperature.
Media – The fine material of a filter that traps dirt, dust, mildew or bacteria.
NEC – National Energy Council / National Electric Code.
NEMA – National Electrical Manufacturing Association.
Orifice – An opening or hole.
Package Unit – A heating and cooling system contained in one outdoor unit.
PSI – Pounds per square inch.
PSIA – Pounds per square inch, absolute.
PSIG – Pounds per square inch gauge.
PVC – Polyvinyl chloride; a type of plastic.
Reciprocating Compressor – A type of compressor used in cooling systems to compress refrigerant by using a piston action.
Refrigerant – A chemical that condenses from a vapor to liquid and, in the process, decreases in temperature.
Refrigerant Charge – The amount of refrigerant in a system.
SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. A rating system developed by the U.S. Government to indicate the efficiency level of cooling equipment.
Self-contained System – A package unit.
Sensible Heat – Heat added or subtracted that causes a change in temperature.
Sensor – A device that reacts to a change in conditions.
Split System – An outdoor unit combined with an indoor unit.
Thermostat – Sensors that monitor and control the output of an HVAC system.
Thermostatic Expansion Valve – A device that creates a constant evaporator temperature.
Ton – One ton is 12,000 BTUs per hour.
Upflow Furnace – A furnace that pulls in air from the bottom and releases it through the top.
Vacuum – A space where the pressure is significantly below that of standard atmospheric pressure.
Volt – A unit of electro-motive force.
Voltage – The force pushing electrical current along wires and cables.
Watt – The unit of electrical power equal to the flow of one amp at a potential difference of one volt.
Wet Bulb Thermometer – A thermometer that measures the relative humidity in the air.
Zoning – A system that divides a home, office or space into different regions in order to better control the temperature and effectiveness of a heating and cooling system.