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The ABCs of AC: Simple, fun explanations to HVAC terminology

The ABCs of AC

 

Oh boy, here we go. There’s a lot of technical jargon you might hear from the HVAC industry or the AC technician that visits your home that you may not understand. (By the way, HVAC is an acronym for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)

 

And while Super Heat & Air’s HVAC technicians are technical gurus that know their stuff better than anybody, most people who aren't involved in the air conditioning business aren't interested in the verbiage of what we do. Exciting stuff to us, yes, but probably boring to you!

 

So with that in mind, let’s make learning fun! We’re going to provide you with a glossary of some common HVAC terms. We'll call this "The ABCs of AC" and give you not only their definition, but also a fun, simple explanation for each one!

 

Here we go:

 

AHRI

 

What it Is: An acronym for the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, the industry trade association that develops standards for measuring and certifying product performance.

What that Means: It’s the HVAC quality control people.

 

Air Conditioner

 

What it Is: A system that controls the humidity, ventilation and temperature in a building or vehicle.

What that Means: It’s that machine that keeps you cool and you can’t live without.

 

Air Filter

 

What it Is: A device for filtering particles of dirt, dust, allergens, etc. from the air passing through it.

What that Means: It’s that thing that helps clean the indoor air you breathe.

 

Air Handler

 

What it Is: The part of an air conditioning unit connected to the ductwork that moves cold or hot air throughout your home.

What that Means: It’s that box that blows the air into your home.

 

BTU

 

What it Is: An acronym for British Thermal Unit, which is a measurement of heat energy. The higher the BTU rating, the greater the system’s heating capacity.

What that Means: It measures how good your system can heat.

 

Carbon Monoxide

 

What it Is: An odorless, colorless, toxic flammable gas produced when carbon burns with insufficient air.

What that Means: It’s invisible poisonous stuff that can kill you.

 

Central Air Conditioning System

 

What it Is: An air conditioning system in which air is cooled and circulated from a central location and distributed to and from rooms through a series of fans and ducts.

What that Means: It’s something people in Florida all have and can’t live without.

 

Compressor

 

What it Is: A pump inside the air conditioner that sits inside the condenser and circulates and raises the pressure of the refrigerant in your system. The compressor pumps refrigerant through the system to meet cooling requirements.

What that Means: It’s a part of your air conditioning system you better hope never breaks!

 

Condenser Coil

 

What it Is: A coil in an air conditioner or heat pump that removes heat from the refrigerant, which allows the refrigerant to be converted from vapor to liquid.

What that Means: It’s another part of your air conditioner you better hope never breaks!

 

Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)

 

What it Is: A measurement of airflow volume in cubic feet. The higher the number, the more air is being moved through the ductwork by the system.

What that Means: It measures how good your air is flowing.

 

Dehumidifier

 

What it Is: A device that removes humidity or moisture from the air.

What that Means: Um … It’s a device that removes humidity or moisture from the air.

 

Drain Pan

 

What it Is: A pan that collects condensation and funnels it to the drain line when the refrigerant vapor is liquefied.

What that Means: It’s a pan that collects water and dumps it.

 

Ductwork

 

What it Is: A network of metal, fiberboard or flexible material that delivers air from an HVAC unit to different parts of a home or business.

What that Means: It’s the tubes that the air passes through.

 

EER

 

What it Is: An acronym for Energy Efficiency Ratio, the ratio of BTU to power input that measures an air conditioner’s cooling capacity. The higher the EER rating, the more energy efficient the air conditioner.

What that Means: It’s a number that tells you if you’re paying too much for electricity.

 

Energy Star®

 

What it Is: A designation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on air conditioners and other appliances that indicates if they meet or exceed federal guidelines for energy efficiency.

What that Means: It’s a label that tells you you’re not paying too much for electricity.

 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

 

What it Is: An agency of the U.S. federal government that develops and enforces federal environmental regulations, created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment.

What that Means: It’s the agency that created the label that tells you if you’re paying too much for electricity.

 

Evaporator Coil

 

What it Is: A device inside the air handler that absorbs heat in the air to change liquid refrigerant into vapor.

What that Means: It’s that thing that processes refrigerant.

 

Expansion Valve

 

What it Is: A valve in refrigeration and air conditioning systems that controls the amount of refrigerant flow into the evaporator through a temperature or pressure control.

What that Means: It’s that other thing that processes refrigerant.

 

Fahrenheit

 

What it Is: A measurement of temperature in which water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees at normal atmospheric pressure.

What that Means: It’s a measurement that tells you if something is hot or cold.

 

Fuse

 

What it Is: A delicate safety device consisting of a strip of wire connecting two parts of an electrical circuit that breaks or melts in the event of an unsafe or excess electrical charge.

What that Means: It’s a little electrical thing that protects big electrical things.

 

Garage Heater

 

What it Is: Natural or propane gas heaters that provide warmth for car garages of almost any size during cold months.

What that Means: Really? It’s a heater for your garage.

 

Heat Exchanger

 

What it Is: A component through which heat is transferred to a cold area, usually located in the furnace to transfer heat to the surrounding air, which is then pumped throughout the home.

What that Means: It’s a heater for your home.

 

Heat Pump

 

What it Is: A device used for either the heating or cooling of a space by transferring heat between two reservoirs. It draws heat from outdoor air during cold temperatures and circulates it through a home's air ducts, and reverses the process during the hot temperatures to removes heat from the house and release it outdoors.

What that Means: It’s pretty much an air conditioner, but not.

 

Humidifier

 

What it Is: A device that adds humidity or moisture to the air.

What that Means: It’s the opposite of a dehumidifier.

 

Humidistat

 

What it Is: An automatic device that measures and maintains humidity and turns the humidifier on and off.

What that Means: It’s a thermostat for a humidifier.

 

Indoor Coil

 

What it Is: See Evaporator Coil.

What that Means: See Evaporator Coil!

 

Kilowatt (kW)

 

What it Is: 1,000 watts of electrical power.

What that Means: (Sigh) 1,000 watts of electrical power!

 

MERV Rating

 

What it Is: An acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, which describes the size of the holes in the filter that allow air to pass through. The higher the MERV rating, the higher the unit's efficiency.

What that Means: It’s yet another way to determine if you’re paying too much for electricity!

 

NEC

 

What it Is: An acronym for National Energy Council / National Electric Code

What that Means: It means what it sounds like (just Google it).

 

Off-The-Grid

 

What it Is: An electricity-generating system common in rural or remote areas that operates independently from the utility grid and provides all of the electricity needed in the home without relying on power from the electric company.

What that Means: It means sticking it to “The Man”!

 

Outdoor Coil

 

What it Is: See Condenser Coil.

What that Means: Really, see Condenser Coil!

 

Packaged Unit

 

What it Is: An air-handling unit that has its own heating and cooling devices, or a heating and cooling system contained in one outdoor unit.

What that Means: It’s an air conditioner and heater in one!

 

Programmable Thermostat

 

What it Is: A thermostat with cooling and heating temperature and time settings designed to take effect at different times of the day.

What that Means: It’s a thermostat you can program. Pretty self-explanatory.

 

R-22 Refrigerant

 

What it Is: The old standard of refrigerant for residential air conditioners that is being discontinued due to new environmental standards set by the EPA.

What that Means: It’s obsolete refrigerant.

 

R-410A Refrigerant

 

What it Is: A chlorine-free refrigerant that meets the new environmental standards set by the EPA.

What that Means: It’s a refrigerant that's better for the environment.

 

Refrigerant

 

What it Is: A chemical that condenses from a vapor to liquid and, in the process, produces a cooling effect while expanding or vaporizing.

What that Means: It’s freon.

 

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)

 

What it Is: An acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio developed by the U.S. government that indicates the energy efficiency for air conditioners. The higher the SEER number, the more energy efficient the air conditioning unit.

What that Means: It’s yet another thing that tells you if you’re paying too much for electricity!

 

Split System

 

What it Is: A heating and cooling system that includes an indoor unit, outdoor unit and a thermostat.

What that Means: It’s the total package.

 

Thermostat

 

What it Is: A device that monitors and controls the heating and cooling settings of an air conditioning system.

What that Means: It’s the … come on, you don’t know what a thermostat is? Don't you live in Florida?!

 

Two-Stage Operation

 

What it Is: Two-stage cooling operation in which the air conditioner or heat pump has a compressor with two levels of heating or cooling output for enhanced temperature control, energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

What that Means: It can heat and cool efficiently.

 

Variable Speed Motor

 

What it Is: A motor that operates at a variety of speeds to control the distribution of hot and cold air throughout a building. It operates the fan at a lower cost for continuous air supply into the building at lower speeds while providing a quieter operation.

What that Means: It’s a motor that does cool stuff, literally!

 

Ventilator

 

What it Is: A system that captures stale indoor air and exchanges it with fresh, filtered outdoor air.

What that Means: It trades stale air for fresh air.

 

Watt

 

Watt it Is (See watt we did there?): The unit corresponding to the power in an electric circuit equal to the flow of one amp at a potential difference of one volt.

Watt that Means: It measures electrical power.

 

Zoning System

 

What it Is: A heating and cooling system that divides a home, office or space into different customized temperature zones regions for increased comfort and better temperature control and efficiency efficiency.

What that Means: It’s like Feng Shui for air conditioning.

 

Pretty fun stuff, huh? That's the ABCs of AC for you. Any questions? Call Super Heat & Air at 813-609-5015 for any and all of your HVAC needs!

 

common hvac terms ac

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