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Confused? Common HVAC Terms

Heating, Air Conditioning, Geothermal, Electric | Common HVAC Terms | Nelson Comfort

Buying a new heating or cooling system is confusing enough, without trying to decode what your technician is trying to tell you! While some terms like “air conditioner,” “duct work,” or “furnace” are widely known, if you aren’t familiar with the terminology, it may feel as though they are speaking a different language. To better understand what you are purchasing, having an understanding of basic HVAC terms will help you tremendously — below, you’ll find a guide to HVAC terminology for homeowners:

Equipment Terms

HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
• Air handler: An interior system component that moves air into ducts or directly into the home, depending on system configuration.
Ductless system: A system that uses air handlers rather than ductwork to transport conditioned air.
Heat pump: A heat pump transfers heat to provide heating and cooling. They can be air source or ground source, using geothermal energy.
Split system: A common HVAC system configuration which uses an exterior air conditioner and an interior air handler.

Efficiency & Measurement Terms

AFUE: Annual fuel utilization efficiency, a rating that indicates the amount of fuel consumed and wasted by a furnace to create heat. For example, a rating of 95 means 95 percent of fuel is utilized and 5 percent is wasted to create heat.
BTU: British thermal units, a measurement used for heat. BTU per hour (BTU p/h) refers to an air conditioner’s capacity.
EER: Energy efficiency ratio, which indicates an HVAC unit’s overall efficiency. This ratio measures the watts of power used to meet BTU ratings. The higher the rating, the higher the unit’s efficiency.
HSPF: Heating seasonal performance factor, a rating used to show the efficiency of a heat pump. Ratings of 8 or more are typically viewed as efficient.
MERV: Minimum efficiency reporting value, a ranking from 1 (low) to 16 (high) which rates the efficiency of furnace filters.
SEER: Seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which is used to indicate the efficiency of electric air conditioners. All AC units in the U.S. must be rated at 10 or higher, and the higher the rating, the more efficient the unit is.

Buying a new furnace, heat pump or air conditioner doesn’t have to be so confusing! The courteous technicians at Nelson Comfort will take the time to answer all your questions, and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Call us today to schedule an estimate.

About The Author


Dan Detmer

Dan Detmer is the owner of Nelson Comfort. Dan was born into the heating and cooling industry, coming from a family of well respected HVAC contractors in Dayton, Ohio. After working in the family business, Dan decided to work for a local HVAC wholesale business helping local contractors grow their business. When he felt his heart moving him back into the residential and light commercial business, Dan joined the Mortimer Heating & Cooling team in Cincinnati, where he had called home and become part of the community for several years. After a short period of time Dan purchased the company and created what is today, Nelson Comfort. Today he operates a company based on integrity, honesty, and stellar customer service. If you have any questions feel free to tweet (at sign) NelsonComfort and we will get right back with you!

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