HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning, and HVAC systems are, effectively, everything from your air conditioner at home to the large systems used in industrial complexes and apartment blocks. A good HVAC system aims to provide thermal control and indoor comfort, and one that is designed using the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.
The big air conditioner boxes that you might see on top of apartment blocks or offices are examples of (the visible part of) HVAC systems. They’re typically deployed in large industrial buildings, skyscrapers, apartment blocks, and large interior environments. They’re also an essential component of environments where there are health regulations requiring that temperature and humidity be kept at certain levels, using air taken from outside.
But heating and cooling systems you use in your home are also HVAC systems. They may take a different form, but many of the fundamental principles determining how they operate, as well as their efficiency, crosses over from the smallest of personal devices right through to the biggest commercial installations.
For most people, heating and cooling will account for as much as half of the energy they use. With this in mind, it’s important to choose a HVAC system that will meet your comfort needs, without drawing on excess power and escalating your cost of living.
- People living in hot or cold climates might go for a single stage system, designed to produce just heating or cooling. These tend to be inexpensive, but are also rather inefficient and will typically be working at capacity even when it’s not required.
- More advanced models will offer variable fan speeds to cut down on power use, however they remain inefficient when compared to multi-stage systems, and are thus more expensive to run over the long term.
- Zoned systems, on the other hand, have been designed to heat or cool individual parts of your home. This is done by designing zone valves and dampers inside the vents and ductwork that selectively block the flow of air. For people with larger properties this is of immeasurable value as it prevents the system from heating or cooling areas in the home that are not in use.
- HVAC systems can also be built to offer humidity control, and both humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be added as options to heating and cooling systems. People that live in very dry environments or the tropics find these additions to the system essential. With that being said, some people prefer to install separate humidifier or dehumidifier systems, so that they can manage the humidity of their environment without also having to turn on the air conditioner.