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HVAC Glossary of Terms

An annual fuel utilization efficiency rating, or AFUE, is a measure of a furnace's energy efficiency given as a percentage. For example, a furnace with an AFUE of 80 converts 80 percent of fuel into usable heat, while the remaining 20 percent leaves the home through the exhaust. The higher the AFUE, the less fuel a furnace needs to keep a building warm and the less impact it has on the environment.
Advanced Reciprocating Compressor:
This advanced compressor uses a high-efficiency process to compress refrigerant chemicals, improving overall cooling efficiency.
Air Handler:
An air handler is the component of an air conditioner that pushes cool air into the duct system and through the home.
The capacity of a heating or cooling device is measured in British thermal units. A BTU is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. A heating device's BTU rating is the amount of heat it can add to the home, while a cooling device's BTU rating is the amount of heat it can pump out of the home.
Some systems' capacities are measured in British thermal units per hour, abbreviated BTU/h or just BTUH.
Beckett Burner:
Manufactured by Beckett specifically for Carrier furnaces, this component burns heating oil highly efficiently.
The air flow of a forced-air system is measured in cubic feet per minute. A system with a high CFM rating pushes a large amount of air through the ducts in any given minute, which means the home reaches the owner's desired temperature faster.
A comfort system's capacity is its overall heating or cooling power. Typically, heating devices have capacities measured in BTU, while cooling systems have capacities measured in either BTU or tons.
Carbon Monoxide:
When carbon-based fuels burn without sufficient oxygen nearby, they produce this colorless, odorless gas. Because carbon monoxide is highly toxic, detectors are important safety devices for any home.
Comfort Heat Technology:
This proprietary Carrier system accurately predicts the need for heating, which enables boilers, furnaces and heat pumps to stay ahead of heating needs instead of reacting to sudden temperature shifts. Machines equipped with this technology cut temperature swings in half.
Comfort Heat Technology Pump System:
Heat pumps equipped with this exclusive system improve home comfort by providing a warmer air supply from the registers.
This essential component of air conditioners and heat pumps controls the pressure on the coolant chemicals that transfer heat from one place to another. The compressor controls both the heating and cooling cycles.
Condenser Coil:
In this component of an air conditioner or heat pump, coolant chemicals become liquid and release heat, transferring it out of the home. Condenser coils are typically located in a split system's outdoor unit.
This valve-like system dynamically opens and closes ducts to direct the flow of air. Zoned heating and cooling systems use dampers to direct heating and cooling power to specific zones as needed.
The noise output of an HVAC device is measured in decibels (dB). Higher decibel ratings mean the machine produces more noise.
In this furnace configuration, the machine brings in cool air from the top and directs it downward. Downflow furnaces are popular choices in homes where they must be installed upstairs.
Ducts are the hollow pipes that transport warm or cold air throughout the home. They are an essential component of forced-air heating and cooling systems.
The energy efficiency rating of a cooling system measures the amount of energy it needs to function. A system with a higher EER needs less power to keep the home cool. HVAC professionals compute EER by dividing the system's BTU output by its energy usage in watts.
This government-supported program promotes energy-efficient appliances to protect the environment and reduce utility bills for consumers. To get an ENERGY STAR rating, HVAC devices must meet certain minimum standards of energy efficiency.
Electronic Air Cleaner (EAC):
An EAC uses electromagnets to pull disease-causing particles out of the air and improve indoor air quality.
Energy-Saver Switch:
By causing the fan and compressor to cycle on and off simultaneously, this air conditioner component lowers energy consumption.
Evaporator Coil:
At the evaporator coil, refrigerant chemicals absorb heat and become gaseous. This is the component of an air conditioner or heat pump that brings in heat from the home to bring the indoor temperature down. Evaporator coils are usually located in a system's indoor unit.
Fan Coil:
A replacement for an evaporator coil and furnace, this type of coil brings refrigerant from a gaseous to a liquid state, then blows air over the coil to change the indoor temperature as needed.
Heat Exchanger:
A critical component of any furnace system, the heat exchanger transfers heat from the burner into the air. Advanced heat exchangers make this transfer more efficient, wasting very little heat in the process.
Heat Pump:
This type of HVAC device is essentially a two-way air conditioner. During the cooling season, heat pumps collect heat from inside the home and release it outdoors; in the heating season, they absorb heat from the outside air and pump it into the home. In areas with fairly mild climates, heat pumps are very efficient devices.
Horizontal Flow:
Furnaces configured in this manner are installed sideways, bringing in cool air from one end and pumping warm air out the other end. Typically, these furnaces are installed in attics or crawlspaces.
The heating seasonal performance factor of a heat pump describes the efficiency of its heating cycle. A heat pump with a higher HSPF uses less electricity to warm the home.
This indoor air quality device fills air with water vapor and pumps it into the home, which protects furniture and cuts down on static electricity. Humidifiers are often attached to furnaces to prevent the heated air from drying out.
This very common abbreviation stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Hybrid Heat:
Some of the most advanced home heating technology available, these systems use heat sources designed to maximize comfort under moderate conditions.
This exclusive Carrier defrosting system allows heat pumps to maintain ideal defrost intervals for maximum efficiency and comfort.
Another proprietary Carrier system, IdealHumidity keeps the home at an optimal humidity level.
Indoor Coil:
Because they absorb heat inside the home, evaporator coils are also called indoor coils.
This type of compressor varies the system's speed to match temperature conditions, speeding up and slowing down as needed. Inverter systems improve overall efficiency and eliminate uncomfortable temperature changes.
Load Estimate:
Before installing a new heating or cooling system, HVAC professionals take note of the home's square footage, insulation, doors, windows and load-creating devices to estimate the heating or cooling capacity needed. A load estimate for heating systems is often called a heat loss analysis because the professionals analyze heat lost through the home's roof, doors, windows and walls..
Low Boy:
Furnaces configured in this manner sit close to the ground and take up expanded floor space.
Matched System:
This type of home comfort system uses a set of heating or cooling products specifically designed and professionally certified to work together to maximize efficiency and comfort.
An air filter's efficiency is given in terms of a minimum efficiency reporting value. These values range from one to 16; higher numbers indicate more efficient filters. The MERV rating is based on the filter’s ability to remove particles measuring between three and 10 microns across.
Operating Cost:
Determined based on energy consumption and the cost of electricity, a system's operating cost is the day-to-day expense required to keep it running. Keeping HVAC equipment well-maintained can lower operating costs, as can upgrading to a more energy-efficient system. Improperly sized systems tend to have higher operating costs.
Outdoor Coil:
Because they are typically positioned outside the home to release heat outdoors, condenser coils are also called outdoor coils.
Payback Analysis:
Based on the difference between the operating costs of an existing system and an upgraded system, a payback analysis is a measure of the amount of time it will take for a new system to pay for itself. If the operating cost of a new system is significantly lower than the cost of the old system, the savings may offset the installation cost in just a few years.
Puron Refrigerant:
To comply with federal regulations designed to protect the environment, HVAC manufacturers are working to replace ozone-depleting refrigerants with environmentally safe alternative chemicals. An EPA-approved replacement for Freon 22, Puron is now used in all Carrier air conditioners and heat pumps.
This Carrier system reduces operating noise without impacting heating and cooling efficiency or capacity.
R-22 Refrigerant:
Air conditioners and refrigerators have used this single-component refrigerant for many years, but it now falls short of the standards of ozone depletion required by federal law. R-22 has been banned from being used in new systems since 2010, but manufacturers may still produce small quantities for service purposes until 2020.
Reciprocating Compressor:
In an air conditioner or heat pump, this type of compressor uses piston-style action to efficiently force refrigerant to become liquid and release heat.
Bringing used refrigerant back to the manufacturer for safe disposal or reuse is known as reclaiming.
Among HVAC professionals, recycling usually means removing and cleaning old refrigerant to use in new machines or service existing machines.
Refrigerant Lines:
These important components of air conditioners and heat pumps transfer refrigerant chemicals from the evaporator coil to the condenser coil and back. A leak in the refrigerant lines is the most common cause of issues associated with a low refrigerant level.
Riello Burner:
Produced by Riello specifically for use in Carrier oil furnaces, these burners ignite fuel cleanly and efficiently.
Scroll Compressor:
Instead of piston-style action, this type of compressor uses circular motion to force refrigerant to condense and release heat.
The seasonal energy efficiency rating is a measure of the cooling efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump. A higher SEER means that the device requires less energy to provide cooling power.
A proprietary Carrier component, this heat exchanger extracts virtually all the produced heat from the system using a patented polypropylene laminate. Almost no heat is wasted at this stage in the process.
Silencer System:
By combining quiet motor mounts, forward swept fan blades, a laminated sound elimination compressor mounting plate, silencer airflow baffle and a compressor sound blanket, this proprietary system greatly cuts down on operating noise.
Single Package Product:
This dual-purpose system combines heating and cooling functionality in a single machine.
Designed for use with zoned heating and cooling systems, the SmartRecovery control device starts the comfort equipment ahead of time to make sure the desired temperature is reached at the scheduled time.
Split System:
This type of air conditioner or heat pump is split into two components:
an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. Typically, the evaporator coil is located in the indoor unit, while the condenser coil sits in the outdoor unit.
A type of advanced control device, the Thermidstat system monitors indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity and automatically turns HVAC devices on and off accordingly. It can be programmed to maintain certain temperature and humidity levels as defined by the homeowner.
The most basic of all HVAC control devices, a thermostat monitors the indoor temperature and turns heating and cooling equipment on and off as needed to make the actual temperature match the homeowner's desired temperature.
Thermostatic Expansion Valve:
During normal operation, the level of refrigerant in an air conditioner or heat pump should remain static. A thermostatic expansion valve (TXV) monitors the evaporator coil and confirms that the amount of liquid refrigerant entering the coil matches the amount of gaseous refrigerant that leaves, with no refrigerant loss along the way.
In the HVAC industry, a ton is 12,000 BTU per hour. The capacity of a cooling device is often measured in tons.
Total Home Comfort System:
The most advanced system Carrier has to offer uses state-of-the-art equipment to maintain ideal home comfort and includes fully customized options to match any weather conditions.
TrueSense Dirty Filter Detection:
As a rule, dirty air filters should be cleaned or replaced on a monthly basis, but home circumstances can make this interval longer or shorter. The TrueSense system reminds the homeowner when it is time to clean or change the filter to maintain peak cooling efficiency.
Two Stage Compressor:
This advanced compressor can operate in either a high or low stage, which means an air conditioner or heat pump with a two stage compressor is effectively two machines in one. When properly calibrated, these appliances run in the low stage about 80 percent of the time, reducing energy consumption and maintaining proper humidity and comfort throughout the day.
Furnaces configured in this manner bring in cool air from underneath and blow heated air upward into the home's duct system. Upflow furnaces are usually installed in basements or closets.
This non-profit, third-party organization carries out safety tests on electrical products and assigns safety ratings.
This indoor air quality system absorbs heating or cooling energy from old, stale air and releases it into fresh air pumped in from outside the home. Ventilators improve indoor air quality without increasing the heating or cooling load on other HVAC devices.
Because a heat pump or air conditioner represents a significant investment, Carrier outdoor units use this proprietary system to reduce damage from the elements and increase system longevity.
In coastal areas, salt in the air can cause condenser coils to become corroded over time. This special coating protects the coil from salt, making the entire system last longer and run more efficiently throughout its lifespan.
With advanced HVAC control equipment, homeowners can divide their houses into heating and cooling zones and customize the temperature and humidity level in each zone. Zoned systems use dampers to open and close ducts, thereby redirecting hot or cold air to specific parts of the home as needed to maintain the proper temperature. A zoned system can redirect more power to parts of the home that need additional heating or cooling; conversely, the homeowner can reduce energy costs by cutting off climate control in unused rooms such as spare bedrooms and storage areas. Many zoned control systems can also be programmed with different temperature settings for different times of the day.