HVAC Terms Every Homeowner Should Know

As a homeowner, it is important for you to stay on top of the repairs and maintenance for your air conditioner. Here, you’ll find some of the HVAC industry’s most commonly used terms. These will allow you to have a deeper understanding of your system and make more informed decisions.

  1. Filter – You’ll be asked to change this every one to three months. In a nutshell, this is a “screen” of sorts that traps particles before they are introduced to the machinery and cycled throughout the home. Some of these are specially designed to catch and trap allergens, too. 
  1. Thermostat – The temperature-sensitive switch device that is generally located on a wall in your home and allows for the control of the air conditioner. Some allow for in-depth programming; others simply allow you to change the desired temperature. 
  1. Refrigerant (Coolant) – The refrigerant in your system cycles through a maze of metal pipes for the purpose of redistributing heat and keeping your home comfortable. It is turned into a gas in the evaporator, but it returns to its liquid state in the condenser. Refrigerant leaks are one of the most common problems HVAC technicians face when performing repairs. 
  1. Evaporator – The evaporator in your air conditioner is one of the most important components. Its purpose is to turn the refrigerant in your system into a gas by allowing it to absorb heat from your home and then vaporize. 
  1. Condenser – After the evaporator turns the heated coolant into a gas, it is cycled back to the condenser (which is located outside) to be returned to a liquid, allowing the heat to escape outside of your home. This is done through the compressor, which exerts pressure on the gas to force it back into its liquid state. 

  1. Air Handler – The portion of your air conditioner that is located inside your home; responsible for forcing air through the ducts in your home.
  1. Load Estimate – If you are in the market for a new air conditioner, this is a term you’ll hear frequently. The load estimate is, in a nutshell, the cooling requirement for your home. Things like the size of your home, the amount of window and door area, the insulation type, and even the local Tampa climate all go into determining your home’s load estimate. 
  1. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) – Another term with which you should be familiar if you are in the market for a new air conditioner. The unit’s SEER rating tells you the overall cooling efficiency of a particular unit. The higher the number, the more efficiently the unit is. 
  1. BTU, or British Thermal Unit – The British Thermal Unit helps HVAC technicians and homeowners determine the size of the space that a particular unit can cool. Back before air conditioners, people used large blocks of ice to cool spaces. The rate at which they melted was measured in “tons”, and this is still the word that is used today. 
  1. HVAC – Stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.

Whether you are a new homeowner who is responsible for your HVAC unit for the very first time or you are interested in buying your first brand-new air conditioner, becoming familiar with these terms can help you better understand your research and make better decisions.