Skilled Trades

What Are The Differences Between HVAC Systems?

Skilled TradesJune 30, 2016

Planning to become an HVAC technician? Well, plan to keep your thinking cap on and your brain engaged because, in the world of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning), – there’s no such thing as one size fits all.

What Are The Different HVAC Systems?

To begin, different types of HVAC systems exist for differing weather conditions. Heat pumps are favored in many parts of the South where temperatures rarely get below freezing and winters typically aren’t prolonged. Heat pumps behave as air conditioners when it’s hot outside, and reverse themselves to provide heat during cold spells. Since they can use a lot of electrical energy, separate heat and A/C units may be used in other regions of the country.


Heating elements (the “H” in HVAC) may be forced air furnaces with ducting, boilers for steam or liquid loop heating, or direct electric heat in wall-based or portable heaters. A/C units can be anything from window units, to total package outside chillers that carry cool air through ducts to individual rooms, or “split” units with outside compressors and individual fan/evaporator units in the rooms.


Ventilating these systems will depend on whether the A/C and furnaces operate as separate systems, or use joint ducting.

Commercial Vs. Residential HVAC Systems

Then, there’s the difference between HVAC systems designed for residences, and those used for commercial operations. Here, there are three key differences: location, how they are packaged, and stand-alone versus modular design.


Most commercial units are located on the roof, while residential units typically sit outside, behind or beside the home. Commercial units typically are housed in a single cabinet – the “package” – with only the ducts and dampers inside. Residential HVAC usually – not always – consists of split systems with the compressor, condenser and fan outside, and the evaporator, blowers and drainage inside. Home HVAC system come as a single unit that cannot be expanded. Commercial systems generally come as modules that fit together to expand as business needs increase.


Got it all figured out? Think about how many different HVAC brands there are. While they all operate in the same general fashion, qualified technicians need to know all the differences between the many makes and models. Just like the Chevy repairman who’s asked to fix a Ferrari.

How To Become an HVAC Technician

That’s where the HVAC and HVAC-R programs at Fortis campuses come in. Students not only are taught what they need to know in the classroom, they get to work on the equipment itself in labs. Learn more about which HVAC program is best for you today!