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What is the difference between HVAC and AC

HVAC and AC are two acronyms we use frequently on this website, so let’s take second to talk about what they mean.

First off, HVAC stands for “Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning,” while AC stands for just the last part: “Air Conditioning.” In other words, when we talk about AC, we’re generally talking about the system that cools the air in your home (although sometimes people do use the term AC to refer to units that provide heat as well, especially when they’re talking about heat pumps). However, when we talk about HVAC, we could be talking about a system that does either the heating or the cooling, or both.

Now that you know what HVAC and AC stand for, let’s talk about the terms used to describe the most common types of heating and air conditioning systems used here in the Tennessee Valley.

For central heat, some area residents use a natural gas furnace. A furnace burns fuel to create heat. Gas furnaces can be placed outside the home or under it in a crawlspace or basement.

Another HVAC system used for central heating is the heat pump. A heat pump is a single unit that provides both heating and cooling. Heat pumps can be split or packaged. If the unit is split, that means the evaporator coil is housed in a cabinet inside of your house, while the rest of the unit is in a separate cabinet outside. On the other hand, with a packaged unit the entire heat pump is housed in a metal cabinet outside.

Air conditioners come in three basic types—central, ductless and window. A central AC provides cooling to your entire home, while a window AC cools just the room where it’s installed. If you’re not using a heat pump, you can pair an air conditioner with a furnace to provide both heating and cooling. Just to make things a bit more confusing, a central air conditioner housed together with a furnace in a single cabinet is also known as a packaged unit!