HVAC VS AC: What’s the Difference?

Wondering what the difference between HVAC and AC is?

HVAC refers to “Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning” while “AC” is only air conditioning.

If you’re wanting to know more about different types of HVAC and AC systems, you can find that all below.

Let’s get started.

What’s the Difference Between HVAC and AC?

“HVAC” stands for “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning”. “AC” is air conditioning that only cools your home.

What is an HVAC Unit?

An HVAC unit cools and heats the air in your building while providing ventilation for the exhaust air to be pumped out.

An HVAC unit can include your air conditioning unit, duct ventilation, and furnace.

You can have an air conditioning system that isn’t an HVAC unit, like a portable air conditioner or window units that don’t have heating options.

What is an AC Unit?

An AC unit cools down your environment by removing the heat and transferring it outside.

A heat pump allows for heat to be transferred from one place to another and can also work in reverse, allowing it to heat and cool.

Not every AC unit will use a heat pump, and not every air conditioning system will be designed to heat as well as cool.

Ductless systems (aka mini-split system) are a good example of an air conditioning system that can also heat.

Types of HVAC Systems:

Split System

The most common type of HVAC system is a split system.

They’re split between two units, one for cooling and one for heating.

Split systems contain both an indoor unit and an outdoor compressor unit which you are likely familiar with.

This type of HVAC system uses an outside cooling system that uses a refrigerant compressor and coils to cool the air and then the hot air is exhausted outside.

These systems also have a heater which is normally located in a basement, garage, or storage space.

It uses gas to heat the house which is dispersed by a fan or evaporator to help circulate the air around the house.

Hybrid Split System

A hybrid split system is similar to split HVAC systems, but they are different in some important ways.

They help bring down electricity costs by using an electric hybrid heating system.

Hybrid HVAC systems allow for the user to decide on using gas or electric heat.

This allows for flexibility for homeowners who only have moderate winters and don’t need heavy-duty heating systems.

Packaged Heating and Cooling

Packaged heating and cooling is a rare type of HVAC system.

They’re great for situations where you may not have room for a full-sized air conditioning unit.

Packaged heating/cooling systems are installed outside of the home or on the roof, and they produce air that is run through the duct system of your home.

Unlike split systems, packaged heating and cooling are one unit.

You can buy different types of packaged air conditioners or heaters depending on the needs of your location.

Duct Free Systems

Duct free systems (or mini-splits) are mounted on the wall and use an outside compressor.

What’s great about mini-split systems is their high energy efficiency keeping electric bills low.

They are ductless systems so they aren’t attached to any ducts of any kind.

While this can be an advantage, every room will need its unit rather than having one central air conditioning unit dispersing the air.

They’re great for garages, workshops, or even homes that don’t need to cool every room.

Mini-splits can also be quite expensive to install if you need to install more than one.

Types of Air Conditioning Systems:

While there are more types than these three, these are the most common you will be familiar with.

Central Air

Central air conditioning units use a split system that sends air through the ducts inside of your home.

Central air uses a unit on the inside and the outside. Central air conditioners use refrigerant to remove the heat from the inside of your home.

They also rely on ductwork of forced air systems to help move the air to the rooms inside your home.

Window Units

Window air conditioners are great for single rooms or smaller spaces.

They have all of their components inside and exhaust the heat to the outdoors.

They’re installed in windows as their name suggests and often have an air filter that can help purify the air in your home.

Portable Air

Portable air conditioners are free-standing units that can be moved around your home.

They pull the hot air from inside of the room into the unit and use the refrigeration cycle to cool down your room.

The downside is that portable air conditioners are often not as efficient as a window or central air conditioning system and are big and bulky.

Final Thoughts

While it can be confusing, “HVAC” refers to heating, air, and cooling while “AC” refers to solely air conditioning.

Not all AC units have heating and cooling options, thus they are only air conditioners. All HVAC systems are capable of heating and cooling.

About Roy Cohen

Roy Cohen has a burning passion for heating, cooling, and ventilation. He aims to help you save money on expensive repairs and bring you the best HVAC products. He has years of experience behind him in HVAC repair and garage maintenance.

You can find Roy at his LinkedIn or his email: [email protected]

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