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What Are 4 Basic Categories of HVAC Systems?

Figuring out the differences between the types of HVAC systems is important for anyone who is on the hunt for a new heating and cooling unit.

The four basic categories of HVAC systems include heating and cooling split systems, hybrid split systems, duct-free systems, and packaged systems. The former is the most common type, hybrid split systems are considered to be the most energy-efficient, and packaged systems are great for homes without extra space. 

What Are 4 Basic Categories of HVAC Systems?

All HVAC systems are divided into four basic categories. Each system, in its turn, comes in different sizes and has various specifications that you can use to find the best HVAC unit for your home or business.

The four basic categories of HVAC systems are:

  1. Heating and cooling split systems
  2. Hybrid split systems
  3. Duct-free systems (a mini-split)
  4. Packaged systems

What Are the Main Types of HVAC Systems?

Heating and cooling split systems

These systems come with an indoor and an outdoor unit and they are capable of providing both heating and cooling. 

The cooling system is typically located outside, while the heater is usually placed in the basement or another place in the house that can be used for storage.

Read: Why Are HVAC Vents Under Windows?

Hybrid split systems

This system offers the same advantages as a regular split system with one important difference – hybrid HVAC systems can help reduce utility bills and save energy.

You’ll have the opportunity to switch between gas power and electricity, depending on how you want to heat your house at the moment. 

Read: Why HVAC Maintenance Is Important?

Duct-free systems

Also known as ‘mini-splits’, duct-free HVAC systems are a great option for places where ducted systems can’t be used. These units, in the majority of cases, are installed right in the area of the building that needs heating or cooling.

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You can also have a few indoor units for every outdoor unit which offers better control over the temperature in different rooms. 

Packaged systems

A compact size and easy installation are the things that differentiate packaged HVAC systems from the other types. All the components are housed in a single metal box that is usually installed somewhere on the roof or close to the building’s foundation.

What Are the Most Common Types of HVAC Systems?

Heating and cooling splits are the most common HVAC systems used in residential buildings at the moment. A split system is, in a lot of cases, exactly what we imagine when someone says ‘HVAC’.

These systems typically have a heating unit somewhere in the basement or the utility closet and the cooling unit – outside. The entire structure can be controlled by a traditional thermostat.

The best thing about going for the most common type of HVAC equipment is the fact that it would be incredibly easy to find a technician who has been working with such systems for decades and who knows exactly what to do if something was ever to go wrong. 

Read: Why HVAC Not Working?

What Is HVAC System and Its Types?

HVAC stands for ‘heating, ventilation, and air conditioning’. The main job of such systems is to satisfy the thermal comfort of the people who are living or working in the building. 

In general, HVAC systems are divided into centralized and decentralized systems. The latter is able to heat or cool specific rooms or areas, while a centralized system will be changing the temperature in the entire building at once. 

Read: Quietest HVAC System

Do HVAC Systems Have 4 Subsystems?

An HVAC system is made up of a heating, cooling, distribution, and fan subsystem. Not all systems have all four subsystems, by the way.

Types of HVAC Systems for Commercial Buildings

  • Single-split systems (for server rooms and smaller buildings)
  • Multi-split systems (for large properties)
  • Variable Air Volume (for multi-room spaces)
  • Variable Refrigerant Flow (for a wide range of commercial buildings)
  • Constant Air Volume (for large open areas that don’t have too many windows)
  • Heat pumps (for various settings in mild climates)

Read: Why HVAC Is Important

Types of HVAC Systems in Apartments

  • Centralized systems (the cool or warm air comes from a central location)
  • Decentralized systems (each apartment has a separate unit)

What Kind of HVAC System Is Best?

It is practically impossible to name the best HVAC system overall, as every family or business is going to have its own needs.

  1. If you’re replacing an old HVAC system, then it’s generally recommended to go for the existing type as switching to a different system might cost way too much money.
  2. If you’re looking for an HVAC system with the highest efficiency, you might want to opt for a hybrid unit. Geothermal systems, for example, are among the most efficient units at the moment and some systems can operate simultaneously with an already existing furnace.
  3. If you live in a warm climate, getting a split system might be the best decision, while hybrid systems are great for cold climates.
  4. If you have no spare space in the house, then a packaged system might be your best option.


What Is a Common HVAC?

A ‘common HVAC’ might refer to a standard split system – the most popular residential heating and cooling system with an outdoor and an indoor component. 

What Are the Basic Components of HVAC System?

An HVAC system consists of quite a few elements, but here are the most important ones:

  • Heat exchanger
  • Blower motor
  • Combustion chamber
  • Condenser coil
  • Evaporator coil
  • Thermostat

How Does a Basic HVAC System Work?

In simple words, the main aim of HVAC equipment is to move air. The heat might be either created by the system or simply moved around.

The warm air then moves into the house (when the heat is on) or out of the house (when you switch the cooling mode on). The blower and ductwork are the components that help facilitate air movement. 

What SEER Rating Should I Buy?

The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient your system is going to be. The minimum SEER ratings for new air conditioners in the United States are 13 and 14, but going for the biggest number is not always the best choice.

The higher the value, the more the air con is going to cost (including any repairs). If you live in a hotter climate, you might want to go for a unit with a SEER rating of 16-18 as anything higher might not make sense financially. 

How Long Does a Residential HVAC System Last?

Anywhere between 10 and 25 years

What are Four Areas That Need to Be Checked During Start-Up HVAC?

  1. Code requirements
  2. Pre-start-up inspections (double-checking the model number, inspecting the job site and the condition of the system)
  3. Installation of action items (a thorough evaluation of all the elements)
  4. Performance measurements 

What Does AHU Mean?

An air handling unit is a component of the HVAC system that is used to condition and circulate the air. It is usually a metal box that contains heating and cooling elements, a blower, filters, and dampers.

What Does HVAC R Stand for?

The ‘R’ stands for ‘refrigeration’. 

Is Furnace Separate from HVAC?

In general, furnaces are part of the entire HVAC system.

Does Central Air Mean HVAC?

‘Central air’ is a term that is usually referred to the actual air conditioning unit, while ‘forced air’ can be applied to the air distribution system.