Different HVAC System Types: Everything You Need To Know

Published by 
Last updated: 
July 31, 2019

Living in comfort is something that many people have come to expect. With advancements in technology, it's possible to keep our homes at the optimum temperature throughout the year. This is due to the different HVAC system types that we can use.

The ability for humans to create the ideal environment inside our homes means that we can live in a variety of different places. From places that get extremely hot to others that see a lot of snow, whatever is happening outside isn't a problem because we can keep our house at the temperature that makes us the most comfortable.

What Are HVAC Systems?

HVAC stands for "heating, ventilating, and air conditioning." They are systems that can be found in residential homes but also in commercial buildings. They are the systems that regulate temperature and make it comfortable for people to be inside of these various buildings.

If you've ever seen those large air conditioner boxes on the top of a building, including apartment buildings, then you've seen part of the HVAC system. You may have even noticed some on the outside of your neighbor's home. Of course, these are just a few of many HVAC system types. More than likely, depending on where you live, you probably have an HVAC system in your home.

How HVAC Systems Work 

hvac system on a rooftop

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At the simplest level, the HVAC system works by regulating the temperature inside a home or building. It does this by utilizing the heater during the colder months and the air conditioner when it gets hot outside.

Digging deeper into the setup of this system, there are four main components that keep the temperature in your home regulated. All of these have to work together to ensure that the optimum temperature is maintained throughout the year.

Temperature Component

When it comes to an HVAC system, this component is responsible for producing both warm and cool air that circulates throughout your home. There is often two parts that accomplish this tas:, the furnace and the air conditioner.

The furnace part of the system uses natural gas or oil to heat the air. Inside the furnace is a heat exchanger which is responsible for heating the air to the desired temperature you have chosen. The furnace is often placed in a specially designated closet, the attic, or in the basement.

The air conditioner part uses electricity and coolant to reduce the air temperature to keep the house cool. It forces the hot air outside. Like the furnace, it has a place where the air is cooled to the desired temperature before it is pumped into your home.


ventilation ducts inside a building

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These are the tubes that are placed throughout a home or business that transfer the warm or cool air to where it needs to go. More often than not, the ductwork is hidden in the ceiling, behind walls, or in the floor. Vents are placed strategically throughout the room and allow the cool or warm air to circulate throughout the area.

In some cases, a home or building might have exposed ductwork. Whether they are hidden or exposed, they serve the same purpose in different HVAC system types.


This is, in essence, the brains of the entire system. It is how you turn the furnace and air conditioner on and off and where you set the desired temperature. There can be one thermostat that controls the temperature of the entire house, or there may be separate ones in each room.

When it comes to a commercial building, depending on the size and type there may be one thermostat or multiple. More than likely, if the building is an apartment complex, each apartment will have a thermostat that will allow them to control the temperature in each room.

There are different types of thermostats, from dials to digital. Some of the best thermostats to have are programmable ones. These allow you to set various temperatures throughout the day. When you are at work, you can set the temperature higher (or lower if it's winter) so that the system isn't constantly running. You can do the same at night. This can be beneficial in saving you money on utility bills.

All of these components have to work together for the HVAC system to work the way it should. If there is a problem with the ducts, then air won't flow throughout the building. If there's an issue with the thermostat, then the house may not be as cool or warm as you would like. Any issues that you might encounter will more than likely have to be taken care of by a professional.

4 HVAC System Types 

graphic illustration of a split type aircon

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While there are four main components that make up any HVAC system, there are four major HVAC system types. Below are some of the most common systems you might find in a home or commercial business.

Split Heating and Cooling Systems

These are probably the most common of the HVAC system types in use in America. They contain components that are both inside and outside your home. They include both a furnace and an air conditioner that are separate from each other. More than likely, the air conditioner is located outside while the furnace is inside your home.

Despite being separate, the system still works together to ensure that your home stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They include the four main components to keep your home comfortable no matter what time of the year it is.

Hybrid System 

In many ways, this system is like the traditional split system. The only difference is that it allows the heat pump to be fueled by electricity instead of gas. The hybrid system also has a heat pump that helps with heat and cools the refrigerant when needed. This can be useful if you find that the price of gas is incredibly high and want to save some money.

The popularity of this system has been on the rise recently with homeowners. It doesn't look much different from the traditional system and it functions in much the same way, but the ability to switch from gas to electricity can save money and energy in your home.

Duct-Free Systems 

While ducts are a main component of the system, they don't always have to be included. For homes where putting in ducts would be challenging, having a duct-free system can be beneficial. These systems will vary in size, and they still contain the other important components that keep your space warm and cool.

Packaged Heating and Air System

If your home doesn't have the space for the various components that come with a traditional split system, then you may have to get a packaged system. All of the components are included in one appliance. This can save a lot of space by having the air conditioner and heat pump combined into one unit.

Finding the Right System

ductless hvac systems

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When it comes to the different HVAC system types and finding the one that will work best for you, it's important to consider your home and the amount of space you have. Most people opt for the tradition split system because it has been proven to be reliable and durable. However, it may not work for everyone.

Talking to a contractor or a central heating specialists can help you determine which system is the best choice. The goal is to make sure that you are cool when the weather gets hot and warm when the weather gets cold. Since every person is different, what that means will have to be determined by you.

Having an up-to-date system can also be beneficial in saving you money on utility bills. It can be a large upfront cost to get this system replaced, but it will eventually pay for itself in the long run. Older units, whether in your home or a commercial business, can waste a lot of energy in comparison to new, energy efficient modules. This can be harmful to your wallet and to the environment. Getting something that is energy efficient is advantageous.

When your HVAC system is working the way it should, you more than likely don't think twice about it. That's the way it should be. It should be doing its job effectively in the background and keeping your space at the optimum temperature throughout the year. However, if you find that something has gone wrong or it can't maintain the right temperature, then getting it fixed is the best course of action to take.


The advancement of technology has made it possible for us to regulate the temperature in our homes so we can live in a variety of different places. While the components that make up the different systems are basically the same, there are different HVAC system types you can choose from. Finding the one that works best for you, your home, and your environment will make all the difference to your comfort: and your energy bills.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay.com

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