HVAC Abbreviation List: Helpful Terms To Know

HVAC Logo IconBy Tom MoorOctober 3, 2023

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Have you heard terms such as SEER, AFUE, and IAQ being thrown around by HVAC technicians and aren’t quite sure what they mean? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The heating and cooling industry is chock-full of acronyms and abbreviations that can be head-scratchers for the average homeowner.

While some HVAC acronyms are highly technical and typically only used by heating and cooling professionals, a handful can provide homeowners with valuable knowledge for their next HVAC service appointment. Many common HVAC acronyms are related to system efficiency which is crucial for reducing energy consumption.

“As a homeowner, understanding HVAC abbreviations can empower you to make informed decisions about your home’s heating and cooling systems, especially if you are in the market for a new system,” said Jon Caselli, with Air Temp Solutions in New Castle, DE.

HVAC.com, your trusted partner for everything HVAC-related, developed this HVAC abbreviation list of terms to help you better communicate with your technician.

HVAC Acronyms to Know

Let’s look deeper into a few common HVAC abbreviations and what they mean.

HVAC

HVAC is an all-encompassing term to describe the heating and cooling industry as a whole. It stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. An HVAC system encompasses a wide range of equipment and components, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

AC

AC stands for “air conditioning,” a type of HVAC system used to cool and dehumidify homes and businesses during the warmer months.

IAQ

IAQ refers to indoor air quality. A healthy indoor air quality supply is critical to the health and well-being of you and your family. If your HVAC technician refers to IAQ equipment that can promote a healthier indoor environment, they’re likely talking about air cleaners, air purifiers, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, and ventilation equipment. Air quality testing is a popular method to check a home’s overall air quality.

BTU

BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a measurement of heat energy.

“It specifies how much heat energy a unit can add in the case of a furnace, or how much it can remove, in the case of an AC, from your home in one hour,” said Chris Forbus, owner of Choice Air Care in McKinney, TX. “BTUs measure the cooling/heating capacity of a system. Some folks might be familiar with the term “tonnage” which is another common way to measure capacity.”

SEER

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) determines how efficient a cooling system such as an air conditioner or heat pump is. A SEER rating is determined by dividing the cooling output of the unit divided by the total energy used. Most homeowners opt for SEER ratings of 15 or higher for increased energy efficiency.

AFUE

While SEER measures how efficient a cooling system is during the warmer months, AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, measures the efficiency of your furnace or boiler during the heating season. A highly rated AFUE heating system converts a greater percentage of fuel into usable heat which will lower energy consumption and reduce monthly energy bills. A highly efficient heating system typically has an AFUE rating of 90 to 98.5%, according to Energy.gov.

MERV

The next HVAC term is MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It relates to HVAC filters and how efficiently they capture airborne particles. The MERV scale goes from 1-16; the higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is.

“Higher MERV-rated filters provide better filtration and improve air quality by trapping more allergens and pollutants,” said Caselli, making it an important component of a healthy indoor environment.

HEPA

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters are the most effective at trapping and removing very small particles from the air, including dust, pollen, pet dander, and even some bacteria and viruses as small as 0.3 microns in size. HEPA filters are commonly used in whole-house air purifiers to improve indoor air quality.

CFM

Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) measures how much air volume your heating and cooling system can circulate at a given time. A high CFM rating means your system can move more airflow. For example, a 500 CFM fan can move 500 cubic feet of air per minute.

HSPF

The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) determines the efficiency of a heat pump system during the colder months. It calculates the ratio of heat output to electricity consumption over a typical heating season, with higher HSPF ratings indicating more efficient heat pump performance, making it an essential metric for assessing a heat pump’s heating efficiency. The minimum HSPF to earn the coveted Energy Star label is 8.2.

Why Learn HVAC Acronyms and Terminology?

Familiarizing yourself with this HVAC abbreviation list can help you better understand your options when shopping for a new heating and cooling season. You’ll be more knowledgeable about how to measure the energy efficiency of an HVAC system, as well as the different IAQ equipment options available to improve your home’s indoor air quality. Knowing these HVAC acronyms can also help you communicate more clearly with your HVAC technician.

“I do find it helpful when a homeowner has some knowledge of their HVAC systems and knows a few of these acronyms,” said Mark Morris, an HVAC technician who provides consultancy to Texas-based Deluxe Plumbers. “It makes it easier and quicker for me to help them find the right HVAC system for their individual needs.”

Morris said some of the benefits of possessing some level of HVAC knowledge as a homeowner include:

  • Communicating more effectively with your HVAC technician.
  • Saving time and money on HVAC service.
  • Improving your home comfort and energy efficiency.

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