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If you’re looking for a way to keep your home comfortable throughout the year, you might have come across the terms HVAC and AC. But what do they mean and how are they different?

In this article, we’ll explain the basics of HVAC and AC systems, their components, benefits, and drawbacks.

Now let’s dive into the answer for the difference between HVAC and AC below!



The main difference between HVAC and AC is that HVAC generally refers to the whole heating, cooling, and ventilation system of a building, while AC often refers to cooling systems. In other words, AC is part of an HVAC system.

Below, we will explain in more detail what HVAC and AC stand for, what they are, and how they work.

What is HVAC?

a fored-air system
A full HVAC system of a house with a Central Air Conditioning unit installed

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. It refers to the whole system that controls the temperature, humidity, air quality, and airflow in your home. An HVAC system typically consists of:

  1. A furnace or a heat pump that provides heating
  2. An air conditioner or a heat pump that provides cooling
  3. A thermostat that regulates the temperature settings
  4. A network of ducts that distributes warm or cool air throughout your home
  5. A fan or a blower that circulates the air
  6. An air filter that removes dust, pollen, and other contaminants from the air
  7. A humidifier or a dehumidifier adjusts the moisture level in the air

An HVAC system can provide both heating and cooling functions with a single unit (such as a heat pump) or with separate units (such as a furnace and an air conditioner).

Depending on your climate, preferences, budget, and space availability, you can choose from different types of HVAC systems such as split systems (where some components are located inside and some outside), packaged systems (where all components are housed in one cabinet outside), hybrid systems (where you can switch between gas and electric power sources), geothermal systems (where you use underground pipes to exchange heat with the earth), etc.

What is an AC system?

AC stands for air conditioning. It is the system that cools down the air in your home by removing heat and moisture. A typical central air conditioning system consists of:

  1. A compressor that pressurises refrigerant (a chemical substance that absorbs and releases heat)
  2. A condenser coil that releases heat to the outside
  3. An evaporator coil that absorbs heat from inside
  4. An expansion valve that regulates refrigerant flow

An AC system can be part of an HVAC system (such as a central AC) or operate independently (such as a window unit).

Central air conditioners use ducts and vents that are part of the HVAC system to distribute cool air throughout your home.

Window units are installed in individual rooms or areas where you need cooling. Installing a ductless mini-split AC system is another option where you have an outdoor unit connected to one or more indoor units by refrigerant lines. These two types of AC don’t connect with the HVAC system in your home and work separately from the furnace.


What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of HVAC And AC Systems?

Both HVAC and AC systems have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs. Here are some factors to consider when choosing between them:

1. Comfort

An HVAC system can provide consistent comfort throughout your home regardless of weather changes. You can adjust both heating and cooling settings according to your preferences.

An AC system can only provide cooling comfort during hot days. You might need another source of heating during cold days. This is not to mention that a central air conditioning system can’t be installed separately and has to be connected to an HVAC system.

2. Energy efficiency

An HVAC system can be more energy efficient than an AC system if it has features such as variable speed motors, programmable thermostats, zoning controls, etc. These features allow you to customize your energy usage based on different zones, times of day, seasons, etc.

An AC system can also be energy efficient if it has features such as high SEER ratings (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), and Energy Star certification. These features indicate how well an AC unit cools per unit of electricity consumed.

However, if you live in a place where there’s only hot weather, you only need to consider AC systems.

3. Cost

Installing an HVAC system can be more expensive than an AC system upfront because it involves more components installation costs and maintenance costs. However, it can save you money in the long run by reducing your energy bills and improving your home value.

A stand-alone AC system can be much cheaper upfront due to the simplicity of installation and maintenance. Additionally, repairing an AC system may also cost less.

It’s important to note that it depends on the specific needs of your home or building. For example, installing a lot of mini-split ACs may cost more than a full HVAC system with a central air conditioner. That’s why we recommend you consult with a reputable HVAC company before making any decision.

4. Space

An HVAC system can take up more space than an AC system because it requires space for a furnace or heat pump, ductwork indoor, and outdoor units. You might need to make structural changes to accommodate an HVAC system in your home such as adding vents, cutting holes, etc.

An AC system can take up less space especially if it is ductless like a window or mini-split units.


HVAC vs AC – what’s the difference? Now you know! Both systems have their pros and cons depending on your situation. If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution for both heating and cooling comfort, an HVAC system might be right for you.