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9 Common HVAC Terms Defined

Talk to someone coming out to fix your furnace or someone trying to explain the different air conditioning options for your home and it can often feel like they are totally speaking another language.  And, in many ways, they are.  The HVAC world has its own vocabulary.  If you aren’t familiar with it, conversations about the heating and cooling in your home may leave you scratching your head.

The heating and cooling system is an integral part of your home, so you want to be comfortable with the basics of it.  To help you out, here are 10 common HVAC terms defined:


These letters stand for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency.  AFUE ratings are used to describe how efficient a furnace is.  The AFUE number is the percentage of fuel that is actually used for heating the home.  So, the higher the number, the more efficient the furnace is.

Air handler

This common HVAC term refers to an inside unit of your heating and cooling system that works to distribute the air throughout the home.


An acronym for British Thermal Unit, BTUs are a measurement of heat.  The higher number of BTUs a heating device has, the more heat output there will be.  BTUs are also used when looking at air conditioners, however, in this case we are using BTUs to examine how much heat energy is removed from the air.


The compressor is a vital part of the air conditioning system and is located in the outside unit.  It works to compress the liquid refrigerant and keep it flowing.


The outdoor unit of the air conditioning system.

Heat exchanger

The heat exchanger is an important part of the furnace that exchanges the heat from the combustion gasses to the breathable air circulating past the exchanger.  The heat exchanger allows us to have warm air in our homes without breathing in dangerous gasses.


An acronym for North American Technician Excellence, NATE is the country’s highest standard of HVAC service.  Look for technicians that are NATE certified when you need HVAC work completed in your home.

R Value

The ‘R’ in R value stands for “resistance to heat flow.”  This is a number that is used to rate insulation.  The higher the R value, the more capable the insulation is of keeping inside air inside and outside air outside.


Since HVAC is an acronym itself, it makes sense that there are so many acronyms within the field.  SEER is another one.  It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.  SEER numbers measure the efficiency of air conditioners.  The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the unit is.

Looking for more help?  Contact us at FLAME Heating, Cooling, Plumbing, and Electrical!

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