HVAC vs AC are they related?

AC, short for air conditioning, is a small fraction of the acronym HVAC which stands for Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning. While HVAC would refer to the entire industry or a heating and cooling system, AC is a generally accepted acronym for a cooling unit.

Hopefully that explains the basic difference between hvac and ac. If not please read on and I’ll explain to the best of my 40- years of experience in this industry.

I could say I work in the HVAC industry or I have come to work on your HVAC system. Your HVAC system could include your furnace or even part or all of your duct work. It could include even more than that.

So if your questioning whether to say HVAC or AC the distinction should be clear. HVAC is all inclusive of the system or industry and AC is usually referring to cooling unit or the conditioning of the air in your home or business.

Anything that involves the comfort of your home in regards to temperature, humidity, and even the venting of your bathrooms or kitchen could be referred to as part of an HVAC system. And theirs even more.

Many new homes incorporate a venting product that refreshes the air by bringing in outside air and conditioning the air in a way to not introduce drastic temperature changes in the home.

Theses products are called ERV’s or HRV’s. Depending on where you live would determine the best unit for your home, an Energy Recovery Ventilator or an Heat Recovery Ventilator.

Scope out this image of an ERV. If you click on the link it will take you to Amazon where you can mouse over the image and see a blow up if the internal workings. It’s kind of cool.

As a general rule, ERV is a better option if you have air conditioning and live in a humid climate, because it will help to keep moisture outside, reducing the load on your air conditioner and saving on the air-con bills.

HRV’s and Erv’s have different functions

If you really want to get specific I think the term air conditioning can be a little misappropriated. To condition the air in your home can have multiple meanings.

For example, in dry climates, adding humidity would be a form of air conditioning. The opposite is true in areas of high humidity where reducing humidity is crucial to comfort and a part of conditioning the air.

But most people like to look out there along side the house at their cooling unit and refer to it as an air conditioner, when it only cools and removes humidity. And that’s okay, but it’s only a part of the actual air conditioning process.

I have personally always felt a jilted or befuddled. Someone who does plumbing is a plumber. And someone who wires a building is an electrician.

But, what is a person who installs and services HVAC systems? An HVAC’er? It’s like we’re Nobody.

Are You Looking For, Or Do You Want To Be, An HVAC or AC Technician?

You could search for either an ac technician or an hvac technician and get results in google and the results are similar. You get things about becoming an hvac tech, employment opportunities, and how much the career can pay.

Results mostly lean toward someone looking into becoming a part of the hvac industry.

The Google algorithm has pretty well figured out the similarity of your search, but you’ll probably have to rely on the ads to find local companies unless you search for companies in your local area.

I’d use google maps to find the companies in your area. Just enter the acronym “HVAC” in the maps search bar and see the results. When you select a company you can see their website and contact information and even if they are currently open for business.

What Is An HVAC Or AC Technicians Job Description?

To me this is the fun part, it’s why I like being in the heating and cooling industry or “the trades” as some refer to it, or those that are in the trades as “tradesmen”

What Is a Trade Job?
A trade job generally refers to any job whose duties require advanced training and skills gained through means other than a bachelor’s degree. For example, many jobs in the construction industry, such as plumber or electrician, require you to have significant experience and training before you can work. Experience and training can be gained through on-the-job experience or formal education in the form of an apprenticeship or completing a vocational school training program. Although many skilled labor jobs require manual work, not all trade jobs require significant physical labor. Examples of these include being a pilot, a real estate broker, or dental technician.

Zip Recruiter


Trades-schools.net lists 43 trades that pay over $20 per hour. HVAC is number 18 with average pay of between $24 and $36 per hour.

From an HVAC’ers perspective I think of the trades that are closely related to my industry. Electricians, plumbers and HVAC’ers work closely together in most of the building trades.

Electricians mainly do wiring and troubleshooting of their side of the industry. Plumbers, plumb and fix faucets and so forth.

But, HVAC’ers do all of those and more. I have to carry two electrical licenses. One license to work within a piece of heating or cooling equipment and another license to pull thermostat wire.

The thermostat wire one is kind of ridiculous to me.

These licenses are not as in depth as an electrician would have, but still required and take up to 4 years to acquire in my state of Oregon. If I want to change out water heaters it requires another license.

But the point is, HVAC’ers have to be skilled at certain aspects of electrical, plumbing, sheet metal, welding and so much more and to me that’s what make it interesting and fun.

So When Do You Say HVAC or AC?

So lets take a tour of your home. Entering the front door we notice a vent near the door. Either on the floor or ceiling, no matter. Entering the hall the thermostat on the wall is the control for the HVAC system.

Near the thermostat is the return duct. Now you’ve seen a return and a supply duct (the one by the front door).

Somewhere in the house, in the basement, attic or a closet is the air handler. The furnace in other words that all the duct work is tied to. It’s all part of the HVAC system.

Outdoors on the side of the house is the AC or cooling unit. Could be a heat pump they look very similar and again they are a part of the HVAC system.

Touring through the kitchen you see the range with a range hood that vents out the cooking odors and steam from the boiling pots. Get it? Heating Venting and Air Conditioning.

Same thing is going on in the bathrooms. Ceiling fans Venting out the steam from showers and I guess you know what else.

Chad Peterson

Chad Peterson is a veteran of the HVAC industry since 1977. "I like to explain heating and air conditioning problems in a way the average home owner can understand. "

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