You probably know that you have an HVAC system for your facility, but you might not know what all of the components do. Here is a list of the most common HVAC elements found in a commercial building and how they work together to keep your building at its ideal temperature.

An air conditioner is designed to dehumidify and remove heat from an area. The cooling is done using a simple refrigeration cycle. A condenser is a component of the basic refrigeration cycle that removes heat from the system. The condenser is the hot side of an air conditioner. Condensers are heat exchangers that can transfer heat to air or heat to fluid (such as water or glycol) to carry the heat away.

An air handler, or air handling unit (often called an AHU), is used to condition and circulate air as part of an HVAC system. An air handler usually contains a blower, heating or cooling elements, filter racks or chambers, sound attenuators, and dampers. Air handlers usually connect to ductwork that distribute the conditioned air through the building and return it to the AHU.
Small air handlers are called terminal units, and may only include an air filter, coil, and blower. These smaller units are also called blower coils or fan coil units. A larger air handler that conditions 100% outside air, and no re-circulated air, is known as a makeup air unit (MAU). An air handler designed for outdoor use, typically on roofs, is known as a rooftop unit (RTU).

A chiller removes heat from a liquid through a vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycle. This cooled liquid flows through pipes in a building and passes through coils in air handlers, fan-coil units, or other systems, cooling and usually dehumidifying the air in the building. There are two types of chillers – air-cooled or water-cooled. Air-cooled chillers are usually outside and consist of condenser coils cooled by fan-driven air. Water-cooled chiller are usually inside a building, and heat from these chillers is carried by re-circulating water to a heat sink such as an outdoor cooling tower.

Now that you know the difference between these components, do you remember when the last time was that you had them tuned up? Be sure to perform regular facility HVAC maintenance to keep your system running at its peak.


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