What is a HVAC System and How Does it Work?

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HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. All of these words refer to parts of the same system — a set of things used to keep our buildings at the right temperature and filter indoor air so we don’t inhale dangerous particles. If you’re thinking about upgrading your building’s HVAC system, there are a few things you need to know first. Let’s take a look at HVAC systems and how they work.


What is a Heating System?

A heating system is the part of a HVAC system that keeps a building at the right temperature. The most common type of heating system is a fossil fuel-powered furnace. It burns natural gas or oil as fuel and uses heat exchangers to transfer heat from the fuel to the air inside the building.

Some commercial buildings are now equipped with an alternative heating system — solar energy. If you live in a location that gets enough sunlight to produce energy throughout the year, you can use solar panels to produce electricity that powers your building’s heating system. This can be especially useful in locations where energy prices are high.


What is a Ventilation System?

A ventilation system is responsible for circulating and filtering air inside a building. This air may be filtered outside or heated inside. If your building has a cooling or heating system, it may be combined with a ventilation system to distribute warm or cool air internally. They may also be used to remove unwanted odours and mitigate carbon dioxide or other potentially dangerous particles from the air.

Some ventilation systems are installed in crawlspaces or lofts to ease the load on heating and cooling systems. Ventilation systems come in a variety of options, depending on the needs of that particular building, including fan-coil combinations, exhaust systems, and variable speed. Some ventilation systems may be controlled digitally or remotely, and some even feed information into a Building Automation System (BAS).


HVAC Commercial Building


What is an Air Conditioning System?

Air conditioning systems are used to keep indoor spaces at the desired temperature manage airflow and eliminate excess humidity. Air conditioning, in the context of HVAC systems, is used in climate control to create a comfortable space to be in. However, not all HVAC units are air conditioning units. HVAC is a term that applies to all sorts of related air control systems.

Some modern air conditioning systems are used to maintain certain temperatures for machinery or technology. For example, in manufacturing, air conditioning can be used to stop machines overheating, or in IT infrastructure, to keep servers from getting too hot. It is well known that the productivity of building occupants is much higher when the environment is carefully controlled, so we use measurements like pressure, humidity level and temperature to ensure that it is just right.

HVAC systems could be needed for a range of reasons. Perhaps, in an industrial setting, chemicals used in a manufacturing process could release fumes that need filtering out of the internal spaces immediately. In a commercial office, for example, high occupancy could lead to an increase in sickness as bacteria spreads. In this case, filtration is very important.


How Important are HVAC Systems?

HVAC systems are an essential part of a building’s infrastructure. This is especially true in the case of commercial buildings, industrial buildings and larger buildings in general. They let you control the ideal temperature of your indoor space and, in addition, they protect building occupants from potentially harmful airborne particles and allergens.

But beyond this, HVAC technology plays a much more significant role in the grand scheme of things. Heat contributes around 37% of the UK’s total carbon emissions and this puts HVAC at the centre of the journey to net-zero emissions.

Manufacturers of ventilation and air conditioning technology have long been focused on achieving greater efficiency. Now, with HVAC becoming an integral part of the internet of things (IoT), smarter systems are precisely tailoring energy use to the needs of each individual building. Although retrofitting older buildings with newer, smarter HVAC systems might not always be achievable, it’s still possible to find impactful performance improvements through the use of smart building technology.

Additionally, building owners and real estate investors stand to gain, by reducing energy consumption up to 50%. Saving costs while reducing carbon emissions and health risks for building occupants and society at large can be seen as a real win-win for organisations.

HVAC systems are an essential part of a building’s infrastructure
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The Future of HVAC Technology

HVAC system technology is constantly evolving to provide more comfort and efficiency. But these systems are expensive to procure and maintain, especially if they’re not regularly inspected. Because of this, it’s becoming more and more common, especially with the rise in the Internet of Things (IoT), for HVAC systems to be linked to cloud-based software that can analyse certain elements of a building’s infrastructure.

By using connected technologies in this way, building managers or owners can better understand and manage energy efficiency and predict future maintenance for connected assets. But beyond this, it’s also important for wellbeing. It’s been shown that building occupants are happier, more productive and safer when things like heating and indoor air quality are at their most optimal level. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that property managers and building owners are looking to technology to help manage their HVAC systems.

Picture of Mark Sorsa-Leslie

Mark Sorsa-Leslie

A Chartered Surveyor with a passion for technology. Developed a range of computer applications to support my work in real estate in the UK and 5 business start-ups so far. Over the last 25 years I have developed solutions ranging from eLearning platforms to IoT sensors and have been the bridge between business people and technology people throughout my career.

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