Is HVAC the Same as Air Conditioning?

You hear the acronym HVAC tossed around all the time, such as an HVAC unit or an HVAC technician. Yet you’re not really sure what HVAC means. You assume it’s related to your air conditioner, but you’re not sure otherwise.

Are HVAC and AC the same or not?

To answer your question, let’s explore HVAC in more detail first.

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. It’s a type of technology that encompasses indoor comfort in homes, buildings, and vehicles of all kinds. HVAC units have two primary goals. The first is to raise the air quality indoors to an acceptable limit. The second is to increase your thermal comfort, with thermal comfort referring to satisfaction with your environment.

The heating aspect of HVAC can entail furnaces, central heaters, boilers, and heat pumps. The ventilation part of HVAC includes forced or mechanical ventilation as well as passive ventilation. The air conditioning part of the HVAC acronym includes refrigeration cycles, free cooling, and central air.

Those are the three parts of the HVAC equation, so to speak. That should make the answer to your question clearer.

The best way we can put it is this. When someone talks about AC, they always mean air conditioning or cooling. When someone mentions HVAC, they could be talking about air-conditioned cooling or they could be referring to heating and/or ventilation.

Therefore, the answer is no, HVAC and air conditioning are not the same. Air conditioning is a part of HVAC and an AC is technically an HVAC unit, but it’s not the entirety of HVAC, so you can’t use the two terms interchangeably.

That said, when the time comes to get your air conditioner serviced, you’ll likely call an HVAC technician. The benefit of working with an HVAC technician is they can do more than maintain your AC. If you have a furnace or another type of heating system on the premises, you could get work done on this by the same technician. The same goes for any ventilation system your home has.

You could also call an air conditioner technician. They can fine-tune your AC to ensure it’s in 100 percent working order, but they wouldn’t be able to do anything for the heating and ventilation units in your house.

At the end of the day, knowing the difference between AC and HVAC changes nothing about how you use your air conditioner. If you already have a technician who services your AC, that won’t change either.

However, you will be glad to know the difference the next time you pick up the phone and ask for HVAC service. The other person on the line would say something like “HVAC service for which unit?” Now you can answer them with confidence.