How does a commercial HVAC system work?

commercial HVAC system on a roof

Commercial vs Residential HVAC

When it comes to cooling and heating, which is more detailed and expensive, hvac commercial or residential? Just like commercial hvac and plumbing , logic would tell us that commercial HVAC is of course because it has to be larger and cover more area. Are more HVAC types out there though? How many types of HVAC are there?

Well, since you asked …. there are four different types of HVAC units and if you’re looking at updating your commercial HVAC system, the following descriptions of the four types could help you choose the best one for your commercial structure. Each of these types have benefits and drawbacks, so you should decide which is more of  help or a hinderance as you review the following: 

  • A  Split System: The split system is the most common type of residential HVAC system. This is a cooling and heating system, and as the name indicates, there are two units split within one component. Both indoor and outdoor units are included with the outside unit using coils, compressors, and refrigerant with a fan blowing the hot air out. 
  • A Hybrid Split System: A hybrid system type HVAC is similar to the above described split system with a few key differences. With the hybrid split system, energy cost can be mitigated with the electric hybrid heating by switching the setting from electric power to gas power. This type of HVA system is better in mild climates where winters aren’t extreme. It uses the same traditional air ducts and thermostats, gives you the split system benefits and with the ability to conserve the method of energy you choose, lowering your utility bills.
  • A Duct Free: The duct-free HVAC system, also referred to as mini-split system, has a big cost upfront, but the benefits it offers for certain applications makes it unique. With this system, each room will have its own HVAC units so there is individual controls, a great option for commercial HVAC with several offices . They mount on the walls with attachment to an outdoor compressor. Although expensive, it has been successful for commercial HVAC installs where individual offices and rooms are concerned. 
  • A Heating and Air Packaged: Considering every HVAC unit available, this Heating and Air packaged system is its own niche. Both the air and heat of this system is a contained within your house, usually in the attic. It cools and heats from this compact size, ideal for smaller houses. Easy maintenance, efficient, but recommended for warm climate as the heat isn’t as powerful as northern winters require. 

What are the different types of commercial HVAC systems?

For a large-scale need of commercial HVAC system, the following options are available:

  • The Rooftop Unit: The roof top commercial HVAC unit uses ducts that circulate the air to the inside area versus the residential HVAC unit that is located outside typically. 
  • The Heater: There are two types of commercial HVAC heaters – radiant heaters that supply direct heat and hot air furnaces that burn fuel to heat the air.
  • The Heat pump: The heat pump extracts heat from the air or water and with a with a water source heat pump, runs water through a pipe. 
  • The Chiller: This method of commercial HVAC uses cool water that generates and then distributes to air cooling coils through a pipe.

The commercial HVAC system choices are: 

  • The Single Split System – an affordable type of commercial HVAC system that is perfect for a small commercial setup. It will cool and heat individual rooms, found in server rooms, cafés, small offices, and shops. Some companies will use several of the single split system in one large room because they are less expensive than installing a full size commercial HVAC central system.
  • The Multi-Split System Air Condition – This system works in the same way the single-split systems but can be connected to additional indoor commercial HVAX units from one outdoor unit. Commonly used in offices, restaurants, and shops where outdoor space is limited or where exterior aesthetics are a concern. 
  • The VRF and VRV – VRF (variable refrigerant flow) and VRV (variable refrigerant volume) refer to the same kind of commercial HVAC, where the terms are interchangeable. These make a great commercial HVAC solution for applications of medium to large size, including large office buildings, hotels, and retail spaces. Using heat pumps and heat recovery methods, these commercial HVAC systems provide both cooling and heating to a building, even simultaneous if needed. This efficient commercial HVAC system type  recovers wasted heat around the building and uses it to heat other rooms and the water. 
  • The HVAC and Warehouses: When a business can combine their commercial HVAC systems with other options of ventilation, it is perfect for the warehouse setting. Other options like large ceiling fans set at a high volume on low speed cuts the temperature down in a warehouse and adding industrial portable box fans that have a misting system is an economical way to cool the warehouse economically.

How do you size a commercial HVAC system?

Air conditioning is sized  in tons and is available in 1/2-ton increments with the average commercial HVAC size between two tons for a small building, up to 30 tons for large building. To determine the size of air conditioner your commercial HVAC system need to be, calculate the cooling load in Btu for the building, which is the amount of heat that must be removed from the building to provide a comfortable temperature.

  • Step One. Calculate your commercial structure square footage of the space that needs to be cooled. 
  • Step Two. Divide that square footage by 500. 
  • Step Three. Multiply step two number by 12,000, the number of Btu your commercial HVAC  system needs to remove to adequately cool the space.
  • Step Four. Add 380 Btu per person that is working all day in the space.
  • Step Five. Add 1,000 BU for each window and 1,200 BTU for the kitchen.

The outcome of this calculating will give you an approximate idea of the minimum Btu your commercial HVAC system needs to cool your building. 

hvac system fan on commercial roof

How long do commercial HVAC systems last?

As with anything else in residential or commercial HVAC system longevity, there are many factors that can have an effect.  Generally, ten to fifteen years is the average lifespan of commercial HVAC systems when maintenance and upkeep have been practiced on regular basis, including changing or cleaning the commercial hvac filters as recommended by the manufacturer and installing contractor. 

Just what is the difference between commercial and residential HVAC? The commercial hvac basics of the system are modular. This enables when the cooling and heating needs dictate, additions can be installed to the system. With residential HVAC systems, they are split with one component on the outside and the rest is inside the house, like the condensation drain, blower motor, and evaporator coils. A residential HVAC system typically isn’t as large as a commercial HVAC system. Call (240) 640-6578 today for commercial HVAC service in Lanham, MD.