If you think that air conditioning follows a simple “one type fits all” mentality, then it is time for a bit of enlightenment! There are various kinds of air conditioner types for both residential and commercial purposes like central, ductless, portable, window, hybrid, geothermal, etc. Yet, what exactly is the difference between residential and commercial air conditioning?

1. Size

One of the most noticeable differences between commercial and residential HVAC systems is generally the difference in size. The sizes of air conditioning for residential systems are mainly uniform ranging from 2 to 3-ton units; yet, commercial systems can be very large in scale and can even take up an entire roof! The size of an HVAC unit greatly depends on the space you need to heat/cool/ventilate. Which is why commercial air conditioning has more power to affect a large amount of space in a reasonable amount of time.

2. Pre-packaged vs. Split Units

Commercial HVAC systems are manufactured in pre-packaged units, each component packaged within a single cabinet. On the other hand, residential units are split, as the condenser and compressor are located outside the home while the evaporator and blower are inside. This is done for comfort and space efficiency.

3. Drainage

Another difference is the drainage type. Commercial systems tend to have a complex drainage system for covering a larger area. In comparison, residential units only have one condensation pan which drains to the outside to save you the trouble of having unaesthetic equipment indoors.

4. Location

Since residential units don’t require much space, they are located on the ground near the exterior of the home. Commercial units, however, are almost always located on the roof, as they are generally larger. This also allows technicians to work on the system without disturbing those indoors.

5. Modular vs. Standalone

Commercial HVAC units are made of modular parts which can be built upon as needed. This increases flexibility and allows changes to the heating and cooling. Residential systems are comprised of two components that must work together. The down side of this configuration is that if one part of the system should fail, both parts must be replaced. Likewise, the entire system will need replacement should the owner want to make major changes to the level of heating and cooling.

6. Ventilation

To allow proper ventilation, residential systems have windows dedicated to that specific function. Commercial units, having greater size and complex system, have other types of components in place of windows, for more intricate ventilation.

7. Thermostats

Regarding thermal regulation, commercial HVAC systems tend to require complex zoning with multiple thermostats to control the temperature in different parts of the building. This division has an energy saving outcome since it reduces the need to cool certain areas regularly, like storage spaces. Most recently, smart homes have started to establish zoning as well, although not to the same extent as commercial systems.

If your HVAC system needs maintenance or repair, make sure to find a contractor who has experience working with your type of system. Residential and commercial systems aren’t interchangeable, so you’ll want to make sure that you hire the right people for the job!

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