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What Is the Difference Between HVAC and Air Conditioning?

Serving Families Throughout Palm Springs
remote control for AC unit

The terms HVAC and air conditioning are generally used interchangeably in the heating and cooling industry. However, any expert will tell you there’s a stark difference between the two terms. This post delves deeper into the topic by exploring the difference between AC and HVAC. 

What is air conditioning?

Air conditioning is a system that reduces indoor air temperature, typically using refrigeration. This happens in several ways, but the most common is to use a process called evaporative cooling. A liquid refrigerant is turned into a gas and then compressed in this process. The gas is then cooled by exposing it to colder surfaces, such as coils in an air conditioner unit. When the gas condenses back into liquid form, it absorbs heat from the surrounding air, reducing the air temperature. 

What is HVAC?

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The acronym refers to all systems designed to provide thermal comfort in buildings by controlling heat gain and loss. It is essentially an improved form of air conditioning, though the two systems are often integrated into a single unit to provide heating and cooling for homes or businesses. 

What is the difference between AC and HVAC?

The easiest way to explain this is that ac system is a component of HVAC. HVAC systems provide both cooling and heating, while air conditioning only provides cooling. Additionally, air conditioner units are typically smaller than HVAC systems and used in specific applications, such as a home or offices. An HVAC system is generally installed in a building’s infrastructure and used to regulate the temperature of the entire space. 

What are the different types of air conditioning?

There are several types of air conditioning units, each with its own benefits and drawbacks: 

Heat pump

A heat pump is a device that uses a small amount of energy to move heat from one place to another. Heat pumps are used to heat or cool homes and other buildings. In the winter, a heat pump moves heat from the warm air inside a building to the colder air outside. In the summer, the process is reversed, and the heat pump moves heat from the cool air outside to the warm air inside.

Central air conditioning

Central air conditioning systems are typically installed as part of a home’s original construction. These systems use ductwork to distribute conditioned air throughout the house through registers placed in walls, floors, or ceilings. Central air conditioning systems sit outside the home and are connected to the air ducts. 

Window air conditioning system

Window AC units are the most popular type of air conditioner. These units sit in a window or through the wall and use a small amount of energy to cool one room at a time. Window air conditioners are best suited for climates with hot summers and mild winters, as they are ineffective in extreme weather conditions. 

Portable air conditioning system

Portable air conditioners are small, lightweight units that can be moved from room to room as needed. These units use a combination of evaporative cooling and refrigeration to cool air in a given space. Portable ACs are best for climates with high humidity levels, though they are not as effective for cooling large spaces.

What are the benefits of properly maintained AC and HVAC systems?

There are many benefits to having an integrated system that can handle both your heat needs and A/C needs. Some of these benefits include: 

Energy savings

A well-maintained HVAC system can save you up to 30 percent on your energy bill each month. This goes a long way to keep your energy consumption low, hence a reduced energy bill at the end of the month. 


An HVAC system that is properly sized and installed will keep you comfortable all year long, no matter what the weather conditions are. Your home remains cool and cozy during the summer months but feels warm and toasty in the cold winter months. 

Prevention of structural damage

An HVAC unit with leaky ductwork or other issues can cause damage to the home’s structure over time. A build-up of humidity in your home can result in mold and mildew growth, contaminating your environment.

Reduced allergy symptoms

Allergen levels in homes can be reduced by an HVAC system maintained regularly. Dust, pollen, and other particles get filtered to ensure you enjoy high indoor air quality. 

Should I get an AC or HVAC system?

The best way to answer this is to consult with a qualified HVAC technician. They will come out and assess your home, consider the climate where you live, and recommend a system that is right for your needs. 

Your Local HVAC Experts!

Whether you’re looking to install an AC or HVAC system, Desert Air Conditioning Inc has the technicians to help you decide what’s best for your home. Our customer reps are always on call to answer any questions. Call our offices whenever you need to see an air conditioning contractor in Desert Hot Springs!