HVAC vs Air Conditioning: Which is Better?

Home » Knowledge » HVAC vs Air Conditioning: Which is Better?

When it comes to building a home or constructing a property development, there are obviously a lot of elements to consider. One of the elements worth debating is whether to choose an HVAC system or air conditioning. Traditionally, air conditioning was the more widely used choice simply because it was more accessible; however, HVAC systems are quickly catching up. Choosing between the two today can be a challenge, so read on for the low down.


HVAC is an acronym that is short for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. To put it simply, an HVAC system is designed to take care of the climate, ventilation and temperature inside a building. They can come in a huge range of sizes depending on whether they are being used in residential or commercial properties. They are often made up of some combination of a boiler, air conditioner and air ducts or vents.

The combination of elements allows the systems to work alongside each other as well as independently. HVAC systems are designed with the comfort of the inhabitants in mind. In addition to allowing you to control the temperature of the building, they can also improve the air quality. Most HVAC systems work from the outside in; they pull in fresh air to vent around the system and get rid of the stale or stagnant air.

Air Conditioning

Realistically, an air conditioner should be self-explanatory. It is another system that is designed to condition the air. A lot of people think that an air conditioner only cools the air, but, depending on the model, it can heat it too. This does mean that an air conditioner and an HVAC system are really similar; in fact, the only difference between the two is that an HVAC system also vents the air in addition to heating and cooling.

It is worth reiterating that while there are air conditioning models that heat as well as cool, it is not necessarily the default. The heating element is often referred to as the heat pump, which essentially works by reversing the cooling cycle to produce heat.

The Difference: Ventilation

The air in a building is vented in one of two ways. There is natural ventilation or mechanical ventilation. First, natural ventilation takes place without any form of intervention or effort from the inhabitants. Air flows naturally through the building via exit and entry points like doors or windows. On the other hand, there is mechanical ventilation; as the name suggests, it relies on mechanical systems to vent the air.

Traditionally, older buildings were built with natural ventilation in mind; however, this can mean that the buildings are more drafty and harder to heat or cool down in extreme weather. Conversely, modern buildings tend to be more sealed, which does make natural ventilation more difficult, which is why they often require mechanical ventilation.

Installation Options

There are a number of models to choose from for both HVAC and air conditioning systems. Firstly, and perhaps one of the most popular installation options, is the window unit. They tend to be smaller, and they simply sit just inside the windowsill. Despite their smaller size, they provide a perfectly adequate output, but they are perhaps best suited for smaller spaces like single rooms or studio apartments. They are also one of the best options for those on a budget.

Another option is central air. This form of installation is often more geared towards larger spaces. They work with the air ducts in a building to deliver the air where it needs to be. Often there are interior and exterior elements. That being said, they can be expensive, which can make them inaccessible for some people, although they are often seen as an investment because they do tend to last.

Finally, there is the mini-split system. The mini-split is, in essence, quite similar to a central air system. For the most part, the only difference is usually the swapping out of the ducts in favour of a system of refrigerated pipework. These systems often offer a great compromise instead of a central air system. They are the cheaper option, and the lack of ducts can be a better design choice.

Choosing Between Air Conditioning and HVACs

HVACs do have a number of benefits; firstly, they have a wider range of use than air conditioning units. For the most part, they tend to cost similarly, too. It will depend on where you are, some places are warm year-round, and therefore air conditioning makes sense, whereas, in places where you are likely to experience both ends of the spectrum then, an HVAC system makes more sense because it has a more diverse use.

It also makes sense to consider the ease of use and maintenance; too, any system will need maintaining properly, and they will likely need repairs at some point which would be made infinitely easier if the parts are widely used and accessible. For example, McCombs Supply has several products that can be used to repair and maintain an HVAC system. You can also consider American Residential Service for air conditioning and HVAC installation.

Obviously, one of the largest considerations is the building itself. Where is the system going? Is the property residential or commercial? What budget are you working with? How big is the space? These elements will inform your choice of which system makes the most sense. For example, the right system for a multistorey office building will differ from the right choice for a condo.

In Conclusion

There are several factors which will help you in choosing between an HVAC system and an air conditioning system, including the considerations mentioned above, such as the size, location, and purpose of the property. However, the truth is that the systems themselves have more similarities than differences. As an extension of that, some people would regard air condition systems as a subset of HVACs. Although each system has its own benefits and drawbacks, in all honesty, with such similar functions, it would be hard to make the wrong choice.