What are the Four Basic Categories of HVAC Systems?

What are the Four Basic Categories of HVAC Systems?

When an individual is installing HVAC systems in their home or office, they may not have given much thought to the types of HVAC units on the market. There are a few different types of HVAC units available, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. If you or your business needs an HVAC system installed, or if you’re looking to get into the HVAC business, it’s worth taking a few seconds to learn about the basic categories of HVAC systems. Let’s review the four basic categories of HVAC systems.

What are the most common types of HVAC systems?

HVAC systems come in four different styles: split systems, hybrid systems, packaged heating and air systems, and duct-free systems. Each of these types of HVAC units have good and bad qualities.

Heating and cooling split systems

Heating and cooling systems are the most common types of HVAC systems. This type of system is split between two main units, one that heats and one that cools. These units are easily recognizable and can be found both indoor and outdoor. The first part of the units, the cooling system, is typically outside. It used refrigerant, compressors, and coils to cool down air, while a fan blows out the hot air. 

The second part of this system is the heater, and it is typically located in a garage, closet, or basement. It primarily uses gas or electricity to heat the building. The heat is then dispersed by a dan or evaporator which circulates the air around a home. The combined heating and cooling system uses a thermostat to manage the temperature.

Hybrid split system

Hybrid split systems are similar to split systems, but with some slight differences. These types of systems are actually gaining popularity because of their ability to lower energy costs through electric hybrid heating systems. A hybrid split system has the ability to switch between gas power to electric. Gas is typically quicker and more complete, but electric is quieter and more efficient. This system still used ducts and a thermostat, the biggest differentiator is the option between choosing gas or electric heat.

Packaged heating and air

Packaged heating and air is the most unique out of the HVAC units. The entire system is stored within a property and is one unit. You can usually find them in attics or top floor storage spaces. This is a good system to have if you can’t have an exterior unit. These types of units are used in warm climates, because the system isn’t as powerful, but it is very efficient and easy to maintain. Packaged heating and air conditioning is typically run by electricity.

Duct free (also known as mini-split)

This type of system has a large cost upfront, but for certain needs, it has benefits. These are the types of HVAc units you see in individual rooms. They allow for each room to have an independent temperature and regulation. You’ll find them mounted to the walls indoors. Although these units are very visible, they are great for add-ons to homes or garages. They are easier to install, but come with an expensive installation price tag. These systems require a lot of regular maintenance, but have the benefit of conserving energy.

Types of HVAC systems for commercial buildings and hotels

Along with the types of HVAC units for personal homes, there are also specific types of HVAC units that work well for commercial buildings and hotels. In this next section, we’ll review the types of HVAC systems in hotels and commercial buildings. 

Commercial split systems 

These are just like HVAC split systems for homes, but they can be utilized in commercial spaces too.

Single split system

This is the most common and affordable commercial HVAC system and is perfect for small commercial buildings. They heat individual rooms, but are a part of a whole system. This makes them perfect for cafes, offices, or shops. This is a less expensive route than installing a centralized system, but it has the downfall of needing a lot of external space to install a corresponding outdoor unit for each indoor unit. Since each system is self-contained, when a unit breaks it wont take the others with it. 

Multi-split system air conditioning

The multi-split system works identically to the single-split system, with one but difireciator. You can add more than one indoor unit to one outdoor unit. This means that restaurants or shops wouldn’t have to have as many outdoor units, resulting in space conservation and a more aesthetically pleasing building. 


Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and variable refrigerant volume (VRV) are interchangeable terms to talk about the same type of commercial HVAC system. These systems are typically solutions for medium to large buildings such as hotels, larger offices, or retail spaces. These systems are efficient. They recover waste heat from around the building and use it to reheat water. 

Heat pumps and heat recovery are used in these kinds of systems. The heat pumps provide heating and cooling in all one temperature, it is best for buildings that have an open floor plan. Heat recovery systems provide heating and cooling at different temperatures and to a number of areas at the same time, ideal for large buildings with specific rooms. 

Manage your inventory with Circle City Software Solutions 

No matter what system your customers choose, you’ll be prepared to handle any and all service calls with Acumatica.

Acumatica Field Service Edition works with CRM, sales, inventory, purchasing, accounting, and financial reporting to help your field service business become streamlined and minimize costs. The app was created with users in mond, they are all web-based and accessible from any device, anytime, anywhere. Of the many Benefits of Acumatica, the software allows users to access their inventory management remotely so your technicians  know exactly what is on hand. Contact us today to learn how Acumatica can help you run a successful HVAC business.