AC Difference

Commercial And Residential HVAC: What’s The Difference?

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The Demand for HVAC Systems

HVAC, short for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, is one of the most in-demand trades in the construction industry. More significant projects built from the ground up usually use a subcontractor scheduling software to supervise the HVAC crew. Simultaneously, smaller jobs, like installation and repairs, can be handled by independent contractors.

Whatever the case, people across the US have some HVAC system installed in their buildings, whether residential or commercial, to aid in their comfort and safety, no matter the season.

The needs of homeowners differ from the demands of employees in office buildings. While all HVAC systems serve the same purpose: to regulate indoor climate, not all systems are built the same, specifically commercial and residential systems.

Difference Between Commercial And Residential HVAC Features

1. Size and Operating Power

The most apparent difference between the two kinds of systems is size. Commercial buildings, which are larger than regular houses, require large systems with enough power to sustain the entire building’s indoor climate. Typically, the bigger the structure, the bigger the system has to be.

As the system size increases, so does the power it consumes and produces to cater to the whole building and sustain itself. Commercial systems are generally equipped for efficient cooling and heating. But because they work harder than residential ones, they have quite intensive needs. HVAC technicians tasked to install commercial systems must find the balance in effectively meeting the building’s needs and not consuming too much power that damages the rest of the electrical system.

Moreover, bigger systems consume more power, and thus creating more noise than smaller home systems. As commercial systems are significantly bigger, they make quite the amount of noise. 

2. Placement

The type of system being installed usually dictates the placement of the units. But the different types are customarily suited for either commercial or residential use.

Although not all the time, commercial buildings normally have their HVAC units on their roofs. All its components, save for the zone dampers and ducts, are placed outside. There are several reasons why this is a common practice:

● The roof is a wide area with a lot of free space and the unit’s size takes up a lot of it. Putting it inside would just be difficult and impractical;

● Because of the unit’s size and power, it tends to make a lot of noise. Having it placed on the roof ensures that the building’s occupants will not be disturbed by it;

● The roof provides easy access for maintenance checks and repairs without having to bother the occupants; and

● Placing the unit on the roof lessens the risk of vandalism or accidental damage, as commercial buildings usually have many activities.

For residential areas, HVAC systems generally come with two units: heating and cooling. The cooling or air conditioning unit is normally positioned outside or against the house; the heaters and furnace that make up the heating unit are typically in the basement. This setup still allows easy access when the system needs to be serviced without disrupting the residents inside.

3. Installation

Residential and commercial units are not made the same way, as they are used in different types of structures with varied purposes. So, they are manufactured and installed in ways that would best suit its environment and serve their purpose.

In addition to that, as previously mentioned, residents can purchase a unit and have it installed later. The advantage residential systems have is that they can be installed easily in already existing structures; there would only be minor damages or renovations to cater to the added equipment.

Conversely, commercial systems typically have to be worked into while the structure is under construction or installing them could sustain major renovations, especially during ductwork. The best construction management software can be of great aid in installing commercial HVAC systems. However, that is not always the case. Some buildings take the same approach as residential systems where air conditioning units are placed against one room’s wall or window. This setup is typically seen 4. Complexity

As expected, commercial HVAC systems are more complex than residential systems because of their size, power, and purpose. 

Residential HVAC systems are more straightforward than commercial systems. They are self-contained systems that cannot be built upon, nor can they be changed. Houses generally have the same features; that’s why manufacturers mass-produce residential systems, and homeowners can get just one that fits their specific needs. Then they can either install the units themselves or call on HVAC installers to do the work. However, if homeowners want to alter the heating and cooling, the whole unit would need to be replaced.

On the other hand, commercial HVAC systems are more intricate and complicated because they are customized to meet the building’s various requirements, thus needing a construction schedule software to ensure it is stable and safe. Unlike residential areas, a commercial building is larger and might have segmented rooms or areas with different heating and cooling needs. In situations like this, individual units could be installed per room with their own thermostats rather than central control.

While residential areas have standalone systems, commercial ones are modular, which means they can be changed or added to heating and cooling calls. Plus, this would make transportation to the site much easier.

Additionally, commercial buildings have more components. In addition to the basic ones responsible for controlling and dispersing conditioned air or heat, other parts may be needed for customization, particularly to limit or prevent treated air from entering other zones of the building.

5. Drainage, Ventilation, Exhaust

The drainage component is more complex and larger to cater to the vast amount of condensate produced by a commercial building’s system. In contrast to residential systems that drain into one pan outside the structure, commercial HVAC systems are detailed and have several pipes and pans that ensure the system drains appropriately. 

Commercial and residential systems are similar when it comes to ventilation systems; they simply direct airflow through the ducts. The difference comes down to size, where commercial systems are more significant. 

As for the exhaust, commercial systems might incur extra components to handle the system’s power output.

6. System Mechanics

The standard type of HVAC system residential buildings use is the split HVAC system. This type “splits” the system, having one unit inside (heating) and one unit outside (cooling). As mentioned before, this type of system does not allow modifications, even if the homeowners’ needs change. The only way to cater to alterations is to change the systems entirely. 

Contrary to the fixed HVAC system of houses, commercial systems are modular and are more flexible. Any modification, alteration, or customization is allowed at any point without ripping out the system completely. Plus, because most system parts are housed together, upgrades and maintenance can happen much easier.

7. Responsibility and Maintenance

Because residential systems more simple and straightforward, the responsibility of maintenance goes to the homeowners. It’s their duty not to overwork it, regularly check on it, and contact HVAC technicians when needed.

Commercial systems, on the other hand, are more complex and more massive. This means monitoring them is more extensive and requires more effort. Because commercial buildings have many occupants, the task of making sure it’s in good working condition falls on the building’s owner or manager.

8. Cost

Residential HVAC systems are, without a doubt, cheaper than commercial systems, both initial cost and maintenance cost.

Commercial HVAC systems require several pieces of equipment, which are relatively expensive. That’s because these components are designed for heavy-duty and long-term work. Another reason why commercial systems cost more is consumption.

Due to its large and powerful nature, repairs will cost a lot of money. Plus, it consumes more electricity or natural gas, accounting for expensive maintenance. 

Difference Between Commercial And Residential HVAC As A Profession

Often, people who want to enter the construction industry prefer managerial positions, ones that use project management tools to supervise the building project rather than working on it. But the industry is stock full of opportunities, from small scale gigs like repairing ceilings or something bigger like working under a builder schedule to work on commercial buildings.

But HVAC is a trade that offers many rewarding jobs and is quickly getting attention. However, starting a career may look as simple as learning and going on the field. Many aspiring HVAC workers find themselves in a dilemma when choosing between commercial and residential HVAC as a profession.

a. Residential HVAC

Working on residential HVAC systems, technicians provide their services in their client’s homes. Their jobs are usually one-off projects, typically only around peak seasons like summer and winter. Also, residential HVAC technicians commonly handle small problems, like units not working that homeowners can fix it themselves.

This means that being a residential HVAC worker is relatively easy, working on light projects one at a time. Also, since they don’t require that much workforce, they get to enjoy a sense of independence.

The concern is that money is not great here. On the contrary, working on residential HVAC systems can earn some decent money and can even get it faster than working commercially. Once the job is done, the clients can give their payment immediately. Plus, technicians can get paid in commission by residential firms if they make sales.

b. Commercial HVAC

Commercial HVAC technicians acquire large scale projects, generally for bigger properties and business. However, this means that they’ll be working on larger, more complex systems and might take longer to fulfill. This also entails more duties, like performing installations, doing routine maintenance, or consulting on projects.

Although it may take some time to receive the full salary, commercial is vastly seen to be where the money is perfect. There is truth in that as hourly wages can be higher, firms demand more experienced and skilled HVAC technicians. Unfortunately, new commercial technicians are not likely to feel this perk for years. They may even have difficulty booking their first job.

It can be stressful to choose a specialization. Even times, workers do not feel as fulfilled as they thought they would in their chosen field. The good news is that that isn’t the end for them– they can still switch. The downside is that it’s not going to be easy. So, as much as possible, be sure to choose the right path.

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