Commercial and residential HVAC systems: What’s the difference?

It’s important to have a comfortable environment in your home, but for a business, it’s absolutely crucial. For a business, a broken air conditioning unit can mean lost revenue in addition to physical discomfort.

For our Edmond and Oklahoma City area clients, this is especially important as warm weather and high humidity sometimes linger well into the fall.

Clients often ask us about the differences between common residential and commercial HVAC systems. The underlying mechanical principles are the same, but there are several important differences between the two types of heating and cooling systems.

Size, scale, and type

Residential HVAC units typically have a cooling capacity of 2-5 tons. (Tons is used as a measurement of cooling capacity here.) The commercial units we commonly see can have a capacity of 25 tons and even larger.

Most residential systems cool all of one home, or a large part of it. But commercial systems are designed for much larger areas. Because of that, they remove a much larger amount of heat. The cooling needs for a 2,500 square foot home with 4-5 residents is very different than that of a 5,000 square foot restaurant with a capacity of 225 guests.

The residential systems we typically see in Central Oklahoma are known as split systems, combining an outside condenser unit with an inside furnace/blower unit connected with a system of ducts. But many commercial systems come in prepackaged units, where all the components are housed within one unit.

Many commercial properties will require several HVAC systems to keep the environment comfortable, while many of the residential homes we service have just one or two systems.

Location of HVAC equipment

We typically see the outside condenser units for residential clients installed next to the home—usually along the side or in the backyard. The inside unit is typically in a closet or the attic.

Commercial HVAC equipment is typically installed on rooftops or outside the property in some type of enclosure, especially since commercial HVAC units are large and noisy.

Design and maintenance

Residential units are designed to work at a fixed capacity under ideal installation conditions, and not to be modified. But commercial systems are designed for flexibility.

Prepackaged commercial HVAC units are often modular, meaning extra components can be added to increase the heating and cooling capacity as needs of the space change. You can also remove power in some instances to accommodate changing needs of the commercial space.

While maintenance on residential units is generally recommended, it’s a must for commercial HVAC equipment. Due to the large size and scale of the equipment combined with greater heating and cooling needs, more in-depth maintenance is required to keep commercial systems operating efficiently.

Replacing a residential unit could be an investment of $5,000-$10,000, but a replacement for a commercial venue could be at least 5-10 times that amount.

Temperature control

Residential homes usually have one or two thermostats to control temperature, but many commercial locations we service have much more complicated temperature monitoring and control systems. These control systems in commercial buildings will often integrate with other crucial components of the building, such as the lighting and security interface.

We’re staffed with specialists for residential and commercial systems, whether you need repairs, installations, or planned preventative maintenance. If you’d like to talk about what that could look like, give us a call!

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