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Commercial vs Residential HVAC

While the commercial and residential HVAC industries have similarities there are differences as well. No matter what type of HVAC being deployed, the purpose always comes down to cooling, heating, dehumidification, and ventilation. Some of the key differences involve size, location and manufacturing. While there are HVAC manufacturers that specialize in one or the other, some companies are more specialized. Whichever industry is in question there are key things to know about when it comes to commercial vs residential HVAC.

Residential HVAC

Residential HVAC systems are what cools and heats homes and small businesses. Fundamentally, these systems operate the same as commercial units. These unit are often split between the evaporator and condenser section and located outdoors beside the home. Other times the location is an attic or crawl space. These use of these types of units is most heavily in the Summer and Winter months.

The residential market accounts for roughly 40 percent of the HVAC market. Furthermore, servicing these units occurs by a single contractor. Residential units are usually smaller than commercial units and are easier to service. As a repair technician there is much more contact with the owner of the unit than with commercial.

Commercial HVAC

Commercial HVAC systems have the same functions as residential but are instead, installed in corporate and industrial buildings of all sizes. These units are very large and located on rooftops but there are also modular packaged units that are installed indoors. These units usually involve contractors and architects in the planning phase. Some industries using commercial units include manufacturing, healthcare, education, offices, churches, restaurants, retail stores, banks, and hotels. Commercial units are more complex and costly than residential and require a higher skill level to install and maintain. They account for up to 60% of the HVAC market.


Whether residential or commercial, HVAC units will continue to innovate to meet the cooling and heating needs of both markets. New efficiency requirements and coolant types are ever evolving. The following resources have updated information on the HVAC industry.

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • HVAC Excellence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)