The Difference Between Residential and Commercial HVAC Needs

When trying to decide upon a suitable heating, cooling and ventilation system to air condition your property, there are a lot of factors to decide upon. One of the most important steps will be to find a reliable HVAC contractor who understands the needs of your location.

Many contractors specialise in either commercial or residential air-conditioning systems. Although there are similarities between the two types of systems, a residential HVAC contractor may not necessarily have knowledge of commercial systems and the air-conditioning needs of a business. In order to find the best HVAC contractor, first, it will be essential to understand the differences between residential and commercial needs.

So, what is the difference between residential and commercial HVAC needs?


Although the layout and size of homes can differ greatly, and where the house is situated can have an effect on air quality, a residential property generally has a standard requirement when it comes to air-conditioning.

With commercial properties, there is no single standard type of indoor environment. Basement level offices and high-rise office buildings, shopping malls and high-street stores, factory floors and laboratories; commercial environments can differ vastly, even across several floors of one business location. Therefore, due to the commercial environment, commercial HVAC systems require a level of flexibility that residential systems don’t need.


The needs of a commercial environment are more complex than that of a residential one. Homes tend to have predictable heating and cooling requirements, with a single temperature setting across the building. Many businesses require air handling units that can be independently controlled to account for the variety of temperature zones.

Therefore, when compared to residential systems, the commercial HVAC system itself tends to be more complex. The main difference is that commercial air conditioning has several different pipes and pans for drainage compared to just one drain pan with a residential system. This ensures that commercial systems won’t overflow but, as a result, commercial systems require maintenance and servicing more frequently.

Power and Size

Both commercial and residential environments require a correctly-sized HVAC system in order to run efficiently. Too big and the air conditioning will run on shorter cycles which is ineffective at dehumidifying air. Too small and the system will be overworked when trying to heat and cool the air.

Generally, commercial HVAC systems are larger and more powerful than residential systems as they are required to do more. Even if your business premises itself is not particularly big, the HVAC system must be accurately scaled to account for every member of staff, peak operating times, varied environments and customer volume fluctuations.

HVAC Style

Residential air conditioning is standalone and comprises of two parts – an evaporator unit indoors and a compressor unit outdoors. While ideal for heating, cooling and dehumidifying the home, this split-type air conditioning cannot be modified or expanded.

Commercial properties utilise pre-packaged modular HVAC units which can be added to and adjusted to cater to the diverse indoor environmental needs of commercial premises. These packaged commercial units house all elements in one outdoor cabinet making them easy to access for maintenance purposes.

Outdoor Space

The outdoor components of residential HVAC systems are smaller than commercial ones, so are more likely to be found at the side of the house or in the backyard. For residential purposes, this makes these units accessible for servicing and easy to keep clear of leaves and debris.

Due to the larger size of commercial HVAC systems, the outdoor components tend to be placed on the roof of the building. This protects a commercial system from damage and vandalism, as well as saving space outside the business premises.


Residential properties have multiple windows which will be opened on a regular basis to aid ventilation in the home. Commercial properties cannot always depend on windows to provide appropriate ventilation for everybody inside. The more people in a commercial environment, the more the air will need replacing, especially in areas without windows. Therefore, most commercial HVAC installations feature an intricate ventilation system to ensure fresh air consistently.

Commercial HVAC has a multitude of additional factors to account for. By understanding the uniquely different air conditioning needs of commercial and residential properties, this will hopefully help to explain why it is essential to hire a HVAC professional that specialises in each type of system.