4 Ways Commercial HVAC Is Different Than Residential HVAC

June 23, 2020

The underlying principles of heating and cooling are the same for residential and commercial HVAC systems. The ultimate goal is also the same: creating a comfortable indoor environment.

However, residential and commercial HVAC systems aren’t interchangeable — nor is the expertise required to install, repair, and maintain them. Here are four ways that commercial HVAC systems differ from residential systems.


Commercial HVAC systems are larger than residential systems. Bigger structures require more power for heating and cooling, due to the greater square footage they serve. Not surprisingly, this increased power demand requires a bigger system.

Additionally, many commercial structures depend on mechanical ventilation. Unlike in a home, where opening a window can provide enough fresh air, commercial buildings are frequently closed. Commercial HVAC systems have to include exhaust fans and other ventilation equipment to ensure an adequate air exchange rate.

A third factor that increases the size of a commercial HVAC system is drainage. In residential systems, the moisture that collects on the air conditioner coils drains into a single pan located outside the home. A commercial system requires multiple drains and pans.


Perhaps the most obvious difference between residential and commercial HVAC systems is their location. Residential units are placed on the ground outside the home. Because of their greater dimensions, the preference for commercial units is to install them on the rooftop.

Roof installation has several advantages, including easier maintenance, less noise pollution for building occupants, and minimal interruption to workflow. Rooftop units also free up space inside the structure that a business can use for something more productive than housing HVAC equipment.


Residential units come as a standalone system that includes an indoor unit (blower, evaporator, and condensate drain) and an outdoor unit (condenser, fan, and compressor). Another name for these systems is a single-split or multi-split system. If the HVAC needs in your home change, it typically requires replacement of the entire system.

In a commercial HVAC system, all of the components come packaged into one unit. These packaged units, or modules, can be moved or adjusted as needed. This flexibility allows for smooth business expansion or modification.


Commercial HVAC systems are typically more complex than residential systems, due in part to their larger size and increased power demands. Another factor that makes commercial systems more complex is the end use of the structure.

In residential heating and cooling, comfort requirements are relatively stable. Other than a few degrees difference between day and night settings – or weekday and weekend settings – temperature and humidity levels don’t change much. You can easily accommodate these minor changes with a programmable or smart thermostat.

On the other hand, a commercial establishment might have a manufacturing area, office or administrative section, and a conference or event center. Each of these areas has different heating and cooling requirements based on use, the number of occupants, ventilation, and other factors. A commercial HVAC system has to merge these various needs into one integrated system.

The Significance of A Qualified Commercial HVAC Contractor

Commercial heating and cooling systems play a vital role in the success of a business. Because commercial units differ greatly from residential systems, business owners need a commercial HVAC professional who understands their needs.

Hancock Refrigeration Heating & Cooling has the necessary expertise to install, repair, and maintain commercial HVAC systems. Our NATE-certified technicians have the skill and hands-on experience to troubleshoot problems and design and maintain a system that matches your business needs. We understand the challenges of commercial HVAC and have a solid reputation for providing cost-effective, reliable solutions.

Our experience ranges from restaurants to retail outlets to healthcare facilities. To learn more, check out the commercial HVAC services we offer at Hancock Refrigeration or call and talk with an experienced technician.

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