Types of HVAC Systems For Commercial Buildings

Types of HVAC Systems for Commercial Buildings

A commercial building's HVAC system can be configured in three ways, but there are endless possibilities for how it can be used.

Let me explain.

Packaged Systems

There are several types of packaged systems, including compressors, condensers, evaporators, and fan coils. There is an integrated thermostat. For buildings that lack the space for larger HVAC units, packaged units are a great option.

Hotel rooms, hospitals, condominiums, and senior living facilities often have packaged terminal air conditioners installed in their windows – buildings where residents are required to have the ability to regulate their rooms' temperatures and air quality.

During the winter, packaged terminal heat pumps transfer heat from outside to inside, while in the summer they transfer heat from inside to outside.

Split Systems

Many split systems, such as those in residential buildings, are connected to a building's ductwork system. They are also perfect for smaller commercial buildings, like small offices, restaurants, or stores, because they have the characteristics of being ideal for residential buildings. You can control the heating or cooling of each individual space by either thermostat or DDC.

What's the downside? A separate HVAC system may be required for each space you wish to keep thermally controlled. As a result, the roof and surrounding area may become cluttered with HVAC systems. It is possible to use zoning to manage different areas of a building, but it is expensive.

A variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system is an efficient way of heating and cooling different areas of a commercial building simultaneously. This type of system is relatively new to the United States and is therefore not that common. The systems utilize either heat pumps or heat recovery systems and utilize heated air from one area to be cooled and send to another area that needs heating. Let's take a look into that more closely later.

So what is the purpose of this outdoor unit? Where does it go?

Rooftop RTU HVAC

Package units mounted on roofs are called rooftop units, or RTUs. The rooftop HVAC units are protected by weather-resistant housings since they are located on flat rooftops (no higher than ten stories). Comprising a compressor, a condenser, an evaporator, a blower, and an evaporator, these compact HVAC units are all in one package.

It is a type of air handler that comes fully assembled from the factory. It changes the air and circulates it through ducts. Some RTUs are only capable of heating, others do only cooling, and some do both.

Within the rectangular housing of the RTU is an air hood that draws in outside air for conditioning. By passing through dampers - rotating metal sheets - the air passes through a filter, then through coils that heat or cool it. Air is blown through a duct system from the fan that has been sucking it into the designated area.

 The RTU uses outdoor and indoor air mixtures to maintain CO2 levels safely and to cut down on energy use during extremely hot or cold days.


     Easy to use, adaptable

     Completely assembled and ready-to-use HVAC units

     Better results with zoned HVAC (each RTU covers one area in the building)


     Installation is easy


     Saves space on the floor

     Greater security at the location

     Models with new technologies are more efficient


     It doesn't last as long

     The roof is very crowded with it

     Older models are less energy-efficient, resulting in higher utility bills Maintenance is more difficult

The RTU is popular, but there are other options.

Systems based on VRF

The United States has relatively few VRF systems. The VRF system was developed in Japan in the early 1980s and is a very sophisticated HVAC system for commercial buildings.

A ductless system is a VRF system. Heat pumps and heat recovery systems are used instead, which send refrigerant from a central outdoor unit housing the compressors and condensers. Each zone's temperature is determined by how much refrigerant is absorbed by the indoor units. Customization of temperature is easier this way.

VRF systems use a small amount of space for their powerful yet quiet indoor equipment. It also means that indoor units can be easily installed since most can fit in an elevator and do not require ductwork.

Compared to ducted HVAC systems, VRFs are up to 30 percent more efficient. Variable compressor speed allows for more accuracy in temperature control, and no energy is lost through ductwork like traditional systems.

In case of a failure, VRF systems require a backup condenser. 

Let us know if something seems off with your commercial heating and cooling system in Maryland, whether it's your air conditioner, RTU, or VRF. You will receive a quick and informative HVAC repair or replacement experience from our team of experienced commercial HVAC technicians. 

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