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Comparing the Different Types of HVAC Systems for Commercial Buildings

It’s great to have a pleasant commercial building in both the extremes of winter and summer. All year long, it keeps your staff and consumers content and comfortable.

Modern structures are inextricably linked to HVAC systems. They include air compressors, heat exchangers, thermostats, evaporator coils, condensers, and air handlers.

These systems maintain constant humidity, excellent indoor air quality, and cozy temperatures. In this post, we will tackle different types of HVAC systems for commercial buildings and how each one works.

What is Commercial HVAC?

A commercial HVAC system’s goal is the same as a residential HVAC system: to keep building occupants comfortable with high-quality air in an environment where the humidity is between 40 and 60 percent and the temperature is 72 degrees.

It is common practice to heat air by burning fuel (oil, gas, or electricity). The reverse, or cooling the air, involves removing the hot indoor air and cooling it with water-cooled systems or refrigerant while also removing the excess humidity. 

Fans are employed in ventilation systems to introduce the required outside air, filter both the external and recycled internal air, and exhaust the contaminated air from the building. As a result, the CO2 stays below 1 million molecules per liter. 

A good ventilation system eliminates odors, dilutes gases (such as carbon dioxide), and stops the spread of respiratory illnesses. Without it, unwelcome particles would cause the air to get stale and promote mold and mildew growth. 

How Does a Commercial HVAC System Work?

Three elements are needed to regulate the climate of a business building: cool or warm air, a distribution system, and controls. The same thermostat controls the heated and cooled air in the building, circling through the same ducts. However, the source will vary. 

Warm or cool air

When the heating activates in a commercial HVAC system, the burners typically generate combustion gas that delivers heat to a heat exchanger, which warms the air passing through. Heat pumps occasionally bring outside heat inside. Similar to heat pumps, but operating in reverse, air conditioners move indoor heat outside.

A boiler system is used in some commercial buildings to heat water, and pipes are put in the walls, floors, or ceilings to transport the hot water. Although you may not notice the building warming, you will sense the warming of the air. 


Check it out: Warm air rises and cool air falls, a principle mechanical systems use to circulate the air in buildings. There is continuous induction and evacuation of air, some of which have undergone thermal modification. 


Commercial buildings can use straightforward, programmable thermostats which send different cooling or heating queues within the day, similar to residential HVAC systems, to manage all of this.

Direct digital controls (DDC), which are more complicated, can also be used with commercial HVAC systems. Modern controls improve energy dependability and efficiency in commercial buildings. A central computer uses sensors to monitor and manage temperature schedules and lighting operations.

Users can access performance updates, troubleshooting, and maintenance via a main workstation where staff may manually respond to and change settings. The DDC is more expensive because of its sophistication and versatility. 

Users can incorporate temperature setbacks to reduce energy use by anywhere between 5% and 20% with straightforward controls and DDC. Temperature setbacks are specified in the thermostat’s programming when neither heating nor cooling is required, such as after a workday is complete and no one is in the building.

Types of HVAC Systems for Commercial Buildings

There are several HVAC systems for commercial buildings, including packaged HVAC, single- and multi-split units, variable refrigerant flow systems, and hybrid heat pumps. It’s essential to notice that they act similarly in the following ways:

    • They reduce the temperature by circulating air via water- or refrigerant-cooled systems. These commercial HVAC systems also remove surplus moisture from the air.

    • The ventilation machines keep the air fresh and clean by moving it through fans.

    • The heating system uses gas, water, and radiator coils to warm the air.

Let’s now examine the differences between these commercial HVAC systems and determine how they operate.

Single-split systems

As the name suggests, a single-split system links one interior unit to one outside unit. Due to its lower cost and suitability for small commercial establishments, it is the most widely used type of commercial HVAC system. 

Single-split systems perform particularly effectively in structures with many tiny rooms, enabling independent control of the indoor atmosphere by the room’s occupants. Each room’s single-split system is independent of the others; even if one fails, the others will continue to function. 

Single-split systems have the drawback of requiring one interior unit and one outside unit, which might take up a lot of room. 

Multi-split systems

Multi-split systems require less outdoor space and offer better management than indoor units. Using these techniques, multiple indoor units can be connected to a single outdoor unit. Depending on the provider, multi-split systems can link up to ten units into a single outdoor unit. Thanks to inverter technology, the compressor may operate at different speeds, allowing each interior unit to have a unique setting.

VRF HVAC Systems

VRF or VRV systems

A more advanced commercial HVAC system is a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) or variable refrigerant volume (VRV) system. The acronyms VRF and VRV relate to the same system and can be utilized interchangeably. 

A VRF or VRV system connects numerous interior units to one outside unit, much like a multi-split system. The heat that absorbs from the air throughout the cooling process can also be captured by these systems and directed to other areas of the building that require it. It works particularly effectively for facilities like restaurants, office buildings, and factories that need customized cooling and heating throughout several zones. 

Compared to the other commercial HVAC systems mentioned above, a VRF or VRV system tends to be more powerful. Its installation is quick and straightforward and can handle more significant buildings’ heating and cooling needs. Although VRF and VRV systems have been available for a long time, they have recently become more common in the US over the past ten years.

A VRF or VRV system has substantially greater expenses and installation fees than any other system type. However, this worry can be reduced by choosing suitable financing alternatives and anticipating that VRF or VRV systems will produce more energy savings over time, resulting in a return on investment.

Packaged HVAC Systems

One unit is used for this HVAC for commercial buildings, and everything is set up directly in front of your building.

This setup is perfect for homes without indoor storage rooms for equipment. They are set up on the business building’s rooftop.

The fact that this system is less noisy than its competitors is one of its advantages. Even when you’re inside a building, you hardly hear them operating. The drawback of such systems is they necessitate ducting, which limits their flexibility.

Hybrid Heat Pumps

Hybrid heat pumps perform all three functions within a single unit, unlike most commercial HVAC systems, designed only for cooling or heating. They work similarly to air conditioners by removing heat from the air.

Second, the split system design of the hybrid heat pump includes a furnace, and it is ideal for use in colder-weather commercial structures, including shopping malls, health clubs, and schools.

HVAC Professionals

What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Each Type Of System?

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of each HVAC System for commercial buildings.

Single-Split Systems


    • Cost-effective for small spaces or individual rooms.

    • Simple installation process.

    • Easy to maintain and repair.

    • It allows independent temperature control in each space.


    • Limited cooling or heating capacity.

    • It requires multiple outdoor units for each indoor unit.

    • Not suitable for large or multi-zone applications.

Multi-Split Systems


    • Cost-effective for medium-sized buildings with multiple rooms.

    • Individual temperature control in each space.

    • Fewer outdoor units compared to single-split systems.

    • Energy-efficient operation.


    • Higher installation and maintenance costs than single-split systems.

    • Limited capacity and maximum distance between indoor and outdoor units.

    • If one indoor unit malfunctions, it can affect the entire system.

VRF or VRV Systems


    • Excellent energy efficiency with inverter-driven technology.

    • Simultaneous heating and cooling in different areas.

    • Individual temperature control for each indoor unit.

    • Flexible installation and zoning options.


    • Higher initial costs compared to other systems.

    • Complex installation and maintenance require trained technicians.

    • It may require more space for outdoor units.

    • Reliance on refrigerant lines for heat transfer.

Packaged HVAC Systems


    • Compact and self-contained units for space-saving installation.

    • Suitable for buildings with limited indoor space.

    • Easy installation and maintenance.

    • It can provide heating, cooling, and ventilation in one package.


    • Limited customization options.

    • Less energy-efficient than other systems.

    • Lack of individual temperature control in different areas.

    • If one component fails, it may affect the entire system.

Hybrid Heat Pumps


    • Energy-efficient operation with the ability to switch between gas and electric heating.

    • Reduced reliance on fossil fuels.

    • Effective cooling and heating capabilities.

    • Potential for cost savings due to optimized energy usage.


    • Higher upfront costs due to the integration of multiple technologies.

    • Requires both gas and electrical connections, increasing installation complexity.

    • It may require additional maintenance and servicing due to dual fuel sources.

    • Limited availability of air conditioning qualified technicians for maintenance and repairs.

It’s important to note that the benefits and drawbacks mentioned above are general considerations. The suitability of each HVAC system for a specific commercial building will depend on factors such as building size, layout, occupancy patterns, energy requirements, and budgetary constraints. Consulting with HVAC professionals or engineers is recommended to determine the most appropriate system for your needs.

Factors You Must Know About the Types of HVAC Systems for Commercial Buildings

You can’t simply stroll into a store selling appliances and purchase any business HVAC system. The following areas require due diligence on your part:

    • Installation costs: When buying an HVAC system, the cost is essential. It would be best to compare the installation costs of various business systems. Make a spending plan and determine which price is most suitable for you.

    • Air quality: To avoid unnecessary downtime, choose a commercial HVAC system that improves indoor air quality.

    • Building size: To prevent inefficiencies and subpar performance, make sure you comprehend the connection between the system’s size and the structure’s size.

    • Local climate: When choosing an HVAC system for commercial usage, it’s crucial to consider your local environment. Think about where the building is geographically.

    • Heating and cooling needs: Before purchasing any HVAC system, consider the types of businesses which operate within your commercial property. For instance, a packaging warehouse has different cooling and heating needs than a restaurant or hotel. Your building’s HVAC system requirements will depend on the types of businesses that use it.

    • Energy efficiency: Another critical consideration when selecting HVAC equipment for your commercial facility. Purchase a machine that is highly productive and energy-efficient. Research the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) to achieve this.

Once you’ve decided on the HVAC system type for your commercial building, perform routine maintenance, perhaps twice or thrice annually.


Overall, there are benefits and drawbacks to each type of commercial HVAC system. It’s critical to decide how you’ll utilize it and what you’ll need to accomplish before choosing which type to place in your facility. 

Let us assist you in choosing the ideal HVAC system for your commercial building!

For businesses, AirOstat, Inc. has experience in installing, repairing, maintaining, and upgrading all kinds of HVAC systems. Although your building’s ventilation system is more significant in determining air quality, it is still crucial for maintaining clean air. We hope you know the importance of maintaining indoor air quality and proper ventilation for the comfort, safety, and security of your building’s residents. 

We offer a full range of AC repair and maintenance services in addition to HVAC installation and design to maintain your HVAC systems operating. If you have any questions or want more information, call (844) 247-6782.