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8 Major Differences Between Commercial & Residential HVAC

commercial and residential hvac differences

When you’re looking for an HVAC company in Ashburn, it’s essential to find out whether they offer residential or commercial services. Some companies offer both options, but you should always verify that the company specializes in the service you need. Learn more about commercial vs residential HVAC, and find out why it’s so important to find someone who specializes in your type of HVAC.

The Size in Commercial VS Residential HVAC

Although this may seem like an obvious difference between commercial and residential systems, it’s worth mentioning. Under most circumstances, a commercial HVAC system is much larger than a residential one. This is due to the fact that a commercial system needs to heat or cool a larger space than a residential one. 

To make up for this larger size, commercial systems often have features like add-on compressors or evaporators. They take up more space and require different maintenance or repairs by an Ashburn air conditioning and heating specialist. If you have someone who only works on residential systems working on your commercial system, you may not get the quality of work you need.

The Placement

Because residential HVACs are smaller than commercial ones, they often are positioned differently than commercial systems. In a home, an HVAC unit might go in the yard or next to a building. But, in a commercial building, the exterior unit is most likely to go on the roof.

There are two main reasons for this. First, most commercial facilities don’t have yards. The system will only be out of the way if it’s on the roof. Secondly, commercial facilities don’t want the noise pollution that comes from machinery. Business owners would rather place the exterior unit on the roof, away from their employees or customers. 


A residential HVAC system might only need to heat or cool 1800 square feet of space. Therefore, simple technology is enough to meet the heating and cooling demands. During a cooling or heating installation in Ashburn, the technician can use the simplest layout and design. 

However, a commercial system may need to cool much more space. The building might need multi-zone heating and cooling and oversized units. Typical commercial systems have several indoor units connected to outdoor ones, which provides more effective heating and cooling.

If you need an emergency HVAC in Ashburn, they should know the complexities of commercial systems. Otherwise, they won’t be prepared to handle the repairs. They might not be familiar with the system or have the right tools for the job. 


In every HVAC system, there is some moisture produced. The moisture needs to drain out, and this goes in to a simple or complex system of pipes. In a home, the drainage system tends to be a small pipe that drains from the unit into the yard. Because commercial HVACs are larger and produce more moisture, they have larger and more detailed drainage systems. 

More pipes and pans also mean more maintenance. If you work with an HVAC technician who isn’t familiar with the drainage systems in commercial applications, you could end up with someone incapable of addressing drainage issues. 


When discussing HVAC mechanisms, people are referring to the manufacturing and installation processes of a heating and cooling system. If you want to get technical, you should know that a commercial system uses a modular mechanism and a residential system is standalone.

Commercial HVAC systems usually have units in the same place, while residential systems usually have one unit inside and another outside. The difference in mechanisms is just another reason you need someone who specializes in your type of HVAC system.

The Equipment

Although most HVAC systems work the same way, there are some differences in equipment. As you might expect, the differences are a result of the size. A smaller system doesn’t need the same type of equipment as a larger system.

There’s also the fact that commercial businesses have varying needs. For residential purposes, heating and cooling needs tend to remain the same. You need a system that will maintain a constant temperature throughout your home. 

For commercial purposes, the needs may be different. A food processing facility has different needs than a restaurant. The equipment your commercial system requires depends on the specific applications and the business itself. 

Power Use

Once again, the larger size of commercial HVAC systems accounts for the difference in power use. A commercial system is responsible for heating or cooling a large space, and this demands more power than a residential system. It may also have longer operating hours than a system in a home. 

Because commercial systems use so much more power than residential ones, they have different electrical and gas needs. Your HVAC technician should know how to minimize the high energy demands of the system.


Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, commercial systems require more maintenance than residential HVACs. When you call someone out for maintenance, they should be aware of every step needed to maintain your system properly.

If a company isn’t well-versed in commercial HVAC maintenance, their technician could be missing some crucial steps. Your system might break down or need a replacement before much time passes.

FAQ: What is the difference between commercial and industrial HVAC?

If you read the article above, you probably realize that there are multiple differences between commercial and residential HVAC systems. But it all comes down to the size. Commercial HVAC systems have more demands than residential systems, and this is why the systems are so different. 

In reality, it’s not up to you to be aware of the intricacies between residential and commercial Plumbing and HVAC systems. If you work with one of the professional AC and boiler service providers in Ashburn, you can count on them to know the differences. They’ll be able to handle your system regardless of the size or complexity. 

Call Us for Help

Here at Cardinal, you can count on us to take care of your residential or commercial Plumbing and HVAC systems. Call us today to schedule an appointment for maintenance, repairs, or installation. We’re ready to take on the differences between commercial vs residential HVAC. (703) 721-8888

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