What Common HVAC-Industry Acronyms Are Often In Play?


One of the most confusing parts of owning or buying a new HVAC system is dealing with all the HVAC acronyms. Sometimes it feels like listening to a whole different language. BTU? VAV? WHAT?

OK, that last one isn’t a real HVAC acronym. It’s just the thought going through most North San Diego homeowners’ minds when they’re trying to make informed decisions about their HVAC needs. All the acronyms can be confusing. Let’s break down some of the most common.


Common HVAC Acronyms


  • BTU. This stands for British Thermal Unit. It’s a unit used to measure heat. From a technical standpoint, it’s the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. From a practical perspective, it’s a way of measuring how much heat your A/C can remove from the air.
  • BTU/H. You also have British Thermal Units per hour, which measure the amount of heat your A/C removes in a single hour.
  • CFM. This acronym stands for cubic feet per minute. It’s a measure of air volume; specifically, how many cubic feet of air passes a specific point in the space of one minute. This measurement is one factor in determining how big an A/C unit you’ll need.
  • FPM. This is feet per minute and refers to the speed of airflow. CFM measures how much air gets moved in a minute, while FPM measures how fast the air is moving. FPM is also a factor in determining the size of your HVAC system.
  • VAV. A variable air volume system is a type of HVAC system that controls temperatures by adjusting air volume, or how much air it’s putting out. This is typically the type of system used in residential homes.
  • CAV. A constant air volume system puts out the same amount of air at all times but changes the air temperature up and down to keep the room temperature constant. This type of system is more often found in smaller commercial buildings.

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