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(707) 539-4533 |  Sonoma Napa and Marin Counties

All HVAC owners need to hire contractors now and then to ensure that their systems are properly maintained. However, confusion sometimes arises as to what contractors are most appropriate in certain situations. For example, could you call a commercial HVAC contractor to work on the ducts in your residential building? Answering such questions requires an in-depth understanding of the differences between commercial and residential HVAC contractors. In the following article, we’ll explain how these services are different, where they overlap, and how you can choose an HVAC contractor that will meet your needs whenever your system requires professional attention.

Is there a Difference Between a Commercial HVAC Contractor and a Residential One?

 commercial HVAC ContractorCommercial and residential HVAC systems are certainly different in several respects, but what about the people who work on them? In truth, the largest difference between these contractors is the scale of the work they perform. Remember: the essential mechanical principles in commercial and residential heating and air conditioning are basically the same: furnaces warm spaces by burning fuel, while cooling systems use refrigerant to absorb heat from the air and transfer it outside, lowering the indoor temperature in the process. The differences between the systems themselves are mostly to do with where specific components are located, and how much ductwork (if any) is involved with each type of system.

As such, commercial and residential HVAC technicians will be more familiar with certain types of layouts. For example, most light commercial HVACs are large ducted systems with the essential components grouped together in a single package, which you can often find on the roof of the building. Contractors who have experience with these models will know that the package is split into two halves, which function together as follows:

    • One side of the packaged AC unit will contain the compressor (which squeezes refrigerant gas to raise its pressure) and the condenser, which is responsible for releasing the heat contained in the refrigerant to the outside air. At this point, the refrigerant turns into a liquid form.
    • The other side of the packaged AC unit contains the evaporator coils, which cause the liquid refrigerant to absorb heat from the air inside the building. In doing so, the evaporator coils lower the temperature of the air, which is then fed through the supply fan into the ducts and moved into the building as a cool, refreshing draught.
  • Old supply air is moved from the building’s interior into return vents, which carry it back into the half of the packaged AC unit containing the compressor and condenser. At this point, it is mixed with fresh air from the outside and fed through a filter to the other side of the package, where the evaporator coils can lower its temperature again and recycle it back into the building as the cooling process continues.

Why Experience with the Correct System Type Matters

Knowing the layout of commercial HVAC systems allows contractors to find essential components more quickly when they need repair and avoid wasting time. As such, technicians who have experience with commercial systems are likely to be more cost-effective than contractors who are working on a commercial system for the first time. Most residential air conditioners are split systems that have an indoor unit containing the evaporator coil, and an outdoor unit housing the compressor and condenser coils. If a contractor has not worked with packaged commercial AC systems before, they may be confused by the different layouts and end up taking more time to do their work — which can translate into higher labor costs than necessary.

The amount and location of ductwork will vary between most residential and commercial buildings too. Remember: commercial structures are often larger, and aesthetics are less likely to be a concern. That means there will be more ductwork that needs cleaning in commercial systems, but it also means that commercial ducts are usually more visible than residential ductwork — which is often designed to be out of sight except in areas such as basements or attics. Ductwork of all kinds should be cleaned by professionals once or twice a year to prevent contaminants from settling inside and affecting air quality in the building.

Hire a Commercial HVAC Contractor for Your Business and Breathe Easy

Of course, the easiest way to make sure you’ll be hiring the right professionals for your AC service is to choose a company with considerable experience in both commercial and residential work. In California, licensed contractors will hold a valid C-20 license and will usually advertise if they have experience in both environments. If they don’t, it never hurts to ask. Choosing a residential and commercial HVAC contractor is also a safe way to make sure that your technician has been working with air conditioners for a long time — raising the likelihood that they will work quickly and cost-effectively.

Check with us here at Valley Comfort Heating and Air, our customers love our attention to detail and our friendly, affordable service. (707) 539-4533

Valley Comfort conducts Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Services in the following communities: Santa Rosa, Napa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, St Helena, Calistoga and Windsor