Answering Your Questions About Commercial HVAC System Types

Type of commercial HVAC on a skyscraper roofNo matter your industry or market sector, or the size or shape of your building, there’s one thing you need to ensure a safe, comfortable, and productive workplace: a commercial HVAC system. But an HVAC system isn’t just a generic black box sitting somewhere out of the way that’s the same from one workplace to another. There are nearly as many commercial HVAC system types as there are types of buildings!

From small commercial properties to large corporate office buildings, different heating, cooling, and ventilation needs call for different types of HVAC systems in commercial settings—each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s explore all the shapes and sizes of HVAC systems and learn where their strengths and weaknesses lie for different commercial uses—starting with a general overview of HVAC system types:

What are the four main types of HVAC systems?

Across residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, you’re likely to find all different sorts of HVAC systems, each designed to meet the needs of the building’s occupants based on its size, shape, and purpose. Generally, you can group all these systems into four categories:

Split Systems

Split systems are the most common type of HVAC system. They’re called “split” systems because one part of the system, the air conditioner that cools the building, is installed outside the building, and the other part, the furnace that heats the building, is installed inside. These systems typically use ductwork to distribute hot or cold air throughout the building.

Hybrid Systems

A hybrid system is a form of split system that combines gas and electric heating. The gas components provide quicker heat regulation, while the electric components are more energy-efficient and quieter. By using the two together, buildings can achieve better, more cost-effective energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems

Small residential properties will sometimes have these systems, which are good for areas that can’t support traditional ductwork. They are often used for heating and cooling individual rooms.

Packaged Heating & Air Conditioning Systems

These all-in-one HVAC systems contain the compressor, condenser, and evaporator all in one unit, often located on the roof of a building or near the foundation. You’ll typically find these types of HVAC systems in commercial or residential properties that are very small and can’t support split or hybrid systems.

What are the typical types of HVAC systems for commercial buildings?

While residential properties have diverse heating, cooling, and ventilation needs depending on their size and shape, commercial HVAC system types have to cater to the often much more specific and rigorous demands of the workplace.

Commercial properties are often larger than residential properties and have more complex usage requirements in comparison, meaning they have to rely on specific types of commercial HVAC systems such as:

Commercial Single Split Systems

Similar to residential split systems, these are scaled up to serve larger spaces and offer more modular control.

Commercial Multi-Split Systems

Multi-split systems are a type of commercial HVAC system that connects multiple indoor units to a single outdoor unit, which is useful for buildings that have limited outdoor space.

VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) or VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) Systems

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) or Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) systems provide precise control and high efficiency, and can heat one room while cooling another. These commercial HVAC system types are ideal for medium to large commercial buildings, like mixed-use buildings, office complexes, and hotels.

Packaged Rooftop Units

Single-story commercial buildings like warehouses and retail stores will typically use these large all-in-one systems, which are commonly installed on the roof.


Malls, enterprise corporate offices, and other large commercial buildings use chillers, which generate chilled water which is then pumped to air handling units (or fan coils) to cool the air. Chillers are highly efficient for applications that need simultaneous cooling in multiple spaces.

What are the three basic types of commercial HVAC ducting systems?

It’s not just the commercial HVAC system types that make a difference in a building’s heating, cooling, and ventilation capabilities—the type of ducting installed throughout the building plays a significant role in the efficiency and effectiveness of the HVAC system.

Commercial HVAC ducting systems are designed to distribute conditioned air efficiently throughout large buildings. The three types of commercial HVAC system ducting you’re likely to find in a commercial building are:

Sheet Metal Ducts

These are the most common types of HVAC ducts used in commercial settings. They’re durable and less likely to harbor mold or pests, and can be adapted to various building layouts. The metal surface is also less porous, making these ducts more efficient at preventing air leaks if properly sealed.

Fiberglass Lined Ducts

Sheet metal ducts lined with fiberglass on the inside are better insulated, reducing the noise of the airflow and preventing heat loss or condensation. However, they have specific maintenance needs to prevent fiberglass particles from getting into the air and affecting occupant health and safety.

Flexible Ducting

While not as durable as sheet metal, these ducts are made from a flexible plastic over a metal wire coil that makes for easy installation in areas where rigid ducts would be impractical.

Choose the Right Types of Commercial HVAC Systems with Chiller Systems Service

Out of all the types of commercial HVAC systems and ducting systems, choosing the right one for your building means taking into account your building’s specific needs and climate control requirements, as well as cost and space constraints.

As you can see, there are a lot of options to choose from and plenty of decisions to make. If it’s all enough to make your head spin, we understand—the world of commercial and industrial HVAC is a lot more complex than it might seem at first. That’s why you need HVAC experts you can trust to provide the best and most appropriate solution for your building, your business, and your budget.

Chiller Systems Service has been providing commercial HVAC education for businesses across the Colorado Front Range for over 25 years. Our technicians are well-versed in all major brands and commercial HVAC system types, so you can rest assured that we support you in selecting, installing, and maintaining your HVAC infrastructure with zero bias for or against any specific brand or technology.

To get started, contact our commercial HVAC specialists today.

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