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  • Writer's pictureDr Wired Techies

Speak the Lingo: Deciphering Technical HVAC Jargon You'll Encounter in Interviews

Unlock HVAC Success with the Right Words! 🗝️ Dive into our comprehensive guide to HVAC jargon you'll face in interviews. Master the lingo, ace the interview
Unlock HVAC Success with the Right Words! 🗝️ Dive into our comprehensive guide to HVAC jargon you'll face in interviews. Master the lingo, ace the interview

If you're diving into the HVAC world, you'll quickly realize it has a language all its own. Technical terms, acronyms, and industry-specific phrases can make an HVAC interview feel like you've stumbled into a meeting of secret agents, complete with coded language. Don't worry; this isn't Mission Impossible.

Let's start with some of the foundational terms you'll likely encounter in any HVAC interview.

The Core Components

These terms relate to the heart of HVAC systems and are integral to understand how they work.

1. Furnace:

  • Definition: This is the main heating component in an HVAC system, which heats air and distributes it throughout the building via ductwork.

  • In an Interview: If they ask you about a "forced-air" or "central heating" system, they're generally talking about a furnace-based setup.

The Cooling Equation

Knowing the jargon of cooling systems is as essential as understanding heating.

2. Condenser Coil and Evaporator Coil:

  • Definition: The condenser coil releases heat into the outside air, while the evaporator coil absorbs heat from the inside air.

  • In an Interview: You might hear the term "coil cleaning" or "coil efficiency," which refers to the maintenance and effectiveness of these coils.

Ventilation Vocabulary

Proper ventilation is crucial for indoor air quality, and these terms are central to understanding it.

3. Air Handler:

  • Definition: This component conditions and circulates air as part of the HVAC system.

  • In an Interview: You may be asked about "air handler upgrades" or "blower configurations," focusing on how to optimize the air handler for improved efficiency.

Fluid Flow Fundamentals

Fluid mechanics play a significant role in HVAC systems, especially when discussing refrigerants.

4. Refrigerant:

  • Definition: A substance (often a fluid) used in a cooling mechanism, such as an air conditioner or a refrigerator, to absorb and release heat.

  • In an Interview: Terms like "R-22" or "R-410A" are types of refrigerants. You may be asked about "refrigerant management" or "refrigerant phase-out."

Energy Efficiency Essentials

Being eco-friendly and efficient is increasingly important in the HVAC industry.

5. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio):

  • Definition: SEER is a metric used to measure how much cooling an air conditioning unit puts out for each unit of energy it consumes.

  • In an Interview: "High-SEER units" or "SEER ratings" could come up, usually in the context of energy-efficient systems.

System Diagnostics and Troubleshooting

A critical aspect of HVAC work is diagnosing and fixing issues. Here are some terms you'll need to know.

6. Compressor:

  • Definition: The heart of an air conditioning system, the compressor pressurizes refrigerant to facilitate heat exchange.

  • In an Interview: Expect questions about "compressor failure symptoms" or "compressor overload," where you may need to describe how you would identify and resolve issues with the compressor.

7. Psychrometrics:

  • Definition: This is the study of air properties, like temperature and humidity, and is essential for understanding indoor air quality.

  • In an Interview: You could be asked about "psychrometric charts" or how to calculate "dew point," both key for optimizing HVAC systems for human comfort and energy efficiency.

Control Systems and Automation

With the rise of smart homes and IoT, understanding control systems is essential.

8. Building Automation System (BAS):

  • Definition: This is an automated control system that integrates and controls various building systems, including HVAC.

  • In an Interview: Be prepared for inquiries about "BAS protocols" like BACnet or how HVAC interfaces with other building systems in a BAS environment.

9. Zoning:

  • Definition: In an HVAC context, zoning refers to the practice of dividing a building into different areas or "zones" to allow for more targeted temperature control.

  • In an Interview: Questions about "multi-zone systems" or "zoned heating and cooling" could arise, usually focusing on how to design or troubleshoot these configurations.

Emerging Technologies

HVAC is not static; new technologies are continually evolving the industry.

10. Variable-Speed Drives (VSDs):

  • Definition: These devices control motor speed and torque by varying motor input frequency and voltage.

  • In an Interview: Topics like "VSD energy savings" or "VSD vs. fixed-speed drives" may come up, especially when discussing energy-efficient HVAC solutions.

11. Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV):

  • Definition: An ERV exchanges stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air while recovering energy to heat or cool the incoming air.

  • In an Interview: Expect queries about the "benefits of ERVs" or how to "integrate ERVs into existing HVAC systems."

Specialized Applications

HVAC is not a one-size-fits-all solution; different industries have unique requirements. Understanding the terminology used in specialized applications can make you stand out in interviews.

12. Cleanroom:

  • Definition: A controlled environment often found in pharmaceutical or manufacturing settings where temperature, humidity, and particulate matter are strictly regulated.

  • In an Interview: Discussing "cleanroom HVAC design" or "HEPA and ULPA filtration" could show your expertise in creating specialized HVAC solutions.

13. Chiller:

  • Definition: A machine that removes heat from a liquid, often as a part of air conditioning systems in commercial and industrial settings.

  • In an Interview: "Chiller efficiency" or "chiller types" like centrifugal, screw, or scroll could be key topics. You might discuss how to optimize chiller performance for energy efficiency.

Sustainability and Green Technologies

Sustainability is a buzzword across all industries, and HVAC is no exception. Understanding the terminology related to green technologies can give you a competitive edge.

14. Geothermal Heat Pump:

  • Definition: A central heating or cooling system that harnesses heat from the Earth.

  • In an Interview: You could discuss "geothermal loop systems" or the "cost-effectiveness of geothermal solutions," revealing your understanding of sustainable technologies.

15. LEED Certification:

  • Definition: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building certification program.

  • In an Interview: Questions about "HVAC’s role in LEED certification" or "energy credits" may come up, indicating the interviewers' focus on sustainability.

Career Development and Certifications

As you progress in your career, certain certifications and career milestones become essential. Knowing what they are is the first step in achieving them.

16. NATE Certification:

  • Definition: North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the leading certification program for HVAC professionals in the U.S.

  • In an Interview: "Are you NATE certified?" or "How do you prepare for NATE exams?" could be relevant questions, especially for jobs requiring advanced skills.

17. HVAC Engineer:

  • Definition: A step beyond a technician, an HVAC engineer focuses on the design and optimization of HVAC systems.

  • In an Interview: Queries about "system design" or "project management skills" could help gauge your readiness for roles beyond hands-on technical work.


You should be well-versed in the language of HVAC. You'll find that understanding these terms is not merely about acing your interview, but it's also about setting the foundation for your ongoing learning and career growth. As the HVAC industry continues to evolve, spurred on by advancements in technology and a greater emphasis on sustainability, so too will its language. By staying current with the terminology, you're not just keeping up—you're leading the way.

Whether you're a newcomer looking to break into the field, or a seasoned professional aiming for higher career goals, this comprehensive guide has something for everyone. It's your lexicon, your secret code, and your roadmap, all rolled into one. So, go ahead and speak the lingo with confidence; the HVAC world is ready to listen.


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