As you’re shopping around for a home heating solution – whether you need to heat a room or a whole building – you might stumble over some of the many industry jargon words and abbreviations. The following glossary can help you understand what those technical terms really mean so you can make sure you get what you’re paying for.
AFUE rating: Annual fuel utilization efficiency. A measure of the average efficiency of heating equipment derived from a comparison of the amount of heat it delivers and the amount of fuel that must be supplied. In the United States, all furnaces must have a minimum AFUE rating of 78 percent.
ANSI: American National Standards Institute. A nonprofit accreditation group that oversees the development of standards for products and services in the United States and coordinates U.S. and international standards so that American products can be used worldwide. ANSI is the official representative for the United States at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The ANSI website.
ASHRAE: The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers. A now global society that promotes innovation, education, collaboration and professional growth in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industries. The ASHRAE website.
BTU or Btu: British thermal units. A standard measure of heat output equal to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree at a constant pressure of 1 atmosphere. 1 BTU = 1055.06 joules = 251.997 calories.
BTUh or Btuh: British thermal units per hour.
CFM: Cubic feet per minute. A unit of measure for delivery of heat from a furnace.
CSA: Canadian Standards Association, now CSA Group. A nonprofit association that develops standards, offers certification, evaluates consumer products and hosts education and training services. Finding the CSA mark on a piece of home heating equipment means that it was built to meet or exceed those standards. The CSA Group website.
ENERGY STAR: A voluntary program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that supports and encourages the development of energy-efficient products and practices, with the ultimate aim of reducing air pollution. The ENERGY STAR website.
Geoexchange system: Heating and cooling systems that rely on relatively stable underground temperatures. See geothermal system.
Geothermal system: Any system that draws energy from the heat of specific areas of the Earth’s crust. Increasingly, though, the term is used to describe both geothermal and geoexchange systems.
HSPF: Heating seasonal performance factor. A heat pump’s estimated seasonal heating output in BTUs divided by the amount of energy it consumes in watt-hours.
HVAC: Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. The complete system used to heat and cool a home. Also the industry that installs, inspects and repairs those systems.
Hydronic heating: A radiant heating system that heats water or another liquid that is then circulated through the building, warming the area.
Infrared heat: A type of radiant heat produced from invisible infrared radiation.
kWh: Kilowatt hour. A measure of electrical energy use equal to the power consumption of 1,000 watts for one hour.
LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. A program from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that certifies buildings as achieving a high level of energy efficiency and a small environmental impact. The U.S. Green Building Council website.
NFPA: The National Fire Protection Association, which, despite its name, is now an international organization. The NFPA website.
Radiant heating: A heating system that doesn’t use fans of any type to blow warm air around. Instead, surfaces are heated, and that heat radiates into the space. See hydronic heating.
R-value: The ability of a material, such as insulation, to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the harder it is for heat to pass through it.
Tinted glazing: A window film that blocks or absorbs portions of the sun’s rays, limiting the amount of heat that passes through to the interior.
UL: Underwriter’s Laboratories. An association that sets and validates product safety standards for a large number of both industrial and consumer products. A UL Listed, UL Recognized or UL Certified mark on a product means that the product’s manufacturer has a proven ability to build a safe product that complies with UL standards. The UL website.
USFA: United States Fire Administration. A branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency focused on firefighting and fire safety. The USFA website.
U-value: The ability of a material to conduct heat. Also called the coefficient of heat transmission, it is the reciprocal of the R-value; the higher the number, the more heat it can conduct.
Zone heating: Temperature control of a section of a home or building – such as an individual room – as opposed to whole-home heating. The concept of zone heating allows you to use a supplemental system to heat a single room while lowering the thermostat on the rest of the house.
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