The basics of HVAC systems and their components

Over the last decade, HVAC systems have evolved significantly, driven in large part by advances in technology and changes in building design and construction. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant impact on the HVAC industry, highlighting the importance of indoor air quality and ventilation in reducing the spread of airborne pathogens.

In this article, we’ll look at the basic components of HVAC systems, how they’ve evolved, and the most in-demand job roles within the HVAC industry.


The basics

An HVAC system can effectively control the air conditions of a given parameter through a  complex network of components that work together. The main components of an HVAC system include:


This is the control panel that regulates the temperature in the building. It is usually located on a wall and allows occupants to adjust the temperature according to their preference.


This is the largest component of any commercial HVAC system. It is the component that heats the air in the building through a heat pump, solar energy or the burning of natural gasses.

Air Conditioner: 

This is the component that cools the air in the building. It works by absorbing heat from the indoor air and expelling it outside.


This is the network of pipes that distributes heated or cooled air throughout the building. It also facilitates the circulation of fresh air and the removal of stale air.


These are the outlets through which the heated or cooled air enters the rooms. They are usually located on walls, floors, or ceilings.

Air Filters: 

Devices that remove dust, dirt, and other contaminants from the air before it is circulated through the building. They are usually located in the ductwork or inside the HVAC unit.


These components regulate the humidity levels in the building. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, while a dehumidifier removes excess moisture.


How HVAC systems have evolved

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has led to the development of smart HVAC systems that can be controlled remotely and adjusted based on occupancy and environmental conditions. These systems can also feed data on energy consumption and system performance to facilities managers, allowing them to optimise their HVAC systems for energy efficiency as well as occupant comfort.

Smart HVAC systems have also led to the integration of other building systems such as lighting, security and fire safety. These integrations allow for greater coordination and control, which can also contribute to energy efficiency – a key consideration in HVAC system design. With a focus on reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, HVAC systems have become more energy-efficient through the use of technologies such as variable speed drives, intelligent controls, and more efficient heat exchangers. 

The use of renewable energy sources has had to be taken into consideration in recent years, and we’re now at a stage where solar and geothermal power has become more common in HVAC system design. These systems can provide heating and cooling using renewable energy sources, reducing energy costs and environmental impact.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, HVAC systems have evolved to include features such as advanced filtration systems and UV-C lighting to reduce the spread of airborne pathogens and improve indoor air quality. These advanced filtration systems can capture smaller particles, including viruses. HEPA filters, which capture 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns, are being installed in many HVAC systems; and UV-C lighting can kill viruses and other pathogens.


In-demand job roles in HVAC

The market size of the Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Installation industry in the UK has grown 0.8% per year on average between 2018 and 2023. The United Kingdom HVAC Market Report 2022 noted that the sector’s growth is largely driven by rising demands for improved HVAC systems to reduce energy consumption.

This growth calls for an increase in skilled workers and has led to a number of roles becoming more in-demand. These include:

  • HVAC Engineers
  • HVAC Technicians
  • Facilities Managers
  • Solar Technicians
  • Refrigeration Technicians
  • Air Conditioning Technicians

Aside from a degree in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or a related field, there are a number of skills that can help you in your HVAC career, including:

  • Technical knowledge
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Physical fitness
  • Communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Safety awareness


Get in touch

If your organisation is currently hiring building design, construction or facilities management professionals, get in touch with the expert recruitment team at PRS.

Share Article

Related Articles

PRS - Data centres - The benefits of colocation in UK data centres

The benefits of colocation in UK data centres

Colocation is a service offered by data centre companies that allows businesses to rent space for their servers and IT infrastructure. This can be far cheaper (and significantly less challenging!) when compared to building their own data centre, but there are a range of other benefits too.   The concept of colocation has been around for…

PRS - The basics of critical systems such as fire protection, security, and emergency power systems

The basics of critical systems such as fire protection, security, and emergency power systems

Critical systems are essential components of any building or facility that aims to provide a safe and secure environment for its occupants. These systems often work alongside each other, or other systems such as Building Management Systems (BMS), to protect the building, its occupants, and its assets from a variety of threats; ranging from natural…