First off, HVAC stands for “Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning,” while AC stands for just the last part: “Air Conditioning.” In other words, when we talk about AC, we’re generally talking about the system that cools the air in your home (although sometimes people do use the term AC to refer to units that provide heat as well, especially when they’re talking about heat pumps). However, when we talk about HVAC, we could be talking about a system that does either the heating or the cooling, or both.
The performance of vapor compression refrigeration cycles is limited by thermodynamics. These air conditioning and heat pump devices move heat rather than convert it from one form to another, so thermal efficiencies do not appropriately describe the performance of these devices. The Coefficient-of-Performance (COP) measures performance, but this dimensionless measure has not been adopted. Instead, the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) has traditionally been used to characterize the performance of many HVAC systems. EER is the Energy Efficiency Ratio based on a 35 °C (95 °F) outdoor temperature. To more accurately describe the performance of air conditioning equipment over a typical cooling season a modified version of the EER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), or in Europe the ESEER, is used. SEER ratings are based on seasonal temperature averages instead of a constant 35 °C (95 °F) outdoor temperature. The current industry minimum SEER rating is 14 SEER.
In hot weather, air conditioning can prevent heat stroke, dehydration from excessive sweating and other problems related to hyperthermia. Heat waves are the most lethal type of weather phenomenon in developed countries. Air conditioning (including filtration, humidification, cooling and disinfection) can be used to provide a clean, safe, hypoallergenic atmosphere in hospital operating rooms and other environments where proper atmosphere is critical to patient safety and well-being. It is sometimes recommended for home use by people with allergies.