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Understanding the Differences Between Commercial and Industrial HVAC Systems

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At Burban Air Systems Ltd., serving the entire Greater Toronto Area, we find that a question we get frequently is ‘What’s the difference between a commercial and industrial HVAC system?’ While both commercial and industrial HVAC units might aim for ultimate climate control, they are a world apart. Here we explore those differences in order to help you figure out just what type of HVAC unit will suit your own needs.

Purpose and Application

Commercial HVAC Systems

The primary goal of commercial, as opposed to residential, HVAC systems is the comfort of humans who work, shop, or receive services within a larger space: for example, systems in office buildings, commercial buildings like malls and restaurants, or schools. These systems involve climate-control within a confined space that houses a large number of people, whose comfort depends on a balanced environment regarding temperature and air quality. These large systems are implemented within buildings that might provide climate control for a collection of small, separated spaces with individual needs.

Industrial HVAC Systems

Differing from industrial HVAC equipment, which is specially designed for use in industrial plants, manufacturing facilities and warehouses where optimum levels of temperature and air quality are needed to ensure comfort and specific industrial procedures, industrial systems must regulate much larger and continuous loads, generally operating in conjunction with manufacturing machinery and other equipment used in the production of goods that produce massive amounts of heat and pollution.

Design and Complexity

Commercial HVAC Systems

Commercial systems, by comparison, tend to be shallower – they use a lot of RTUs, split systems and packaged systems that consist of relatively standardized components, designed to be modular, extendable spatial organization. A commercial HVAC system used a lot of RTUs. and must be flexible and scalable, allowing for modular architectures that will allow for ease of maintenance and upgrades. A system must maximize efficiency and minimize cost, while handling the large but variable heating and cooling requirements of multiple zones across a building.

Industrial HVAC Systems

Industrial HVAC is the most highly specialized of the main sub-disciplines of HVAC engineering, requiring large and wide-variety channels for coolant – such as large chillers, cooling towers, boilers, and massive air handlers – often configured into large and customized systems designed to match industrial working or environmental needs. These systems are sometimes required to work at extremes of temperature and humidity, or provide airflow with varying levels of filtration, such as meeting precise and exacting industrial standards for temperature and humidity or maintaining a very high quality of controlled airflow for manufacturing processes – such as in chemical plants or food processing facilities, where ventilation systems and airflows require treatment for high amounts of pollutant and are often required to access and mitigate extreme temperatures, fumes, and ventilation.

Size and Capacity

Commercial HVAC Systems

The size and load capacity of these commercial HVAC systems is generally far less than those found in the industrial sector. These systems do, however, have the demanding role of climate control for buildings with lower global load characteristics and less exacting environmental specifications. Commercial systems must also be flexible to accommodate frequent changes in space usage and occupancy.

Industrial HVAC Systems

Industrial HVAC systems, on the other hand, might be designed to serve hugely more voluminous spaces, with vastly greater heat-exchange loads, they might need to run almost continuously, sometimes in a harsh environment; and they have to be supplied with components that are exceptionally rugged and long-lived.They also have to be designed for large-scale operations, capable of maintaining precise environments over long duration's.

Maintenance and Durability

Commercial HVAC Systems

Maintenance duties for commercial HVAC systems are usually simpler and less rigorous than industrial systems. Regular inspections, filter changes and minor repair work can keep commercial systems functioning smoothly. However, since these systems generally run during business hours, downtime associated with maintenance can negatively impact operations, so planned preventive maintenance is highly desirable.

Industrial HVAC Systems

Industrial HVAC systems, on the other hand, might be designed to serve hugely more voluminous spaces, with vastly greater heat-exchange loads, they might need to run almost continuously, sometimes in a harsh environment; and they have to be supplied with components that are exceptionally rugged and long-lived. Maintenance schedules are usually more elaborate as there are many heavy-duty pieces of equipment in operation. Quality and reliability are very important. Any down time, even 30 minutes is going to affect production, and possibly worse, potential safety issues.

Regulatory Requirements

Commercial HVAC Systems

Commercial HVAC installations must also conform to local building codes and regulations. In other words, they must be designed and installed in accordance with government ‘set standards’ for the comfort and safety of building occupants. This includes things pertaining to human health, comfort and energy efficiency – eg air quality or safe use of the system.

Industrial HVAC Systems

On the other hand, HVAC systems in industry must follow more specific regulations: those related to energy efficiency and safety, as well as regulations specific to certain industries, such as those related to environmental impact, emissions and occupational health. Failure to comply with these regulations will result in paying fines and endangering the people who work with the equipment.


This information is important to determine whether you require a commercial HVAC or industrial HVAC system. Both systems are commonly chosen but they are different and which is best for your needs of depends on a number of factors. Burban Air Systems Ltd. is a trusted name when it comes to designing, installing and maintaining both commercial and industrial HVAC systems in the greater Toronto area.

Call Burban Air Systems Ltd to find out more or to make an appointment. commercial and industrial buildings need the best possible climate control.



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