We realize some of the terminology in our industry can be confusing and difficult to understand. Here is a glossary of common terms to help you out.

Jump to: Plumbing | Heating | Cooling | Indoor Air Quality


Plumbing Terms

  • Access panel – A removable cover or door that allows access to plumbing components in walls, ceilings, or other areas.
  • Aerator – A threaded faucet attachment that directs the flow of water, prevents splashing, and limits output.
  • Area drain – A drain that collects runoff or wastewater for a given area and directs it to the main sewer or wastewater system.
  • Backflow preventer – A valve assembly that prevents water from flowing back into the potable water system from a system with higher pressure, such as a fire sprinkler, boiler, or kitchen sprayer.
  • Bypass valve – A valve that allows water to bypass the water softener for uses that require no softening.
  • Direct drain – A drain that flows into the waste arm with no air drop.
  • Elongated water closet – A toilet with an elongated, elliptical bowl.
  • Flapper – A valve between the tank and bowl of a toilet that is pulled up to release water from the tank to the blow and drops back down to allow the tank to refill.
  • Gasket – A rubber or paper seal that prevents leaks between pipes or machined surfaces.
  • Hard water – Water that has high mineral content, such as calcium and magnesium, leading to mineral deposits, plumbing clogs, soap scum, and other problems.
  • Power vent water heater – A water heater that uses a fan to vent combustion air.
  • PVC – Plastic pipes made from polyvinyl chloride that are often used for potable water, drain, and vent systems.
  • Soft water – Water with minimal calcium and magnesium content.
  • Standpipe – A vertical pipe used to store or pressurize water, such as in a fire sprinkler system. It can also refer to a washing machine drain pipe.
  • Stop and waste – A hose bibb that can be drained to prevent freezing.
  • Sump pump – A pump used to remove water from a sump pit, which is often installed in basements or other below-grade areas to remove groundwater accumulations and prevent flooding.
  • Water meter – A meter installed by your local utility company or municipality that measures water usage for billing purposes.

Heating Terms

  • Boiler – A heating system that heats water or creates steam for heating through radiators, baseboard heaters, radiant flooring, fan coils, or air handlers.
  • BTU – British thermal units are a measurement of heat output equivalent to the heat required to increase the temperature of a gallon of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
  • Flue – The pipe required to vent combustion gases from a water heater, furnace, or boiler to the outdoors.
  • Heat loss – The amount of heat lost in a conditioned space, measured in BTUs.
  • Manual/auto zone duct – Ducts that control airflow to different zones, either manually or automatically, through sensors and actuators.
  • Radiant floor heating – Piping installed beneath a finished floor that carries warm water for heating a room.
  • Secondary heat exchanger – A second heat exchanger that extracts heat from the combustion exhaust of a furnace or boiler for maximum efficiency.
  • Volume damper – A plate that opens or closes to adjust airflow in a duct for a particular zone.
  • Warm-air plenum – The cabinet that collects the warm air from the furnace and distributes it to the supply ducts.
  • Zoned system – A heating or air conditioning system that offers independent control of temperatures in each room or zone using airflow dampers or hydronic heating valves.

Cooling Terms

  • Condensation line – A pipe that allows condensed water to drain away from the evaporator to either the outdoors or the home’s drain system.
  • Condenser – The outdoor coil of an air conditioning system that releases heat to the outdoor air.
  • Evaporator or A-coil – The interior portion of an air conditioner that absorbs heat from your home. It is typically installed in the furnace or a stand-alone air handler.
  • Plenum – A box or cabinet that connects multiple supply or return ducts to an HVAC system.
  • SEER – The seasonal energy efficiency ratio is a measure of an air conditioner’s energy usage and relative efficiency over a cooling season.

Air Quality Terms

  • Category One – The Minnesota codes that govern indoor air quality, ventilation, and moisture control in new homes.
  • Electronic air cleaner – An air cleaner that uses a negative charge to attract pollutants like dust and pollen particles from the air and collect them on charged metal plates.
  • Heat recovery ventilator (HRV) – An air-exchange ventilation system that uses heat exchangers to reclaim heat from the air that is exhausted outdoors.
  • Humidifier – A device that uses heat or vibration to evaporate water and add humidity to dry air.
  • IAQ – Indoor air quality represents the air quality or the amount of pollution contained in the indoor air.
  • Source point – The source of air for a ventilation system, such as a return duct.
  • Vent range hood – A hood that gathers exhaust fumes from a stove and vents them outside.
  • Water panel – A panel outside a humidifier that absorbs moisture.

For help with these terms or any heating, air conditioning, or plumbing problems that you may have, contact our team today. Call (612) 440-3124 or contact us online for service anywhere in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or the greater Twin Cities area.

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