HVAC (pronounced either "H-V-A-C" or "H-vak") is an initialism or acronym that stands for "heating, ventilating, and air conditioning". HVAC is sometimes referred to as climate control and is particularly important in the design of medium to large industrial and office buildings such as skyscrapers and in marine environments such as aquariums, where humidity and temperature must all be closely regulated whilst maintaining safe and healthy conditions within. In certain regions (e.g., UK) the term "Building Services" is also used, but may also include plumbing and electrical systems. Refrigeration is sometimes added to the field's abbreviation as HVAC&R or HVACR, or ventilating is dropped as HACR (such as the designation of HACR-rated circuit breakers).
Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning is based on the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer, and on inventions and discoveries made by Michael Faraday, Willis Carrier, Reuben Trane, James Joule, William Rankine, Sadi Carnot, and many others. The invention of the components of HVAC systems went hand-in-hand with the industrial revolution, and new methods of modernization, higher efficiency, and system control are constantly introduced by companies and inventors all over the world.
The three functions of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning are closely interrelated. All seek to provide thermal comfort, acceptable indoor air quality, and reasonable installation, operation, and maintenance costs. HVAC systems can provide ventilation, reduce air infiltration, and maintain pressure relationships between spaces. How air is delivered to, and removed from spaces is known as room air distribution.
In modern buildings the design, installation, and control systems of these functions are integrated into one or more HVAC systems. For very small buildings, contractors normally "size" and select HVAC systems and equipment. For larger buildings where required by law, "building services" designers and engineers, such as mechanical, architectural, or building services engineers analyze, design, and specify the HVAC systems, and specialty mechanical contractors build and commission them. In all buildings, building permits and code-compliance inspections of the installations are the norm.
The HVAC industry is a worldwide enterprise, with career opportunities including operation and maintenance, system design and construction, equipment manufacturing and sales, and in education and research. The HVAC industry had been historically regulated by the manufacturers of HVAC equipment, but Regulating and Standards organizations such as ASHRAE, SMACNA, ACCA, Uniform Mechanical Code, International Mechanical Code, and AMCA have been established to support the industry and encourage high standards and achievement.