Your Vocabulary List For Talking With Pros About A/C Repairs

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An air conditioning repair contractor, like any skilled professional, will use many terms that may be less-than-familiar to the average person. If you're seeking out air conditioning services, it can be helpful to know the basic vocabulary folks in the industry use. Here are four ideas all A/C repair customers ought to know.

Compressors and Condensers

These are the main components that handle the tough work of transferring heat and moisture from the interior of a building to the outside world. A compressor is arguably the core of any system. Using tubes that go from the interior of a building, the compressor receives heated refrigerant from inside the structure, cools it, and then returns it to the interior.

The compressor is connected through shorter tubes to the condenser coils. These serve to complete the process of exhausting heat to the outdoors.

Most full-building A/C systems place both of these components outdoors. If your system has a mechanical failure, there's a good chance it will be in either the condenser or the compressor.


Something has to serve as a medium of transfer for the heat inside your house to get it out. The refrigerant serves this role. Most systems have coils indoors that are heated by the surrounding air. The refrigerant then transfers the heat to the condenser, and the condenser returns cold refrigerant through several pipes or tubes.

Note that the presence of refrigerant is the primary reason A/C repair is never a DIY project. This is especially the case with older systems that may use products that have to be professionally removed to prevent harm to people, animals, and the environment.

BTUs or Tonnage

If an air conditioning repair contractor talks about the capacity of a unit, there's a good chance they'll discuss in terms of either BTUs or tonnage. A BTU is a British thermal unit, and it measures how much power it takes to convert energy into action. 12,000 BTUs will equal one ton of capacity. For some reference, a 5-ton system is considered a commercial A/C system by most folks in the industry.

SEER Rating

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is the number that's usually featured on the yellow sticker when you see an A/C unit for sale. This number gives you a ballpark figure for how well your system should perform, and higher is better.

SEER matters because older systems may have unacceptably low numbers. 13 is the minimum acceptable SEER in the U.S. If a repair technician sees a system with a SEER below 13, they will advise you to replace it.  

For additional information, reach out to a local air conditioning service.