Glossary

PhD’s In Comfy.

We realize some of the terminology in home services 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 | Electrical | Insulation

 

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.
  • Angle Stop — An angle stop is a shutoff valve between the water supply and plumbing fixture. It is used to shut off water flow while you repair the connected item.
  • Anode Rod — An anode rod is located inside the water heater. The anode rod protects the water tank from corrosion due to magnesium or aluminum.
  • 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 airdrop.
  • Dip Tube — The dip tube sends cold water to the bottom of the water heater tank.
  • Elongated water closet – A toilet with an elongated, elliptical bowl.
  • Escutcheon — The escutcheon is a protective cover under the faucet handle that masks the fixtures hole.
  • Fixture — A fixture refers to the plumbing device that provides water and/or disposal. Common fixtures in plumbing are toilets, sinks and showers.
  • 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.
  • Float Ball — The float ball is the plastic ball attached to the ballcock. The rise and fall of water in the tank is determined by the float ball’s placement.
  • Gasket – A rubber or paper seal that prevents leaks between pipes or machined surfaces.
  • Gravity Operated Toilet — A gravity-operated toilet relies on downward pressure of water in a toilet tank to flush. Gravity operate toilets often have ballcocks in their tank.
  • Hard water – Water that has high mineral content, such as calcium and magnesium, leads to mineral deposits, plumbing clogs, soap scum, and other problems.
  • Hose Bib — A hose bib is a common outdoor faucet.
  • Nipple — A nipple is a short pipe that connects couplings and other things.
  • Power vent water heater A water heater that uses a fan to vent combustion air.
  • PVC – Plastic pipes made from polyvinyl chloride that is often used for potable water, drain, and vent systems.
  • Septic Tank — A septic tank is a small sewage treatment system for homes with no connection to local sewage pipes. Septic refers to the bacteria that decomposes the waste inside the tank.
  • 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 pumpA sump pump is used in basements that flood often. The sump pump sits in a pit that accumulates the water, where it pushes the water outside the home.
  • Trap — The trap is a curved section of drain line that prevents sewer odor from entering your home. All plumbing fixtures have a “P” trap, except for a toilet that has an “S” trap.
  • Water hammer — The water hammer is a loud noise and vibration associated with pipes being turned on or off. The water hammer is caused by a sudden surge, or halt, of water in the pipes.
  • Water meter – A meter installed by your local utility company or municipality that measures water usage for billing purposes.
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HEATING TERMS

  • ACH (Air Changes Per Hour) — This refers to the number of times per hour a room is supplied (or removed) of air through mechanical and natural ventilation.
  • 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.
  • Ductwork Specialized pipes or channels for the airflow (including supply air, return air and exhaust air) within a home.
  • Flue The pipe required to vent combustion gases from a water heater, furnace, or boiler to the outdoors.
  • Fresh Air Intake — The opening through which outside air is drawn into the building. It either replaces air in the building that has been exhausted by the ventilation system, or provides fresh air for combustion of fuel.
  • Heating Coil — Part of the HVAC system that conducts heat. It allows electricity to act as fire.
  • Heat loss – The amount of heat lost in a conditioned space, measured in BTUs.
  • Heat Pump A compressor that cycles both hot and cold air. It is designed to move thermal energy in the opposite direction of heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space which is released to a warmer space.
  • HVAC — The acronym for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Modern systems also include air cleaning and moisture control.
  • Manual/auto zone duct – Ducts that control airflow to different zones, either manually or automatically, through sensors and actuators.
  • OAT (Outside Air Temperature) — A measure of the air temperature outside a building.
  • Pilot Light A pilot light is an ever-burning gas flame built into your furnace to light it when heat is necessary. Since the pilot light has a constant flow of natural gas to it, if it ever extinguishes, you would find yourself with a gas suffocation problem.
  • 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.
  • ThermostatA temperature-control device that monitors and regulates a heating or cooling system. It can be used to set the desired temperature at which it keeps the environment either heated or cooled.
  • 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.
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COOLING TERMS

  • ACH (Air Changes Per Hour) This refers to the number of times per hour a room is supplied (or removed) of air through mechanical and natural ventilation.
  • AC (Air Conditioner) An appliance/mechanism or system designed to extract heat and dehumidify a room or building. A room air conditioner is installed in a window or a wall or delivers conditioned are without a ductwork system. Central air conditioning uses fans and ducts to deliver cool air from a central unit to the rooms in your home.
  • 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.
  • Ductwork Specialized pipes or channels for the airflow (including supply air, return air and exhaust air) within a home.
  • 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.
  • Fresh Air Intake — The opening through which outside air is drawn into the building. It either replaces air in the building that has been exhausted by the ventilation system, or provides fresh air for combustion of fuel.
  • Heat Pump A compressor that cycles both hot and cold air. It is designed to move thermal energy in the opposite direction of heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space which is released to a warmer space.
  • HVAC — The acronym for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Modern systems also include air cleaning and moisture control.
  • OAT (Outside Air Temperature) — A measure of the air temperature outside a building.
  • Plenum An enclosed box or cabinet that connects multiple supply or return ducts to an HVAC system.
  • Refrigerant Substance that produces a cooling effect; used in most air conditioning and cooling systems.
  • SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)The seasonal energy efficiency ratio measures the energy efficiency of your air conditioning system. It is equal to the Total Cooling Output Over the Cooling Season / Total Electrical Energy Input Over the Cooling Season. It measures the total cooling of your air conditioner or heat pump in BTUs compared with the energy output (in watt hours) used within the same period. The higher the SEER rating on your air conditioner, the more energy efficient it is, meaning lower energy costs to run it.
  • Split System (Zoned) A type of central HVAC system that allows you to control the thermostat/temperature in different areas of the home. The unit does not typically use a duct system, but rather has small wall-mounts that deliver heating or cooling to different rooms in the home. It is composed of one or more indoor units, an outdoor unit, and one or more thermostats.
  • ThermostatA temperature-control device that monitors and regulates a heating or cooling system. It can be used to set the desired temperature at which it keeps the environment either heated or cooled.
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INDOOR AIR QUALITY TERMS

  • Air Cleaners Also known as air purifiers, remove airborne particles including dust mites, pollen, molds and pet allergens. Some air cleaners also remove chemicals from the air.
  • Bio-Aerosols — Biological aerosols are airborne living organisms or their by-products including fungi, bacteria, viruses, dust mites, mold spores and pollen. Health risks include: allergy, asthma, infectious disease and toxic response.
  • Dehumidifier Equipment that reduces the level of humidity from the air. It works by cooling air to the point where water turns to liquid from vapor form, which is then removed.
  • 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.
  • HEPA filter – HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air, is a category of filters that are able to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns.
  • Humidifier A device that uses heat or vibration to evaporate water and add humidity to dry air.
  • IAQIAQ stands for Indoor Air Quality and refers to the level of pollutants found in the air inside closed spaces such as homes and offices.
  • Indoor Air Pollutants — Asbestos, Biological Pollutants, Carbon Monoxide (CO) Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products, Lead (Pb), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Pesticides, Radon (Rn)
  • MERV – Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, is the unit of measure for an air filter’s ability to capture larger particles.
  • Micron — Micron, or micrometer, is a unit of size equal to 1/millionth of a meter or .00004 inches.
  • Source point – The source of air for a ventilation system, such as a return duct.
  • Toxic Mold — Mold that produces mycotoxins including Stachybotrys chartarum (Black Mold) and Aspergillus.
  • 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.
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ELECTRICAL TERMS

  • AC Current – An electric current that changes direction many times per second, the common form of electric power delivered to your home or business and used for fixtures, for fans, or via wall sockets.
  • Amperage – A measurement used for the flow of electrons or electrical current. Amperage measures the volume of electrons.
  • Circuit breaker – A device designed to shut off an electrical circuit if there is too much current. Circuit breakers fulfill the same purpose as a fuse, but can be reset without being replaced.
  • DC Current – An electric current that flows in a single direction. Commonly seen in batteries, as it’s used to charge them and is the type of current provided by them.
  • Dimmer – Switches connected to a light fixture that can lower the brightness of light by changing the voltage waveform.
  • Electrical load – Any devices or parts of a circuit that consume electric power, such as appliances or lights.
  • Electrical panel – Also called a breaker panel, service panel, breaker box, or load center. The steel cabinet or box in your home contains your circuit breakers.
  • Fuse – An electrical safety device, usually a delicate metal wire or strip, which melts when too much current flows through it to stop the current.
  • GFCI – A ground fault circuit interrupter, a type of circuit breaker that shuts off electric power if it senses an imbalance in outgoing and incoming current. Used to protect against electric shocks and fires, most commonly seen in wiring in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Low voltage – Refers to systems that use less than 50 volts of electricity, such as doorbells or thermostats.
  • Meter – A device that measures the amount of electric energy that a residence, business, or device consumes.
  • Multimeter — A multimeter is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools in an electrician’s tool belt. This inexpensive measuring device consists of a meter with settings for measuring voltage, current and resistance and a pair of testing probes. Its many uses include testing devices and wires for voltage to see if they are hot, and checking for breaks in a circuit.
  • NEC — When electricians talk about following “code,” they’re talking about the National Electrical Code (NEC). The NEC was established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 1897, and its rules and standards are updated every three years.
  • Outlet — An outlet is any location in a circuit that supplies the electricity. It can power a light fixture, a smoke alarm, or a hardwired appliance, as well as a wall plug, which is more properly known as a receptacle.
  • Recessed lighting – light fixture installed into a hollow opening, resulting in more concentrated light shining down out of the hole.
  • Surge protector – An appliance or device that protects the devices connected to it from voltage spikes that might damage them.
  • Voltage – A measurement used for the flow of electrons or electrical current. Voltage measures the potential difference that forces electrons to flow.
  • Wattage – Wattage describes the rate of power flow. It’s a simple result of amps x volts. Think of it as the power you get from a certain amount of water being pushed with a certain amount of pressure. Alternatively, think of the power of a vehicle in motion, considering its weight and the engine pushing it.
  • Wire Strippers — A set of spring-loaded pliers with notches of various diameters, wire strippers are used for removing the insulation from individual wires prior to splicing them together or connecting them to a device.
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INSULATION TERMS

  • ACH (Air Changes Per Hour) This refers to the number of times per hour a room is supplied (or removed) of air through mechanical and natural ventilation.
  • Air Leakage Test Air leak testing is an effective method of determining if a product has been manufactured to meet leak-tight specifications. Microscopic holes, failed seals, and countless other defects can cause air leaks that can lead to significant problems.
  • Air Seal An air seal is literally a seal that prevents the passage of air and vapor. An air seal created by foam insulation works to block air movement into and out of your home.
  • Baffles Device to maintain a ventilation space between the insulation and roof deck, assuring air flow from the eave/soffit vents to ridge vent or other roof vents provided in attics and cathedral ceilings.
  • Batt Insulation Batt insulation comes in large pink roles, and it’s typically made of fiberglass, but can also be made of wool and other natural fibers. It is not that difficult to install but is labor-intensive because it has to be rolled in and cut to fit the desired area.
  • Blower Door Test A blower door test is done to test the airtightness of your home using a special fan called a blower door. The blower door is a powerful fan that is mounted to the frame of an exterior door of your home. It pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. If there are air leaks in your home, this test makes it so the higher outdoor air pressure finds its way in through those leaks.
  • Blown-In Insulation Blown-in insulation can be made from a variety of different materials, the two most common being fiberglass and cellulose, which is plant fiber. It is easier to install and also makes the home more efficient because instead of being rolled in, it is blown in and is able to get to every tiny crevasse inside the attic. Blown-in insulation will also last longer.
  • Building Envelope A building envelope is defined as part of the structure that separates the outdoor environment from the inside of your home. That sounds a little complicated so here’s this – the building envelope surrounds your living space separating it from unconditioned spaces and the outdoors. When you air seal your home think of it like an actual envelope. The foam is sealing the envelope to keep the contents inside safe.
  • Cavity — The empty space between studs or joists is typically filled with insulation.
  • Cellulose Insulation Cellulose insulation is the oldest form of home insulation. It can be made of either recycled newspaper or denim and is found as either a loose-fill or blown-in insulation.
  • Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation Closed cell spray foam is a spray-applied plastic that forms into a continuous insulation and air seal in open cavities in homes and in pole barns. Closed cell has a low expansion rate, is dense, and doesn’t allow moisture to move through it.
  • Condensation — Changing a substance from a vapor to a liquid state by removing the heat. The condensate shows up on surfaces as a film or drops of water.
  • Crawlspace Vents An opening to allow the passage of air through the unfinished area under a first floor. Ideally there should be at least two vents per crawlspace.
  • Eave Vents — Vent openings located in the soffit under the eaves of a house to allow the passage of air through the attic and out the roof vents.
  • Fiberglass Insulation Fiberglass insulation is made of extremely fine glass fibers and is found in most homes. Fiberglass insulation can be found in either batts or loose-fill.
  • HERS Index The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is a test used to measure a home’s energy efficiency. It’s also recognized as a system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance.
  • High-Pressure Foam Insulation High-pressure spray foam is the insulation material used by experienced contractors. That’s because to create that high pressure for the hose and the gun, the system is run out of a truck with a generator where the foam is mixed in a proportioner. This professional machine is only used by experienced contractors to ensure the spray foam is mixed properly.
  • Home Performance Home performance is when all of the systems in your home work together to create the most comfortable, efficient living space.
  • Ice Dam Heat loss from a house, snow cover and outside temperatures interact to form ice dams. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32 degrees F (freezing) while lower surfaces are below 32F. These are average temperatures over sustained periods of time. For a portion of the roof to be below freezing, outside temperatures must also be below freezing.
  • Injection Foam Insulation Injection foam is an insulation and air barrier that seals enclosed cavities like existing walls. It is InjectionFoamusually installed from the outside by removing a row of siding, drilling a hole into the stud cavity, and injecting the foam. The installation can be done from the inside on certain occasions depending on the project.
  • Insulation Density Denser insulation products have more fibers per square inch and, therefore, give you greater insulating power through higher R-values.
  • Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation Open cell spray foam is continuous insulation that creates an air seal used in open cavities and pole barns. Open cell has a high expansion rate, is pliable, aids in sound dampening, and allows moisture to move through it, but doesn’t retain it.
  • Roof Deck This is a two-for-one deal because you can’t talk about the roof deck without mentioning the attic flat. When insulating an attic with spray foam, either the underside of the roof, known as the roof deck, or the attic floor, known as the attic flat, are recommended.
  • Roof Vents A louver or small dome mounted near the ridge of the roof to allow the passage of air through the attic.
  • R-Value Measure of resistance to heat flow. Insulation materials have tiny pockets of trapped air. These pockets resist the transfer of heat through material. The ability of insulation to slow the transfer of heat is measured in R-values. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation material’s ability to resist the flow of heat through it.
  • Sound Absorption The process of dissipating or removing sound energy; the property possessed by materials, objects and structures (such as rooms) of absorbing sound energy; the measure of the magnitude of the absorptive property of a material, object or structure.
  • Spray Foam Insulation Spray foam is an insulation and air barrier used to insulate open wall cavities, attics, crawl spaces, and rim joists. Spray foam can be either open cell or closed cell – both create an air seal.
  • Stack Effect Stack effect is when the air comes in through your crawl space or basement, moves up through your floors and walls, and finally makes its way to your attic and out. This is cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer that puts extra strain on your AC unit and furnace.
  • Thermal Bridging A thermal bridge occurs in your home when there is a break in the building envelope, like in the insulation. This means if there is an interruption in your insulation, then space is created where air can move through into and out of your home.
  • Thermal Imaging Thermal imaging is a method of improving visibility of objects in a dark environment by detecting the objects’ infrared radiation and creating an image based on that information. Thermal imaging, near-infrared illumination, low-light imaging and are the three most commonly used night vision technologies.
  • Ventilation — Creates a positive flow of air that allows the house to “breathe” and helps prevent moisture build-up year-round.
  • Vapor Barrier The job of a vapor barrier is to slow down the movement of water vapor into your home. It can be placed anywhere in your home that there is a high risk of moisture getting into the building envelope like the attic, crawl space, or basement. A house wrap is considered a vapor barrier.

For help with these terms or any heating, air conditioning, electrical, insulation, or plumbing problems that you may have, contact our team today. 

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