How Do VAV Boxes Work?

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

What is a VAV Box?

A Variable Air Volume (VAV) box, is a part of an air conditioning system. It is located inside the duct work. It is designed to control the air flow to a specific area, called a "zone."

The VAV regulates the volume of the air to the zone by opening or closing the damper, thus controlling the amount of conditioned air directed to the zone. Each zone in a building has a thermostat which controls the VAV, telling it when to open or shut the damper based upon the needs of the zone.

VAV Box Parts

The traditional VAV box contains several parts which are necessary for operation. The casing is the outer box or shell, usually made from 22 gauge galvanized steel. The inlet is the connection to the duct coming from the Air Handling Unit. The outlet is the connection to the duct leading to the zone. Inside is the damper, or the metal door which opens or closes to control the amount of air flow needed. The damper controlled automatically by a motor, which is controlled by the thermostat. A thermostat is placed in the zone of the VAV, detecting the current temperature and instructing the VAV to open or close. This controls the amount of conditioned air entering the zone.

Types of VAV Boxes

There are three types of VAV boxes: traditional, fan-powered and VAV with reheat. The traditional VAV box consists of VAV box with an integral damper and is controlled by thermostat. This is the most basic type of VAV box. The fan-powered VAV is built the same as the traditional, but it also contains a fan which is triggered when the area reaches optimal temperature or the damper is 50% closed. It provides additional air circulation when there is less demand for conditioned air. A VAV with reheat also is built the same as the traditional VAV, but it contains an electric coil designed to reheat the air when the damper reaches a predetermined position. This feature allows heating in the specific zone instead of having to heat the whole building.

Uses for VAV Boxes

VAV boxes are usually designed for use in larger systems, where cooling needs vary in each zone of the building. The system has a large Air Handling Unit and multiple VAV boxes, allowing a far greater degree of control than a simpler system. With the ability to run the system on part load when not in use, or to have a higher level of independent room control, the VAV box are used in a variety of locations including retail stores, auditoriums, office spaces and some larger homes.


Christina Barber

Christina Barber has been writing both fiction and non-fiction for four years, and has three fiction books published with small press publishers. She has won the 2006 Dream Realm award for her fiction. Barber has worked in the food industry, and is passionate about healthy eating. She enjoys being able to tie her love for cooking and writing together.