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There Is Only One: Your ASHRAE Handbook

There Is Only One: Your ASHRAE Handbook

By Brian A. Rock, Ph.D., P.E., Fellow ASHRAE [1]


What Is the Handbook?

ASHRAE, through both voluntary and paid efforts, produces hundreds of publications for many audiences and purposes. For Society members, the four most widely known or used are ASHRAE Journal, ASHRAE Standards, ASHRAE Transactions and the ASHRAE Handbook. The ASHRAE Journal delivers timely information to almost the entire membership via news stories, columns, peer-reviewed articles and advertising. The various ASHRAE Standards and Guidelines provide specific performance and prescriptive information to designers, contractors and code officials. ASHRAE Transactions archives many of the research and practice papers presented at the ASHRAE Annual and Winter Meetings.

So, what is the purpose of the ASHRAE Handbook? It is to document our methods of practice as well as our experiences for the benefit of design engineers, architects, students, manufacturers, code officials and others. Sharing such information is a basic expectation of any profession. However, to many, our Handbook chapters’ preparation is a mystery.

One widely heard misnomer, including used by this author at times as was pointed out to him by a prior Handbook Editor, needs correction upfront. There is only one ASHRAE Handbook. It is currently composed of four volumes: Fundamentals, HVAC Applications, HVAC Systems and Equipment and Refrigeration. So, there is no “Refrigeration Handbook,” for example. One volume, in rotation, is revised and published each year, so the current ASHRAE Handbook is composed of the four most recently published volumes. The four-year earlier version of the current volume drops out after completion of its “revision cycle.” The 2023 ASHRAE Handbook is therefore composed of the 2023 HVAC Applications volume, the 2022 Refrigeration volume, the 2021 Fundamentals volume, and the 2020 HVAC Systems and Equipment volume. There is no “2021 Handbook of Fundamentals” (“HoF”), but instead, most rigorously for formal writings and speech, there is the 2021 Fundamentals volume of the ASHRAE Handbook, or 2021 ASHRAE Handbook – Fundamentals volume. In informal speech, “Fundamentals,” “Applications,” “Systems and Equipment,” and “Refrigeration” volumes work well, or the “ASHRAE Handbook” when talking in general.

Receiving, each year, the most recent electronic volume of the Handbook, or a standard or eLearning course if selected instead, is a basic ASHRAE membership benefit for those who are an Associate Member or higher level. Student and other members can purchase the current Handbook volumes at a significant discount. Printed versions of the Handbook, as well as the ASHRAE Handbook Online, are available at extra cost to all. The printed volumes, the author’s favorite version, look especially good on your office’s bookshelf.