If you’re in the process of buying an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) system, you’ll want to know what size air conditioner you need. However, the myriad of options and specs can be overwhelming. No to worry, we’re here to help.

It’s All About The BTUs

In researching HVAC units, you’ll come across the acronym “BTU,” which stands for British Thermal Unit. A single BTU equals the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

How Do BTUs Factor Into Getting The Right Size Air Conditioner For Your House?

Air conditioners have a BTU rating which is a measure of how much energy is needed to remove heat from the air inside your home and offer cooling relief.

How To Find The BTU Rating Of Your Air Conditioner

Most HVAC systems have their BTU rating listed on the outside unit. Look for a label that shows items like model number and serial number. It may show the BTU rating as a standalone number.

Or the BTU rating may be embedded in the Model Number of M/N, either following “BTU” in the number, or it may be the last numbers after a series of six or seven numbers, such as 41CKC032500, which means a BTU rating of 32,500.

If you’re not able to find the BTU rating on the equipment, check the manual, contact the manufacturer, or look up the maker and model number online.

Tonnage Also Weighs In

Tonnage is another common term in the air conditioning field, but it doesn’t refer to weight. One “ton” is the equipment’s ability to take out 12,000 BTUs of heat from your home in one hour.

Does one size of air conditioner fit all situations?

No. A too-small air conditioner is going to constantly work hard trying to cool the air, which it may not be able to do. That runs up your utility bill and is likely to quickly wear out the equipment.

On the other hand, a too-large unit may “short cycle,” meaning it turns off and on too often. That’s less efficient, leading to higher energy bills, and increased wear and tear. It also may not take enough moisture out of the air. Higher humidity in your home creates dampness that can damage your belongings. It may be time to take the Goldilocks approach: an air conditioner that’s not too small, not too big, but just the right size.
How To Choose The Right Size Air Conditioner For Your Home

First, what is the square footage of your home? You can get a rough estimate of what size air conditioner you need using that number. For example, if your home’s square footage is between 1,600 and 2,300, you’ll likely need a central air conditioner with a BTU rating of 34,00 to 38,000.

However, other factors also need to be considered:

  • The climate where you live
  • How much direct sun your home will get
  • Your home’s age
  • How your home was constructed
  • How many windows do you have, and their location
  • Your home’s insulation, airflow, and duct quality

Professionals often use a calculation that takes all these factors into consideration called “Manual J” to recommend an air conditioner size.

What Are The Different Types Of Central Air Conditioners?

Your HVAC pro can help you decide what type of central air conditioner will best meet your needs. You’ll likely choose a split system with both an indoor and outdoor unit.

However, HVAC systems can also be packaged systems, ductless mini-split systems, hybrid systems that combine a gas furnace with an electric air conditioner, geothermal heat pump systems, or even commercial-type variable refrigerant flow (VRF).

The type of condenser is another consideration, as that impacts your unit’s efficiency. In general, energy efficiency is highest with a variable speed condenser, less so with a dual-stage condenser, and least efficient with a single-stage condenser.

What You Need To Know About Energy Efficiency Ratings

Air conditioners are given a SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. In addition, an Energy Star certification tells you that the product meets standards set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Energy Star-certified air conditioners typically are 15% more efficient than those that don’t have that certification. Aim for an Energy Star-certified system with the highest SEER rating.
What other factors should you consider when purchasing an air conditioner?
As you’re choosing an air conditioner for your home, you’ll also want to consider the price range that works for you, whether financing, tax credits, or rebates are available.

The air conditioner you buy today will impact your home’s comfort and energy bills for years to come. It’s wise to consult with an AC professional to help you make that choice. Call JW Plumbing, Heating and Air to learn more about your HVAC options.

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