What does Air Conditioner Tonnage mean?

Spend enough time around an HVAC technician and you’ll hear plenty of strange terms that don’t make a lot of sense, at first. “Tonnage” happens to be one of those terms. If you’re shopping for a new air-conditioning system, then chances are you’ll hear that term quite a bit.

There’s not to worry about, fortunately. Below, will shed some light on what tonnage really means and how it applies to your AC system. You’ll also learn how to find out how much tonnage is needed for your home’s cooling needs.

It’s Not About Weight

Think of the word “ton” and your mind immediately goes to “weight.” In the HVAC world, however, “ton” has a much different meaning.

HVAC technicians use tonnage not to describe how heavy an AC unit is, but how much cooling capacity it offers. To elaborate, the term measures an AC unit’s ability to remove heat from the space it’s cooling over the course of an hour.

To understand tonnage a bit better, let’s talk about BTUs. British Thermal Units are the standard measuring unit for heat energy. For instance, it takes 1 BTU to raise the temperature of a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. Conversely, it takes around 8.33 BTUs to bring a gallon of water’s temperature up by a single degree.

What It Means for Your AC System

As it turns out, tonnage is a relatively quick way for HVAC technicians to size up your AC system needs in relation to your home size.

In this case, a “ton” is equivalent to 12,000 BTUs. An air conditioner capable of removing this much heat energy within an hour is considered a one-ton system. AC systems can vary widely in their tonnage, from little under a half-ton for smaller units to 4 tons or more for particularly large commercial units.

When your HVAC technician says you need a 1-ton system, they mean you’ll need one that has at least 12,000 BTUs of cooling capacity per hour.

How to Calculate AC Tonnage

A good rule of thumb is that you’ll need 20 BTUs of cooling for every square foot of living space. If you have a 12,000-square-foot home, for example, then you’ll roughly need 24,000 BTUs of cooling per hour. That means you’ll need a 2-ton system for that particular home.

Keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to AC systems. A unit with too much tonnage for your home’s size can actually hurt your cooling comfort, not to mention waste energy unnecessarily.

Need a New System? Turn to Us

if you’re overdue for a new air conditioning system, the HVAC experts at Essential Air Conditioning may be able to help. We know that replacing your AC system is a big commitment, which is why we take your cooling needs seriously. We’ll help you choose the right system for your home and perform the installation with the efficiency and professionalism you’ve come to expect.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our AC installation and AC repair services.

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