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I Need a New AC: Is Bigger Better?

top-view-of-outdoor-ac-unitThe short answer is “no.” Sometimes bigger can be better, but in the case of installing a new air conditioner, this isn’t always the case.

There’s a term in the HVAC industry that’s used to describe the cooling capacity of an air conditioner, which is what we look at when determining what size system should be installed in a home. This term is called tonnage.

What Is Tonnage?

When HVAC techs are working on a new air conditioning installation or replacement, one of the things they need to do is match the space with an air conditioner capable of meeting the space’s cooling requirements. Air conditioners cool down a living space by removing heat from it (rather than pulling in cold air). This heat transfer process is measured as BTUs, which stands for British Thermal Units. An AC system that has one ton of cooling capacity can remove 12,000 BTUs from a space per hour. Every additional ton is equal to another 12,000 BTUs.

Why is it called a ton? Because 12,000 BTUs is the measure of heat needed to melt a block of ice weighing one ton. So yes, weight does factor into this is a small way—it just has nothing to do with the weight of the air conditioner itself. It can be odd to think of a cooling system and the melting of ice, but think about it this way—an air conditioner removes heat from the home and exhausts it outdoors. If you have a one-ton air conditioner operating, it removes enough heat that could be used to melt a ton of ice. That’s quite a lot of heat no longer inside your home!

“So, How Much Tonnage Does My Home Need?”

This is a great question! After all, it sounds pretty impressive to be able to melt a ton of ice with the heat removed from your house—but is that enough to keep your house cool and comfortable throughout the day?

The short answer to this is “probably not.” Most homes require an air conditioner with at least 1.5 tons of cooling capacity. Some may require a 5-ton system to get the job done. Figuring out what tonnage your home needs takes the expertise of trained and experienced professionals who can perform what’s called a “Manual J Heat Load Calculation” and determine the tonnage required to remove enough heat from your specific living space. It’s an important balancing act, called “sizing” your air conditioner. An oversized system is just as detrimental as an undersized system.

When you’re ready to buy a new AC, contact our team. We can assure that your air conditioner will be appropriately sized for your home, and can also help you determine what type of air conditioner is best. For instance, if you’ve always had a central air conditioner but it never worked very efficiently and/or has air ducts damaged beyond repair, you may consider the space-saving and money-saving ductless system. We’re happy to explore all of your options with you!

For professional air conditioning installation in Lawrenceville, GA, contact Wall Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. today!

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