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What Size Should Your New AC Be?


When you read a question like this blog post proposes, your thought may be “Well, I will just buy the biggest one I can afford.”

After all, bigger means more powerful, right? It does, but this may not actually be the right choice for your home.

There are actually two problems with this assumption.

  1. When we talk about an air conditioner’s “size” we aren’t talking about just it’s width and height. We’re talking about its tonnage.
  2. Bigger doesn’t always mean better–an air conditioner can actually be too big for your home.

We’re going to talk about your air conditioner’s tonnage today. What it means, why it matters, and the importance of having a professional determine all of this for you to help you make an educated decision the “size” of air conditioner you should get. Read on!

Tonnage = Cooling Power

Tonnage can be a confusing word for those not privy to the terms and verbiage used in the HVAC industry. It sounds like a measurement of the weight or size of an air conditioner, right? Tonnage is actually a measurement of how powerful the system is at cooling off a space.

“Tons” are units of cooling power. When you hear an HVAC professional say that a system is a “two ton” or “five ton” system, we’re talking about how powerful it is.

One ton is equivalent to 12,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat removed per hour from a space. BTUs are the measurement of heat, kind of similar to how you measure calories–basically it’s the amount of heat needed to change the temperature of a specific amount of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

An air conditioner is able to cool your home by removing heat from it first. This is why units of heat are used to measure how powerful any given AC system is as providing cooling.

So, why are 12,000 BTUs considered a “ton”? Because this is the amount of heat needed to melt a one-ton block of ice! So if your home needs a 2 ton air conditioner, this means your home needs to have enough heat removed from your house per hour to melt two tons of ice in order to be efficiently cooled.

Why You Need an HVAC Professional

The average residential air conditioning system is between 1.5 to 5 tons in size. In order to figure out the correct tonnage air conditioner to provide your specific space with enough efficient cooling, the air conditioner has to be sized by our team.

Again, a common misconception is that “the bigger the better” when it comes to air conditioners. The problem with this is that if your air conditioner has too much tonnage for your space, it will cool down the space too fast, and will start “short cycling” as a result. This exacerbates wear and tear and can leave you needing costly repairs and a premature system replacement.

Our team conducts what’s called a “heat load calculation” sometimes also referred to as a “cooling load calculation” for your air conditioner to determine the appropriate tonnage. We look at everything from how big your home is, to how many windows and doors there are, how high the ceilings are, and the type of insulation you have in your home.

All of this helps us perform an optimal air conditioning installation for you.

For professional and reliable Gresham, OR central AC installation, look no further than Clawson Heating & Air Conditioning. Contact us today!

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