Most people probably aren’t familiar with the term AC tonnage. Unless you’re an HVAC professional, the odds are good that you haven’t come across the phrase before. Understanding common heating and cooling concepts and terminology can help inform the decisions you make for your home, though. This includes the A/C ton. Keep reading to learn about the meaning behind this phrase and how you can quickly estimate your own AC tonnage requirements.
What Does Air Conditioning Tonnage Mean?
The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured by A/C tons. Tonnage is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. One BTU is equivalent to the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. One ton of air conditioning removes 12,000 BTUs of heat every hour.
AC tonnage is important to consider when shopping for a new air conditioning unit. Too little tonnage and your unit may struggle to cool your space adequately. Too much tonnage can be an issue, too, as it may overwhelm your space and cost far more to run than expected.
Tonnage Is Cooling Power—Not the Weight of the System!
There’s a common misconception that A/C tons refer to the weight of the air conditioning unit. It actually describes the cooling capacity of the system in question. While the weight of an HVAC unit can play a factor in your decision to invest in one system over another, cooling power is far more important to consider.
How Much Air Conditioner Tonnage Do I Need?
When you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, it’s important to calculate the tonnage your unit needs to cool your home or business adequately. How many ton AC do I need can be estimated by multiplying the square feet of the space you’re cooling by 25. This equals the number of BTUs you’ll need to cool the entire space. Next, divide the number by 12,000. This will tell you the tonnage capability you’ll need in your new unit.
This calculation is a good place to start when estimating your cooling needs, but there are other factors to consider. Your home’s insulation or lack of insulation is another important factor. Properties with quality insulation tend to hold cold air more effectively. It’s easier and less expensive to cool them, so less tonnage is necessary.
Landscaping can also play a role. Homes shaded by large trees stay cooler than homes in wide-open places that are exposed to hours of sunlight. You’ll need less tonnage on a property that offers lots of foliage and shade for your home. Architecture is another factor to consider. It’s often more challenging to cool the second and third stories of a home. On the other hand, ranch-style homes are typically more affordable to keep cool. The fewer the floors, the less tonnage is required to cool the space. High ceilings are another architectural design element that can make cooling your home more expensive. A home with 10 to 12 foot ceilings will take longer to cool than a home with lower ceilings.
How to Determine AC Tonnage From Model Numbers
So just how much tonnage for HVAC should you aim for? Generally, residential air conditioners can be purchased in 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5-ton units. If you live in a larger home, you may need a bigger unit based on the calculation we mentioned above. Multiple units are also an option. Many larger homes have two central air conditioners or an air conditioner with a secondary cooling source.
It may also be helpful to check the A/C tons on your existing system. This is especially true if your current system has performed well for your needs but needs to be replaced because of wear and tear. Start by locating your exterior AC unit. Under the brand name, you should see an M/N or model number. The first digits in the M/N number indicate the unit type and SEER rating. The second set of numbers within the larger M/N number (the numbers after the first dash, characters 6-8). This number indicates the BTUs/hour of the unit. 024, for instance, equals 24,000 BTUs.
Divide the BTUs by 12,000, or one ton. This number will equal the tonnage of the AC unit. In this example, the unit is a two-ton unit (24,000 divided by 12,00 = two tons).
Breathe Easy With AC Services From Aire Serv
Learning about AC tonnage can be helpful for homeowners who are considering making an upgrade to their HVAC system. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this information, that’s okay – your local Aire Serv experts can help guide you through your cooling options. Our HVAC professionals will also provide upfront pricing information and thoughtful HVAC recommendations. Request an appointment online or call (855) 259-2280 to get started, today!