If you’ve ever looked at the product information for air conditioning units, you may have noticed that they’re all rated in BTUs. What exactly is a BTU, and what does it mean for you?
British Thermal Units (BTUs)
BTU stands for British thermal unit. It’s defined as the amount of energy required to raise 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at sea-level air pressure. Your air conditioner works to lower the temperature rather than raising it, and your air pressure may be different. The BTU represents a standard unit for rating its cooling power.
How Many BTUs Do I Need?
You need to be sure that your system has the right number of BTUs for the space you’re trying to cool. If it has too few, it probably won’t have the power to cool your house to a comfortable temperature — or it will have to work too hard to do so. But an overpowered system also has its problems. If it cools down the space too quickly, then it may shut off too soon, only to turn on again when the room warms up. This power-cycling uses more energy and creates more wear on your compressor.
The size of the system you need depends on the size of the space you’re trying to cool. A room of 150 square feet might only need 5,000 BTUs, whereas an open-plan house of 2,700 square feet might need 36,000 BTUs.
However, size is not the only factor. An upper-story room or a room with a large west-facing window might need more power while a shaded or well-insulated room needs less. A room that generates a lot of heat, like a kitchen, may need a lot more.
Because of these factors, you should always have your house evaluated by an air conditioning professional before installing your system. A professional can examine your house and recommend an appropriate system for your needs.
Ask the AC Professionals
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