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A-1 Mechanical Blog

What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?

Air Conditioning

As you shop for a new cooling system, there is one important question you need to ask: “What size air conditioner do I need?” It’s important to get the right fit, or else your comfort and costs will be negatively impacted over the lifespan of your new air conditioner. A-1 Mechanical shares what you need to know about air conditioner sizing and how to find the right unit size for your Grand Rapids area home.

What Does Air Conditioner Size Mean?

Air conditioner sizing doesn’t refer to the physical dimensions of the new unit, but rather its capacity to cool a space. Air conditioner sizes are referred to in tons, but tonnage does not refer to the unit’s weight – tonnage refers to the air conditioner’s capacity to remove heat from the home.

The tonnage of an air conditioning unit describes the amount of heat the system can remove over the course of one hour to cool the home. In the HVAC industry, we use British thermal units (BTUs) to measure heat, and there are 12,000 BTUs of heat per one ton of air conditioning. So, a 2-ton air conditioning unit can remove 24,000 BTUs of heat each hour; a 3-ton air conditioner removes 36,000 BTUs of heat per hour, and so on.

Why It’s Important to Buy the Right Size Air Conditioner

When you find out the right size air conditioner your home needs, it’s important you stick to this size as you purchase your new cooling unit. Air conditioners are not one-size-fits-all, and it’s not wise to size up or down to find a better fit as you can do with clothing and other items. This is because the size of your unit will impact the amount of energy the air conditioner consumes, how it operates, and the comfort levels inside your home.

  • If you buy an air conditioner that is too small for the home, the unit will not have enough capacity to remove the necessary heat from the space in order to keep rooms at comfortable temperatures. The unit will run more often as it attempts to make up for its shortcomings, wasting energy and increasing wear and tear, which causes more breakdowns and repairs as well as earlier system failure.
  • An oversized air conditioner won’t keep your home comfortable, either. With excess capacity, the AC unit will rapidly cool but fail to do so evenly, causing discomfort. This creates cooling cycles that are much too short for the health of the appliance, which strain the equipment, add wear and tear, and take the system out of service sooner than a correctly sized air conditioner. They will also not run long enough to remove humidity from the air.

What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?

The best way to find out what size air conditioner your home needs is to work with a qualified HVAC technician. Many components play a role in determining the right size AC unit for a home – it’s not just about square footage. Various elements, to name a few, that impact the home’s cooling load (how much heat needs to be removed) include:

  • Square footage
  • Number of stories
  • Ceiling heights
  • Number of windows and doors
  • Insulation levels
  • Building materials
  • Number of occupants
  • Home’s orientation

These elements are factored in as a professional HVAC technician performs a Manual J load calculation, which provides the home’s cooling load. This calculation indicates how many BTUs of heat need to be removed from the space over the course of an hour, so you’ll know the appropriate capacity in tons for your new air conditioner.

Find the Right Air Conditioner for Your Grand Rapids or Lansing Home

If you’re in the market to buy a new central air conditioner, it’s time to call A-1 Mechanical. Our qualified HVAC technicians will determine the right size unit for efficient performance and reliable comfort in your home, and provide skilled installation so your new cooling system performs as expected. Contact us today to request an estimate for air conditioner installation.

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