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Air Conditioning Tonnage: What It Means

question-mark-badgeIf you have an old air conditioning system that just isn’t handling our Georgia summer weather the way it should, it’s time for a new air conditioning installation. The way to do this is to contact our team of HVAC professionals. You not only want our skill to put the new system in place, you want us to select a system with the right tonnage for your house.

Wait, what does tonnage mean?

This is a question people often ask when they hear about the type of AC their home needs. It’s a confusing term because it doesn’t have anything to do with how much the air conditioner weighs. If our technicians tell you that your house requires a 4 ton air conditioning system, we’re talking about the cooling power of the new unit, not its gross weight.

Going deeper into tonnage

There’s an actual a reason that a term like tonnage is used as a measurement for the cooling ability of an air conditioner, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But first we have to explain that air conditioning power is described as the amount of heat removed from a place. To cool an area, an AC moves an amount of heat from the indoor air and shifts it to the outside. The measurement units used to describe this is the British Thermal Unit (BTU). One BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a specific amount of water by one degree.

If an air conditioning system can remove 12,000 BTUs from a house in an hour, it is a one ton air conditioner. Each ton of cooling equals 12,000 BTUs, i.e. a 10 ton air conditioner can remove 120,000 BTUs per hour. The reason that 12,000 BTUs is called a ton is because it’s the amount of heat necessary to melt one ton of ice. So weight does have something to do with it! It’s just not the weight of the air conditioner itself.

Finding the right tonnage

You’re probably wondering now how much tonnage is necessary to keep your home cool. In general residential cooling systems range from 1.5 to 5 tons. Finding out what tonnage is required for home comfort is a tricky job. Professional HVAC technicians must perform a Manual J heat load calculation on a home, taking into account factors such as the number of windows and the direction they face, the number of people on average in the house, how much heat is generated by lights and appliances, and the R-value of the insulation. The heat load calculation determines the tonnage necessary for home comfort without energy waste. This process is called sizing, and it’s essential to see a house has an AC that’s neither underpowered nor over-powered.

(Yes, an AC can be too powerful. An oversized system will short-cycle, rapidly shutting on and off during a short period of time. This wastes energy and shortens equipment life.)

We’re the contractor to call when you’re looking for air conditioning service in Cartersville, GA or the surrounding areas. We’ll see you have your new system correctly sized and installed.

Comfort Zone Heating & Cooling serves Cumming, GA and the entire North Atlanta Area. Call our customer service specialists at 770-213-COOL (2665) and let us know how we can help.

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