When you get an air conditioner, you want to be sure that it will work for your residence. This ensures that you’re getting the most out of your investment and you’ll stay cool and comfortable in the summer. If you’ve been shopping around for AC units, you’ve probably come across the term “BTU.” It’s part of every air conditioner description that you can find. Before you get overwhelmed by all the numbers and terms, we’d like to give you a better idea of why BTUs are important.

What Exactly Does BTU Mean?

BTU is an acronym that stands for “British Thermal Unit.” Several hundred years ago, scientists were trying to figure out how to effectively heat buildings and how that heat could be measured. It was determined that a BTU would represent the energy it took to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. Now, given that definition, it makes sense that stoves, heaters, and grills can be described with BTUs since they all produce heat. But, what does heat have to do with air conditioners?

Air conditioners remove heat from the air. To standardize their efficacy, the industry decided to use BTUs to describe how much heat could be removed in an hour. A unit with more BTUs would be able to remove more heat and vice versa.

How Many BTUs Should I Get?

You’ll need to assess several factors in order to figure out how many BTUs you need.

  • Size of the space
  • Layout
  • Number of windows
  • Ceiling height
  • Shade and insulation
  • How many people are using the space
  • Whether there are major appliances in the area

If you have a smaller space with strong insulation, you’ll need fewer BTUs than if you have a larger room that receives full sun exposure and may have a fridge and a stove, for example.

There are some general rules that can be followed when it comes to BTUs. Some in the industry start with the idea that 20 BTUs are needed to cool each square foot of living space. Therefore, a 100-square-foot area would need 2,000 BTUs, while a 1,000-square-foot area would require about 20,000 BTUs. The exact number that would be ideal does depend on the factors listed above and possibly more. A professional can come in and take a close look at your house to help you figure out what type of unit would be best.

Problems to Avoid

People can mistakenly assume that more BTUs are always better to have. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a home that’s very cool in the summer? However, if you have more BTUs than you need, your AC unit will do its job very quickly. It will turn off soon after it has turned on. When the air heats up again, this process will happen again. This is called short-cycling, and it can lead to excess wear and tear on your equipment. Your air conditioner might not last as long as it otherwise would. Besides this, you’d be paying for BTUs that you don’t actually need.

If you get an air conditioning system with not enough BTUs, the opposite situation will arise. Your AC unit will strain to cool the room. It may be constantly on, and it may not even be able to get the air to your desired temperature. This can lead to wear and tear as well.

Are BTUs Related to Efficiency?

BTUs describe the cooling power, while the SEER rating describes efficiency. AC units with the same BTUs can have different SEER ratings, with a higher SEER rating being more efficient.

Ready to Assist You

If you’d like professional help with an AC installation and you live in the Mooresville area, turn to Putnam Mechanical. Collectively, our team has more than 75 years of experience. We’re family-owned and -operated, and you can trust us to get the job done correctly. We’ve made sure our NATE-certified and AHRI-certified employees have received extensive training and are familiar with all makes and models of cooling systems. We’re a Lennox Premier Dealer, though we work with all brands, and we’ve earned an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Our services include repair, installation, and maintenance related to heating and cooling units, and we have experience with commercial refrigeration. too. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.

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