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Air Conditioner Tonnage: What It Means and Why It Matters

    Cooling systems can seem kind of mysterious and complex. HVAC terminology – like MERV, evaporator coil, seasonal energy efficiency ratio, just to name a few examples – is off-putting to most homeowners. Luckily, in most cases, you can run your AC system perfectly fine without having to master lots of technical jargon.

    However, there is one term all homeowners should be familiar with when it’s time for an air conditioner replacement – and that is “tonnage.”

    Tonnage Is Not What You Think It Is

    You are not alone if you think tonnage refers to the weight of the AC unit. But, believe it or not, it actually refers to the cooling power of an air conditioner. More specifically, tonnage is the amount of heat an air conditioner can remove from your home in one hour.

    Here’s how that works. Heat removal is measured in BTUs (British thermal units), and it takes 1 BTU to increase the temperature of a pound of water by 1°F. But it takes about 12,000 BTUs per hour to melt one ton of ice in 24 hours. So, a one-ton air conditioner would remove 12,000 BTUs of heat from your home in one hour. A two-ton air condition would remove 24,000 BTUs, and so on.

    More Tonnage Does Not Mean Better Comfort

    When it comes to the tonnage of the AC system for your home, it’s important to get it right. Inadequate tonnage, whether it’s too low or too high, will not keep your home comfortable. In other words, it does not pay to buy the most powerful air conditioner you can afford.

    Have Your AC System Professionally Sized

    Summer will soon be here. If your aging air conditioner struggled to keep your home comfortable last summer, now’s the time for new AC installation. A licensed HVAC professional will determine the correct tonnage for your home and make sure the AC system is installed properly so that it operates safely and efficiently.