If you’re thinking about replacing your air conditioning system, one of the first places to begin is with your current system. You’ll want to check its ‘tonnage’ before shopping for a new AC unit. Tonnage isn’t a term that comes up in conversation frequently in the U.S. (unless you happen to be an HVAC technician) so you might not know what it means. Tonnage refers to the cooling capacity of an AC system. It’s extremely important to purchase a unit with the correct tonnage for your home’s square footage; otherwise, your unit has to work too hard or will use too much energy to cool your interior space. Here, we’ll explore what this term means in detail, how to find it, and how to shop for a new AC unit with the proper tonnage for your house.


AC Tonnage Explained

In the U.S., when it comes to heating and AC capacity measurements, we continue to use British thermal units (BTu). A single BTu is equivalent to the heat that a single candle generates. Another way to put it is that it’s the heat that is needed to raise a pound of water’s temperature by a single degree. The cooling capacity of an air conditioning system refers to the rate of heat transfer that is required to freeze 2,000 pounds (one ton) of water in a 24-hour period. Tonnage is the term used to describe this cooling capacity.


Why Does Tonnage Matter?

AC system tonnage is a bit of a Goldilocks dilemma. The AC system has to be ‘just right.’ It shouldn’t be too large or too small. If it is, problems will result. Installing an air conditioner that is too small (not enough tonnage) to effectively cool your home is sure to be a headache for numerous reasons. First, it won’t properly cool the home. So, the house won’t feel comfortable to occupants. Secondly, the AC system will keep working overtime in an attempt to cool the house, but that will cause it to become overworked. An overtaxed system is subject to breakdowns, high repair costs, and reduced lifespan.

On the other hand, installing a unit that’s too large is also problematic. An oversized AC unit will draw much more energy than is actually needed to effectively cool the square footage of your home, and that will cause your energy bills to skyrocket needlessly. Also, an AC system that’s too large will resort to short cycling; short cycling can also lead to increased wear and tear on the unit, requiring more maintenance and reduced longevity.


How to Find the Tonnage of Your AC Unit

Assuming that you have an AC system, you can check its tonnage by finding the label mounted on your outdoor unit. It should list the system’s tonnage or, more commonly, BTus. If it lists BTus as measurements, you can figure out the tonnage by dividing the BTu measurement by 12,000. So, if your unit is listed with 36,000 BTus, its tonnage is 3 tons. If your unit isn’t labeled, you can find out the tonnage by calling the manufacturer or your HVAC contractor and providing the make and model number of the unit.

The old unit is a good place to start–if it has a history of properly cooling your home. If the tonnage was too much or not enough, you’ll want to shop for the correct tonnage when you shop for a new system. Because a new AC system is a major investment, many homeowners opt to consult with a certified HVAC professional to help them calculate the tonnage that’s ideal for cooling their house.


Determining the Tonnage You Need

Generally, one ton will cool about 400 square feet of space effectively. If your home is 2,000 square feet, you would want to shop for a unit that has a five-ton capacity. Square footage isn’t the only factor to examine, however, when it comes to AC tonnage. You may also want to consider the following factors that could impact the size AC unit you ultimately select:

  • Amount of the home’s direct sunlight exposure
  • Quality of the home’s insulation
  • Ductwork quality
  • Quality of windows
  • Home’s construction materials (i.e. wood, vinyl siding, brick)
  • Geographic climate

The use of heat generating appliances or presence of a sunroom, for instance, could also impact your decision. This is why many buyers prefer to discuss tonnage and other related concerns with a knowledgeable AC technician or installation company who can help them choose the ideal AC unit for their house with all factors taken into consideration.


Kaiser Air Conditioning for Professional AC System Installation

When you consult with a reputable company like Kaiser Air Conditioning, you can get the reliable support you need when selecting an air conditioning system for your home. It’s ideal to let Kaiser’s experts help you choose an AC model that not only suits your home’s cooling needs, but also your budget. Today, there are many energy-efficient models that do an excellent job of cooling interior spaces, but it remains a crucial point to choose a unit with the right tonnage for your house.

Kaiser’s technicians can help you select the best model for your interior space with the correct tonnage. Then, we can install your new unit to perfection. Improper installation can lead to frequent breakdowns and reduced system longevity. We stand by the quality of our workmanship. Our technicians are certified and experienced. After installing your unit, we can provide you with ongoing maintenance, ensuring that you get the most for your investment and are able to enjoy reliable cooling functionality for years to come.

Contact Kaiser Air Conditioning to learn more about our services and let us help you choose the ideal AC unit with the proper tonnage for your home.