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Air Conditioning Tonnage: What It Means and Why It’s Important

condenser-units-behind-fenceThis may be the summer you realize your home’s current air conditioning system is no longer up to the job of keeping your family comfortable through hot weather. Sometimes you can make this estimate before the summer begins and arrange for an early air conditioning replacement in Cliffside Park, NJ or elsewhere in the Tri-State Area. This isn’t always possible, so when you find yourself during summer in need of a new AC, you’ll want a new system—the right system—put in as fast as possible.

It takes a skilled HVAC professional to install a new AC, especially under pressing conditions. It’s vital that the right type of air conditioning is put in, and a huge part of finding the right AC is knowing the correct tonnage.

What “tonnage” means when talking about an air conditioner

No, tonnage has nothing to do with how much an air conditioner weighs! (Although we understand why people might make this mistake.) HVAC technicians, like most specialists in complex fields, have a jargon all their own, and when they talk about tonnage what they mean is the amount of cooling an AC unit provides for a space.

Air conditioning cooling power is measured in the units of heat a system removes from the air. An AC doesn’t “create cold,” since cold isn’t actually a form of energy; it’s the result of the removal of heat. And tonnage is the amount of heat an air conditioner can draw from a home over an hour. The heat removal is measured as BTUs (British Thermal Units), which is the amount of heat necessary to change the temperature of a pound of water one degree. One ton of air conditioning power means a system that removes 12,000 BTUs from a building’s air per hour. Each additional ton is another 12,000 BTUs.

How much tonnage is necessary to keep my home cool?

That’s a question our technicians can answer by performing a Manual J heat load calculation. This calculation takes into consideration numerous factors about your house: insulation, the amount of people who live there, number of windows and heat-producing appliances, etc. The central ACs installed in homes range from 1.5 to 5 tons, and you can entrust our NATE-certified technicians to find the right size for you particular home.

There’s such a thing as too much tonnage

“Why not just put in the most powerful AC I can afford and fit in my home?” you may be tempted to ask. The answer is that air conditioning works on a “Goldilocks Principle”: you don’t want an AC that’s too small or too big, but that’s just right. A cooling system that’s undersized for a house—such as a 1.5 ton system in a home that needs 3 tons to stay cool—obviously isn’t going to cut it! But having a 5 ton AC for a house that only requires 2 tons of cooling will result in a system that short-cycles, turning off too early and putting extra pressure on its mechanical components. An oversized air conditioner will waste power and need to be replaced far too early.

Make sure you have the right air conditioning system installed when you have a busted AC emergency: contact our team and we’ll do the job right.

Advanced Mechanical Services offers air conditioning service throughout the Tri-State Area.

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