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What is a BTU and What Does it Mean for Your Air Conditioning System?

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What is a BTU and What Does it Mean for Your Air Conditioning System?

If you’ve ever looked into purchasing a new air conditioning system for you home, you may have stumbled across the acronym “BTU.” BTU stands for "British thermal unit,” the standard unit for heat or thermal energy. One BTU equals the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of one pound of water by 1⁰ Fahrenheit. 

What do BTUs have to do with your cooling system?

Air conditioners don’t necessarily generate cold air – they work by removing heat and humidity from your home. So, the cooling capacity of an air conditioner is determined by how many BTUs of heat it can remove from your home in an hour’s time, or BTU/h.  Typical residential air conditioning systems are available in a range of “sizes” between 18,000 and 60,000 BTU/h cooling capacity.

How do I know what size air conditioner is right for my home?

A bigger home will generally require a higher capacity BTU/h air conditioning system. However, the local climate, the R-value of your home’s insulation, the number and quality of windows and many additional factors can affect the cooling needs of your home. Your local Carrier HVAC dealer will take all of these into account and perform a “load calculation” to determine the size most appropriate for you. 

Wouldn't it be easier to just get the highest BTU/h air conditioner I can afford?

No. An oversized air conditioner will turn on, cool your home much too quickly, then shut off. The cycle will continue, resulting in uncomfortable, up-and-down temperature swings and reduced energy efficiency. An undersized air conditioner will run constantly on the hotter days, and won’t be able to keep up with the cooling demand. 

In other words, having properly sized central air conditioning for your house is very important for both your comfort and for keeping your cooling costs under control. For more information about Carrier cooling systems, proper sizing, and options that will work best for your home, contact your local Carrier HVAC contractor.