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When you think of the term “ton,” you probably automatically associate it with weight. For instance, heavy industrial machinery might weigh several tons. However, in the HVAC industry, the word “ton” takes on an entirely different meaning. Air conditioning manufacturers use tons to communicate a unit’s cooling capacity. If you’re buying a new air conditioner for your Easton, Maryland, home, you’ll want to know its capacity and how that relates to your home’s comfort and efficiency.

Why Is Air Conditioning Capacity Measured in Tons?

A 2-ton air conditioner doesn’t weigh 2 tons. Instead, each ton refers to 12,000 British thermal units, or BTUs for each hour of operation. A BTU constitutes an energy measurement. One BTU has the capacity to increase the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

However, the BTU is the modern expression of air conditioner capacity. The use of tons started long before modern air conditioning units existed. People used to buy enormous blocks of ice to cool their homes. It was a crude but mildly effective way to stay comfortable during the blistering summer months. 

When manufacturers began to make air conditioners, they had to choose a method of standardizing all units’ capacities. They decided to use ice, since that was the material with which consumers were familiar. A 1-ton air conditioner, therefore, has the cooling capacity of 1 ton of ice.

Why Does Air Conditioning Capacity Matter?

You might hear air conditioning capacity described as “sizing.” In other words, we’re looking for the right size air conditioner for your home, whether you live in a studio apartment or a sprawling mansion. A 1-ton air conditioner can’t cool nearly as much space as a 4-ton air conditioner. 

However, this doesn’t mean that bigger translates as better. In fact, an oversized AC unit can significantly reduce your energy efficiency because it cuts on and off several times a day rather than running for several minutes at a stretch. The increased wear and tear can also reduce its lifespan. That’s why we calculate the right cooling capacity for every home based on several factors. We want your unit to have the ideal capacity so you can save money on energy bills and get great performance from your unit.

How Do HVAC Techs Size an Air Conditioner?

Most HVAC professionals use Manual J calculations to determine the right air conditioning capacity for a home. This is a standardized set of factors that influence how much energy is needed to keep a home comfortable. Obviously, we need to know your home’s size and number of levels. Cooling more space requires more energy.

However, other criteria can impact energy usage. For instance, homes with many occupants might need a larger AC than one in which a single person resides. More people generate more heat and might enter and exit the home more often. Additionally, appliances, electronics, and other heat-generating devices can influence AC sizing.

Basements and attics can also play a role, as can stairwells and their locations. The home’s construction will help determine capacity, as well, because some materials are more insulating than others. Other issues we take into consideration include ceiling height, the number of closed-off rooms versus open-concept floor plans, the number of windows and doors, indoor air quality, your home’s insulation values, and more.

Do You Need a New Air Conditioner?

We’re here to help if your older air conditioner needs an upgrade. Newer models prove to be more efficient, quieter, and more reliable, which is why we encourage our customers to replace their units at least every 10 years. Before we help you choose a model, though, we’ll decide what air conditioning capacity your unit needs. That way, it’s perfectly sized for your specific home.

After we complete the calculations, we’ll help you choose a make and model for installation. Our technicians have years of experience and can help you weigh the pros and cons for each possibility.

Understanding how air conditioning capacities work can help you become a more informed homeowner. To discuss air conditioning installation, call Griffith Energy Services at 888-474-3391 for a consultation.

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