Before home technology was as innovative and capable as it is today, houses were built on the concept that more was better. Construction teams would install the largest and most powerful air conditioners to ensure that homeowners would never be left without enough oomph to cover their heating and cooling needs. Yet this has left many households pinching pennies just to afford these energy-hungry appliances, entirely defeating their ultimate purpose. Nowadays, advances in home capabilities have given us a much more accurate picture of how to regulate temperature. All that’s necessary for proper sizing of your AC unit is the amount in BTUs your home demands.
What is a BTU, and how can I use it to select the right AC system for my home?
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, and in a nutshell, it is a measurement of energy. The higher the BTU, the more heated or cool air your unit will produce. Therefore, larger homes require higher BTUs to achieve optimum temperature. Now all that’s left to uncover is the amount of BTUs your home requires.
Calculating my home’s BTU needs:
For an average sized home, a typical cooling load falls somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 BTUs. However, many other factors can influence the energy requirements, including quality of insulation, the location of your home, and type of windows. The general formula for determining a home’s cooling load is the amount in BTUs per hour and cubic feet per minute of airflow to maintain a 78-degree temperature in the house.
If this calculation is beyond your capabilities or knowledge, don’t worry! There are simpler ways of finding the right system.
Inspect your unit:
Start by knowing your baseline, i.e. how much power you already have. By establishing a reference point, you can begin to develop a sense of whether you need to go over or under this number to find the right fit. Additionally, if your unit once performed well but is no longer making the grade due to malfunction, inspecting your unit for its serial number and manufacturer is the first step to replacing it.
Ask your neighbors:
Depending on where you’re located, homes in the same neighborhood tend to be relatively similar in size and layout. This means the heating and cooling needs should be about the same. Consult with your neighbors to get a sense of your local average, then make adjustments for the specifics of your home, including your insulation, layout, and windows.
With just a few key pieces of information (square footage, number of windows), there are a number of online calculators that are fairly accurate in their determination of your home’s BTU requirements. You can find manufacturer-specific or more general online tools to give you a general idea of your home’s energy needs.
Manual J Calculator:
The fool-proof way of finding the perfect AC is with a tool called the Manual J calculator, a piece of software developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America to calculate the exact cooling load of our home. This program gets incredibly specific, analyzing the exact airflow room by room and the types of appliances to determine your home’s exact energy profile. However, this tool is typically reserved for technicians due to its complexity and necessary training, so a home visit from your technician is necessary.
Finding the right AC system for your home may seem like a logistical or a technical headache, but we can assure you, with these simple steps, you are already well on your way to making the right choice. We are happy to answer any questions or schedule a free diagnostic exam of your unit. Just give us a call at (949) 245-6320.