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Why Are Air Conditioners Measured In Tons?

Why Are Air Conditioners Measured In Tons?

As anyone who has ever installed an air conditioner can attest to, AC units can be bulky, awkward, and very heavy – but they certainly don’t weigh tons. Nevertheless, air conditioners are sold by the “ton,” and if you don’t know how many tons you need, you can end up with an undersized or oversized unit, both of which will leave your home uncomfortable and which may decrease the unit’s efficiency and lifespan, costing you hundreds of dollars over the life of the unit.

But if not a reference to weight, to what do these “tons” refer and how can you determine what size unit you need?

The History of the “Ton”

Air Conditioners Measured In Tons | Kingwood Air RepairAir conditioners are sold by the “ton.” You may hear them referred to as “one-ton” or “five-ton” units, all the way up to 100-ton commercial behemoths. However, “ton” in such a context is not a reference to its weight, but to its cooling capacity.

This odd use of a measurement of weight harkens back to the days before air conditioners when ice was used to cool rooms. Big blocks of ice were sold off wagons by the pound and used to pull heat out of the air. When hot air would come into contact with the ice blocks, it would do exactly as physics demanded – it would transfer some of its energy to the ice, resulting in cooler air and slightly melted ice. The amount of energy needed to melt one pound of ice completely was approximately 144 British Thermal Units (BTUs), which meant that one ton of ice (2,000 lbs) would pull 288,000 BTUs out of the air.

To make life convenient, someone along the way decided to use one day (24 hours) as a standard measure of time during which the ice could melt, resulting in 12,000 BTU/hr. The convention stuck, and even today, engineers measure the ability of an air conditioner to cool a building by its equivalent in tons of ice melting over the course of a day.

In short, when talking about air conditioners, 1 ton means the unit can pull 12,000 BTUs of heat out of the air in an hour. A 2-ton unit can pull 24,000 BTUs of heat per hour, and so on. The more tons you have, the more cooling power you receive.

Is Bigger Better?

If larger cooling capacity means that more heat is removed from your home every hour, it logically follows that you can reach a comfortable indoor temperature faster the more capacity you have. But does that mean a larger air conditioner is better? Far from it.

While it is true that an oversized air conditioner will cool your house faster, it’s also a common cause of many other uncomfortable and expensive problems. Most of these problems originate with the unit turning on and off frequently, since it takes so little time to cool the room. These short but frequent bursts of AC are called “short cycles” and do not allow the unit to be active long enough for adequate dehumidification. When this occurs, you feel warmer at any given temperature than you would if the air was at a lower humidity. Not only does this cause many people to turn the thermostat down farther, using more energy, but high humidity levels can also contribute to mold growth, causing health problems and expensive damage to your home.

Air Conditioners Measured In Tons | Kingwood Air RepairShort cycling also uses energy inefficiently, raising your electric bill, and can cause premature damage and wear to the equipment, resulting in more frequent maintenance and a shorter lifespan.

For these reasons, an oversized unit is not a good idea. It’s much better to choose a size hat’s suited to your home and which can keep you comfortable while maintaining a reasonable cycle length.

How to Determine Your Needs

There are a couple ways to determine the actual needs of your home. One way (assuming your last AC contractor installed the correct model) is to look at your existing air conditioner. Find the model number and look for a two or three-digit section containing one of the following numbers:

  • 018
  • 024
  • 030
  • 036
  • 042
  • 048
  • 060

*Note: not all manufacturers construct their serial numbers the same way. When in doubt, contact a certified HVAC contractor

These numbers represent BTUs per hour. 018 means 18,000 BTUs per hour or 1.5 tons; 024 means 24,000 BTUs per hour or 2 tons, etc. Once you know what kind of unit you have, this can give you a baseline for what kind of unit you need.

However, oversized installs are common. The only way to be certain you buy the right size is to perform a complex equation (often using specialized software) taking in to account the square footage of your house, the number of windows and doors, the materials used to make your walls, windows, insulation, roof, and more. A quality HVAC contractor can visit your location and make this calculation for you.

If you’re looking for such a contractor, we can help! Our experienced crews are intimately acquainted with cooling capacity as it relates to the specific needs of your home.

Call us today at (281) 441-4500 to get started.

Houston TX Air Conditioning and Heating by Kingwood Air Repair

For over 20 years, Kingwood Air Repair has worked with homeowners and businesses throughout the Houston TX area to provide top quality air conditioning and heating services. We know how important it is to have a good air conditioning and heating system in your home and business in Texas. Not only are the summers hot and humid, but the winters can be very cold as well. We are proud of our high quality workmanship, and we always aim to exceed your standards. We are dedicated to professional service and to prove it we offer a number of very attractive warranties for our labor, parts, and maintenance. Our expert technicians are highly trained, and we offer a wide range of HVAC services including whole home air filters, dehumidifiers, as well as insulation and duct repair services.

Houston TX Air Conditioning | Kingwood Air Repair

We offer a lifetime warranty on some of our equipment and a 10–year warranty on most of the parts and labor that we do. We are an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau and are available 24/7 for emergency heating and air conditioning repairs. Kingwood Air Repair is the Houston TX air conditioning and heating company that you should call for any services that you need. Contact us today to talk with one of our friendly heating and AC technicians today.

Dial 281-441-4500 now!

Houston TX Air Conditioning

When the extreme heat arrives in Texas, having a good air conditioning system is critical to keeping your home comfortable. If your Houston TX air conditioning system has started to make a new noise or if it isn’t keeping you cool enough call Kingwood Air Repair for air conditioning repair in Houston TX. In certain cases, replacing your air conditioning system might actually make more sense. We can help you pick out a new AC unit that will work well with your home’s size and with your budget. We offer air conditioning installation in Houston, TX for any type or brand of system. We are a Trane Comfort Specialist™ dealer, which means we’ve undergone rigorous testing to ensure our level of professionalism and technological expertise is up to their high standards. Call us today to talk with one of our techs about any AC needs that you might have.

Dial 281-441-4500 now!

Houston TX Heating

Houston TX Heating | Kingwood Air RepairThe winter temperatures here in Texas can vary greatly which means that a good heating system is just as important as a good air conditioning system. At Kingwood Air Repair, we’ve worked with countless customers to help them fix or replace their heating systems. Our technicians are the Houston TX heating repair and installation experts that you can trust with your furnace, heat pump or ductless mini split systems. Whether your old furnace needs to be replaced or you need a brand new system for your new home, our expert technicians can help. Give us a call today to speak with us about how we can help keep your home warm.

Dial 281-441-4500 now!

Houston TX Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality | Kingwood Air RepairThese days, homes are built airtight in an effort to increase the efficiency of the home. However, this can keep fresh air outside from entering your home and allow air contaminants to build–up in the air. Whole home air filters, dehumidifiers and UV light systems are all products designed to remove or destroy indoor air pollutants. At Kingwood Air Repair, we provide excellent indoor air quality installation and repair. We also offer duct sealing and duct repair in Houston TX for homes of all sizes.

Houston TX Commercial HVAC

Houston TX Commercial HVAC | Kingwood Air RepairWhen your customers, clients, or employees come into your business, they expect the air conditioning and heating systems to provide comfort. But if they’re sweating or shivering inside, they may not come back. At Kingwood Air Repair, we’ve serviced restaurants, office buildings, salons and many other businesses with quality Houston TX commercial HVAC repair and installation. Whether you hear a strange noise from your furnace or your commercial AC unit doesn’t turn on, call Kingwood Air Repair today!

The Houston air conditioning experts at Kingwood Air Repair offer quality repair, installation and other heating and cooling services throughout the North Houston area including Spring, TX and Katy, TX.

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