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What Does “Tonnage” Mean for an Air Conditioner?

outdoor-condenser-units-ACThe world of HVAC has a set of terms that often sound bizarre to people who aren’t professionally trained. This is true of any technical field, and part of our job is breaking down details of air conditioning, heating, and ventilation in ways that make sense to laypeople. We want to maintain good communications with our customers and keep them informed every step of the way.

One bit of HVAC lingo that people find hard to understand is tonnage. This is a vital part of new air conditioning installation and replacement. Although you can always trust to our experts to do the best job of air conditioning installation so you end up with the ideal new AC, we’d like to share a bit about what tonnage means and how it fits into the installation process.

Tonnage Is Cooling Power—Not the Weight of the System!

Tonnage is a confusing word because it sounds like a measure of the weight of an air conditioner. But it isn’t at all! Tonnage is actually a measure of how powerful an AC is at cooling down a space. Tons are units of cooling power, so when we say that a system is a “two ton” or “five ton” unit, we’re indicating how powerful it is, not its weight.

One ton = 12,000 BTUs of heat removed per hour from a space. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, which is a measure of heat similar to a calorie: it’s the amount of heat necessary to change the temperature of a specific amount of water by one degree Fahrenheit. This is something to keep in mind: an air conditioner provides a house with cooling by removing heat from it. This is why units of heat are used to measure how powerful an air conditioning system is at providing cooling.

Why is 12,000 BTUs called a ­ton? The reason is that this is the amount of heat necessary to melt a one-ton block of ice. If your home uses a 2-ton air conditioner, it removes enough heat from your house per hour to melt two tons of ice.

HVAC Experts Must Determine Tonnage

The average residential air conditioning system is between 1.5 and 5 tons. To find the right tonnage air conditioner to provide sufficient cooling, the air conditioner must be sized by professionals. It’s easy to make the mistake of believing the more powerful an AC, the better. But you don’t want a 5-ton air conditioner if your home only requires 2 tons of cooling per hour. An oversized AC will drop the temperature too rapidly, causing the compressor to shut down early and restart a short time later. This “short-cycling” creates massive energy drain and an early replacement for the system. It also leads to poor humidity control, something that’s essential in a place as humid as Shreveport.

When you arrange with our technicians for an air conditioning replacement in Shreveport, LA or the surrounding areas, we’ll carefully size your AC to ensure it has the correct tonnage: not too small, not to big, but just right. (It turns out Goldilocks was on to something! Maybe she should’ve trained as an HVAC installer with us rather than wandering into the homes of strange mammals.)

Call the Doctor of Home Comfort: Hall’s Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration

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