When people ask “how to size an air conditioner,” it doesn’t involve the physical dimensions of the unit itself. You need to measure the cooling capacity the system is capable of producing as well.
While different-sized units may look identical on the outside, they may have very different capabilities when it comes to cooling your space efficiently. While choosing the most oversized AC you can get is tempting, a bigger one isn’t always the best. So how can you find out the capacity you need? We’ll walk you through it.
Why is it Important to Get the Right Size?
There are several reasons why choosing the right sized AC is so essential. First of all, an AC that’s too small will constantly run to keep it cool. It can be both unpleasant and expensive in the long term. It is uncomfortable because it means you’re living in a house with no relief from the sweltering heat outside. After all, constantly running the unit uses more electricity than usual.
Secondly, if your air conditioner is too big for the room, it may be unable to remove excess humidity from inside. It causes condensation to form on windows or visible areas within the home itself. While this isn’t dangerous in itself, it can lead to severe damage when not dealt with properly.
And finally, you want your air conditioner to provide you with all the benefits that it should. If your unit is already struggling to keep your room cool, it cannot operate at maximum capacity by filtering out pollutants or making the air more breathable.
What Factors Affect the Size of Your Air Conditioner?
There are several factors to take into consideration when trying to determine the right-sized air conditioner for your room, including:
Room size: The larger the room, the bigger your air conditioner needs to be. Consider the length, width, and ceiling height. A space with high ceilings needs more energy to cool.
Temperature: Obviously, how hot it is outside affects how quickly and efficiently your air conditioner will operate. An AC will typically use less energy when there’s either a low or high temperature outside because there’s less work to do.
The number of occupants: The more people in your home, the bigger your air conditioner needs to be. Personal comfort is essential in a home, and having enough space between you and your neighbour can make or break whether an AC feels like it’s giving you breathing room.
The number of windows: In some cases, the number of windows in a room may play a role in determining the cooling capacity required. Rooms with many windows can lose a considerable amount of heat from light shining through them. This factor makes it necessary for the AC unit to compensate by working harder than average to keep up.
Windows affect how much airflow you get through your unit. That’s why you’ll notice that some AC units are made specifically for windows, and others aren’t. The more open space there is around your window, the better.
Insulation: If you have insulation inside your walls, this will also play a role in the amount of energy it takes to cool your home. Rooms with low levels of insulation may require more units or units that are bigger than usual.
The indoor environment: If many people live inside who generate extra heat or rarely move about, this can cause problems too because constantly running during peak times will wear out your unit quickly. So consider where everyone is at different times of day when choosing your AC system size.
How to Find Out the Right Cooling Capacity?
The best way to determine the amount of cooling capacity you need is to plug everything into an energy calculator. It will give you a rough estimate on what size unit you’ll need, but keep in mind that this isn’t gospel. Different brands have different ratings and estimations, so take all of them with a grain of salt.
The most accurate way to know what size system is right for your home is to have a professional come out and do a load calculation to see how much work it will be for the AC to maintain the temperature levels in your home.
As a general rule-of-thumb, you can add together all sources of heat gain, including appliances, people, lights, etc., then add about 25% extra for the work it will take your AC to compensate.
If you don’t want to go through all of that, you can also estimate based on the consumed BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour of operation. A typical window unit for a small room is around 10,000 BTUs per hour, while central air conditioning units vary between .5 and 5 tons.
A .5 ton system uses about 12,500 BTUs/hr, which would require almost 2 of these units to keep up with an open concept dining/living room space where heat gain from appliances is at high levels during peak periods.
While the average home only needs about 8,000-12,000BTU/hr, having at least three such units would probably be enough to keep your home comfortable. You can never have too much or too little of a good thing when it comes to cooling capacity!
How HVAC Professionals Help Figure Out The Right AC Size?
If you want to keep your house comfortable and not spend more than necessary on your AC unit, then the best thing you can do is hire a professional HVAC technician.
An HVAC tech will assess your home, look at the amount of insulation in the walls and ceiling, see how many windows there are in each room, check for rooms that have been locked up or abandoned, etc., all to get a good idea of how much work each unit needs to perform to make everyone happy.
Technicians can also add or remove return ducts from particular areas when they see problems with airflow from one part of a house to another. It goes back to what we said earlier about insulating your air handler so that the airflow is as even and strong as possible.
When HVAC companies give you an estimate on what size unit you’ll need, don’t immediately dismiss any units more extensive than the ones they suggest. A good technician will say, “this is likely enough” or “this should do for now.” It means that having a unit this big or bigger might be necessary. It’s because there are factors unique to your particular living space that aren’t in the calculations.
How to Size an Air Conditioner – Conclusion
The short answer to the question “how to size an air conditioner?” depends on a lot of factors. If you keep these tips in mind, then sizing your air conditioner should be easy because your unit will have to do much less work to maintain an optimal temperature.