You want to make sure that your air conditioner keeps you cool, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Many homeowners quickly come to realize that merely owning an air conditioner isn’t enough. They also have to make sure that their AC is well-maintained so that it will run efficiently over prolonged periods of time and perform cost-effectively. Additionally, it is important to choose the right kind of air conditioner for your needs. Doing so means more than merely taking into account your budget and preferences. In fact, you must consider the space and climate you live in as well—or have a professional do it. In California, air conditioning installation requires licensed professionals who understand how to consider these factors when providing a new air conditioner for any home.
When you set out to determine what kind of air conditioner you will need for your home, you will likely hear the term “sizing” mentioned repeatedly. This might lead you to believe that the literal size of the air conditioner is the most principal factor to consider, when in fact that is not necessarily true. Sizing does not refer to the physical dimensions of a given AC unit. Instead, the word “sizing” is used to reference the cooling capacity that a given air conditioning system can offer. Understanding how to match an AC’s cooling capacity to a given space can allow the installer to put in a unit that will be energy-efficient and provide consistently satisfying results.
How Do You Measure Cooling Capacity?
Cooling capacity in the United States is measured in Btu, which stands for British thermal units. The term has existed since late in the 19th century when it was first coined by British scientists working on thermodynamics. British thermal units are no longer used through most of Europe, having fallen out of favor while joules became more commonly used. Both measurements represent a certain amount of energy, with Btu being explicitly used to measure the energy spent in the heating and cooling process.
One Btu is equal to approximately 1055.06 joules. This is roughly the energy required to raise a single pound of liquid water by a single degree Fahrenheit. Owing to discrepancies in the density of the water in question, this method is no longer used to calculate Btu. Still, the example provides a clear indication of how Btu can be represented in a physical form.
How do Btu Relate to Air Conditioner Usage?
Today, Btu are still used widely throughout the United States when people are shopping for air conditioners. Every HVAC comes with a Btu rating that lists a certain number of Btu/hr. This ratio is the cooling capacity of the AC (or the heating capacity when used for furnaces).
Generally speaking, the more Btu/hr a unit is rated for, the more cooling power it has. You might think that means you should just purchase the AC with the biggest Btu/hr rating you can find, but you would be wrong. Buying a California air conditioner with too much power can be just as bad as buying one that does not have enough power. Here’s why:
An AC with too much cooling capacity will cool your space too quickly. When it does, it will turn off until the space heats up again. At this point, it will turn back on. When this happens in quick succession, it is known as short cycling. Short cycling will wear out the parts in your air conditioner prematurely and ultimately result in you having to spring for repairs sooner than you would need to otherwise. It is also less energy efficient than allowing an air conditioner with the proper cooling capacity to run steadily.
An AC with not enough cooling capacity will struggle to cool the space at all. As such, it will consume more power than it needs by overworking itself, and your utility costs will rise. This can also put a strain on sensitive parts such as your compressor, resulting in sudden breakdowns and requiring expensive emergency service.
Don’t be Afraid to Call for Help with Your California Air Conditioning
Your best course of action is to call a licensed air conditioning professional to help you choose and install an air conditioner with the right cooling capacity for your home. Licensed contractors will perform a series of calculations designed to determine exactly what Btu/hr your home needs, taking into account factors such as:
- The square footage of your house
- The number of windows
- The number of people who regularly inhabit the building
- The type and amount of insulation you have
- The environment where your home is located… and more.
These calculations can be difficult, and it isn’t recommended that homeowners without significant HVAC experience attempt them on their own. If you are curious to learn more, make sure to reach out to a professional who can provide you with additional details.