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How To Know What Central Air Conditioner Size You Need

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It’s easy to become overwhelmed when searching online for new central air conditioning. There are so many possibilities! You’ve definitely heard that the size of your air conditioner matters (and that bigger isn’t always better), but what does that really mean?

Here’s a guide on correctly measuring your new central air conditioner to clear things up.

Size Your Central Air Conditioner Correctly

How To Know What Central Air Conditioner Size You Need

The size of an air conditioner is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). The bigger the cooling capability, the higher the BTU number.

As a general rule, you’ll need about 20 BTU of cooling per square foot of space. A 1,500-square-foot home, for example, will require around 30,000 BTU.

But don’t try to figure out the size of your air conditioner on your own; there are far too many variables to consider. Instead, have a trustworthy, professional HVAC expert calculate your BTU requirements using a recognized standard like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual J.

The Issues with Undersized Central Air Conditioning

Are you going to replace an air conditioner that is more than 10-15 years old, or one that was sized wrongly at the start? Get a professional examination of your home’s current cooling demands because today’s AC equipment is considerably more efficient and modern than it was just a few years ago.

An overly large cooling system is just as hazardous as one that is undersized. Neither will give you and your family the amount of home comfort you desire… and you’ll have other issues as well.

1. Your Home Will Never Be Cool Enough

How To Know What Central Air Conditioner Size You Need

Central air conditioning that is undersized is obviously a concern. Even if the air conditioner is turned on all the time, it won’t be able to adequately cool your home.

Oversized central air is also inconvenient. Surprised? Don’t be. A huge air conditioner will cycle on and off frequently without sufficiently cooling the house. Furthermore, it will not run long enough to adequately dehumidify. You’ll feel much hotter inside with the humid, sticky air.

2. Your AC Will Require More Repairs

How To Know What Central Air Conditioner Size You Need

When your air conditioner is undersized, it will run constantly as it tries to pump out enough cool air for your entire home. This leads to a lot of wear and tear. Stop-start action is difficult on your cooling system when an enormous air conditioner is forced to short cycle.

What is the outcome? You’ll have to deal with more repairs and two headaches:

  • expenses for repairs that keep piling up


  • downtime at your home without working air conditioning

You’ll have to decide whether to repair or replace your air conditioner at some point.

3. Operating Costs Will Rise Dramatically

Insufficient air conditioning will not only cost you a lot in HVAC repair bills. It will also use a fraction of the energy it should. Your monthly utility bills will increase as a result. Unfortunately, there is no practical remedy to this problem other than replacing your air conditioner with one that is the suitable size for your home.

4. Your Air Conditioner Will Not Last As Long As it Should

A properly sized and maintained air conditioner should provide you with at least 10-15 years of reliable operation. However, air conditioning that is either too tiny or too huge will be unable to meet the increased demand.

As a result, its useful life will be cut short, and you’ll need to start looking for a replacement air conditioner much sooner than you anticipated. This unexpected expense can put a strain on your finances.

Determine Your Air Conditioning Size

Get it right this time. Consult a professional before purchasing or installing a new central air conditioner. Consult an HVAC specialist who will consider the following factors:

1. The Dimensions and Layout of Your Home

How To Know What Central Air Conditioner Size You Need

The square footage of your home and the number of stories are the initial factors in determining the size of your central air conditioner. Multi-zoned air conditioning may be the most convenient option depending on your layout, as it allows you to fine-tune your temperature control.

2. Window Placement and Landscaping

Your home’s cooling requirements are influenced by window placement, size, and number. For example, in the summer, a structure with numerous large south-facing windows will naturally become hotter. The shade provided by landscaping in the form of trees and shrubs surrounding the home, on the other hand, will help to keep the interior cool.

3. Insulation and Ductwork

The condition of the ducting and insulation installed in your home will be examined next. If both of these are sufficient, you’ve already made strides toward energy efficiency.

4. Climate

Last but not least, we’ll take into account the weather. It is critical to have central air conditioning that can cope with extreme humidity. Keep in mind that the prospect of warm summer weather is what keeps us going during our long winters… so make the most of it!

How To Know What Central Air Conditioner Size You Need

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Written by HVAC Contributor

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