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Heating & Air Conditioning

Central air: What sized unit is right for my home?

Getting a central air conditioning system might feel like a big decision, but as summer temperatures rise and heat waves sweep the globe, it’s becoming more and more of a necessity. 

If you’ve finally decided that now is the time for central air conditioning, or you’re looking to replace an aging unit, you likely have lots of questions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many options on the market! Our team at Whyte Ridge is expertly trained and knowledgeable about Napoleon’s quality and Canadian-made products. 

We’ll start by helping you figure out what size unit you need for your home. This will depend on a variety of factors, and it’s crucial that you make the right decision. If not, you risk spending your money on a unit that won’t cool your space efficiently and can even contribute to higher energy bills. 

Before you dive into deciding what air conditioner unit size you need, it’s important to understand how their power is measured. Buckle up, things are about to get a little math-heavy. 

Figuring out what size you need

An air conditioner’s cooling capacity is measured by something known as British Thermal Units (BTU). The more BTUs a cooling system has, the more it can cool. The general guidelines are that a cooling system should have 20 BTUs for each square foot space of living area that needs cooling. Still with us? Ok good.

Standard residential cooling units range from 18,000 (1.5 tons) to 60,000 (5 tons) BTUs. So, let’s say you have a 2000 square foot home. You would need a 3 ton AC unit with 36,000 BTUs. 

If your home is even larger (above 3300 or so square feet), it’s best to consult with your HVAC provider directly to determine how to save energy and money on a powerful AC unit.

What other factors are important?

First, consider the size and layout of your home. We’ve already mentioned that size matters, and that the bigger your home, the larger your AC unit needs to be. However, you also need to take into account how many stories your home has. A home that has multiple levels may require a different cooling solution that offers powerful cooling for multiple zones.

If you’re between two air conditioner sizes, what way should you sway? This will depend on some of the external and internal factors your home faces.

One consideration is your windows and landscaping. Is your home surrounded by trees or generally covered by shade during hot summer days? If yes, you can get away with a machine that is a little smaller. The shade will help to protect your home from heat and sunlight that could result in warmer indoor temperatures. 

On the other hand, if your home isn’t shaded or has large windows that face towards the sun, this can lead to more heat entering your home. If this is the case, you may want to opt for a slightly larger air conditioning unit. 

Another consideration is the age of your home. Older homes were built to keep heat in during the harsh Canadian winters. Because of this, you may notice your older home retaining more heat than newer homes. Ask your HVAC specialist what air conditioning unit size you need and what you can do to keep your home cool. 

Why does size matter?

Installing the wrong sized unit will likely leave you disappointed. Here’s why it matters so much to get it right: 

Your house won’t get cool enough

If you choose the wrong air conditioning unit, your home won’t be properly cooled, and the whole installation process will have been for nothing. AC units that are too small will be forced to run constantly, and are still unlikely to improve the comfort level significantly inside your home. 

If the unit is too large, it’ll cycle through on/off settings too frequently as the ideal temperature is reached too quickly. This can result in uneven cooling and too much humidity indoors. 

Your operating costs will go up

When your air conditioning is improperly sized, your energy bill will go up. This is because, whether it’s too small or too large, the wrong AC unit will use more energy to cool your home.

Your AC unit will need more frequent repairs

Constant running and going through start-stop cycles puts stress on your air conditioning unit. This can mean more frequent breakdowns and the need to repair your air conditioner more often. Not only will this leave you stranded without cooling, but it also means more costly bills. In addition, you might find yourself replacing it sooner than necessary. 

We know it gets pretty technical, but choosing the right sized air conditioner is vital for getting the effect you want, without excessive bills and frequent repairs. Let us do the math for you! Our reliable HVAC specialists at Whyte Ridge can determine what size unit is best for you, keeping you and your family cool this summer!