May 14, 2021
AC System in San Antonio, Texas

Looking for a new air conditioning system for your home is exciting, but the amount of information that you need to make an informed decision can be overwhelming. One of the most common topics that stump homeowners in the San Antonio area is British thermal units (BTUs). You will see this measurement on every cooling system that you review, so you should have a basic understanding of the metric and how it should guide your buying decision.

1. What is a BTU?

A BTU is a way of measuring the heat that may seem contradictory to the process of cooling air. However, one BTU equals the amount of heat that is needed to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one Fahrenheit degree. When you see an air conditioning system with a certain number of BTUs, this tells you how much heat can be removed, and translates to the unit’s level of cooling capacity in terms of energy. One BTU is equal to the amount of heat, or energy, that is produced by a burning match.

2. Why Are BTUs Used for Air Conditioning?

Despite the name, BTUs are a standard unit of measurement in the United States to indicate how much energy is generated by a piece of equipment. In the realm of residential air conditioners, BTUs are used as one of several metrics to find the right size air conditioner for your home. You can calculate the ideal number of BTUs yourself, or you can speak with an expert from Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating. We can send a technician to your home to perform an evaluation.

3. How Are BTUs Used for AC Systems?

Calculating the right number of BTUs for your new AC system is based on the size of your home, rate of heat loss or gain, lifestyle, and other considerations. What you want to determine is the number of BTUs per hour that you need to maintain a comfortable temperature during a typical summer in San Antonio. BTUs per hour are used in conjunction with tons, and one ton equals 12,000 BTUs. Therefore, a three-ton AC system produces an average of 36,000 BTUs. In the world of HVAC systems, tons do not mean weight, so you do not have to set aside a large portion of your yard for a huge AC system if you need 36,000 BTUs. Tons refer to a measurement of how many BTUs per hour are needed to produce one ton of ice.

4. How Do You Calculate BTUs for a Home?

To calculate the number of BTUs for your home, you need the following information:

  • Celling height (use an average if you have vaulted ceilings)
  • Number of people living in your home
  • Amount of sun exposure
  • Usable square feet (exclude garages, closets, and other spaces that are not cooled)
  • Quality of insulation
  • Type of climate

You can find online calculators to help you with math, but these tools are not always accurate. If you need help, give us a call. One of our experts will walk you through the calculation.

5. Why Is It Important to Know BTUs?

Knowing the number of BTUs that you need for your San Antonio home air conditioning system helps you in two ways. First, you maximize your budget by making sure that your cooling needs are met for many years to come. Second, BTUs are part of the calculation for understanding the cost of operation, thereby, understanding how soon you can see a return on your investment.

6. Should I Choose as Many BTUs as I Can Afford??

We speak with many homeowners in San Antonio and surrounding areas who simply bought the AC unit that had the most BTUs within their budgets. Unfortunately, this does not always work out as expected. In some cases, homeowners found that their new system did not put out enough BTUs to cool their home during the summer for their optimal comfort level. In other cases, homeowners found that they bought too much equipment and could have spent less on upfront costs. The best approach is to determine how many BTUs you need and then work within your budget. We also encourage you to consider the monthly savings in energy use, as well as your budget for buying the unit.

7. What If You Choose the Wrong Number of BTUs?

Choosing an air conditioning unit that does not have the proper number of BTUs, either too low or too high, will cost you money at some point. You will either spend too much now or more than you need to spend each month on utilities. Another consideration is that your current HVAC setup may not accommodate a unit that can produce enough airflow and cooling. This leads to abnormal wear and tear, as well as unnecessary repairs. HVAC systems that are not properly sized for space also tend to need more maintenance.

8. Is There a Way to Increase AC BTUs?

There is no way to make your current air conditioner produce more BTUs. If your goal is to save money on cooling costs, we can help you find options such as a programmable thermostat or converting to a zone system. If your home is not cool enough or you have hot spots, we can help with that, too.

9. Do High BTU AC Units Use More Energy?

When it comes to energy efficiency, you need to look for other information about your AC model, specifically the energy efficiency rating (EER). EER is a ratio of BTUs to power in watts. Higher EER means less energy consumption, and it is possible to find units with high BTUs and EER. The best approach is to find a good balance between BTUs, EER, and your upfront cost.

10. What Else Should You Consider for a New AC Unit?

At Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating, we understand that a new AC unit for your San Antonio home is a large investment, and we want to help you feel confident and comfortable in your decision. There are other factors that should be considered when buying a cooling system. Please give us a call and we will guide you through the process. We can also schedule a time for one of our technicians to come to your home and perform an energy audit. The energy audit report gives you key insights about heat loss in your home that may be costing you money. Our technician will give you detailed information so you can make an informed decision about your buying a new AC unit.

AC Experts for Your Home

If you are looking for a new air conditioner for your home or want to know how you can reduce energy consumption, give us a call. Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating is a family-owned HVAC company that offers installations, repairs, and maintenance, including 24/7 emergency repairs for your heating and cooling units. We are here to help you and your family stay comfortable this summer. Call us today to learn more and be sure to ask about our indoor air quality services.

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