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BTU: What Does It Mean For You and Your Air Conditioner?

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If you're shopping for a new air conditioner, you should come across the acronym BTU.

BTU is short for British Thermal Unit, a unit of measurement that shows how much energy your air conditioner uses to remove heat from your home within an hour. BTU is an important metric that helps you determine the kind of air conditioner you need for a home your size.

Paying attention to BTU rating is crucial for your comfort! If your system doesn’t have enough energy to cool your home, you're going to left with hot spots, poor air flow, and higher electricity bills.

Why BTU Matters

We've already learned that air conditioners remove heat and transfer it outside while sending excess moisture down the drain. Using a system of coils and fans, they replace that hot and humid air with cooler air that travels throughout your home via ductwork.

When we talk about air conditioners removing heat from your home, it’s the same as saying that they’re moving energy. BTU tells you how much energy your air conditioner is using to do all that. So, if you see that your air conditioner has 12,000 BTUs, that means it’s absorbing 12,000 British Thermal Units of heat each hour and moving it outside so your environment inside feels better.

BTUs measure both heat loss and heat gain, which is why we apply that metric to your air conditioner’s performance.

But you don’t need to be an HVAC technician to understand BTUs for your space. Understanding what the rating means is especially useful if you want to avoid the drawbacks of buying an air conditioner that doesn’t provide the exact kind of comfort you want. Here’s why:

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Getting an air conditioner with too many BTUs for a home your size can raise your energy costs. Your air conditioner will run for a shorter period of time and waste more energy doing what it’s built to do. An air conditioner with BTUs that exceed the recommended square footage in your home may also take on more wear and tear over time because it will initiate its on/off cycle more frequently. It could also create a subpar cooling experience because your AC’s compressor may turn off much sooner than it should. So, instead of your AC removing an adequate amount of heat from your home, it leaves some behind, creating a hot, sticky, humid environment you probably won’t enjoy in North Florida's mid-summer heat-wave!

Getting an air conditioner with too few BTUs for a home your size isn’t much better. Your air conditioner may never stop running because it’s trying to reach a temperature in a large space that it just doesn’t have the capacity to cool. It may never sufficiently cool all your home, creating uneven temperatures across your house. And it could cost you more in energy bills because your AC’s expending extra energy to do what you tell it to do via your thermostat.

So, what does all this mean for your AC?

BTUs are an essential part of identifying the air conditioner that will best fit your needs, plus can help determine if you should repair or replace your current system. Ultimately, your goal should be to find an energy-efficient system that adequately cools your space while helping you save on energy costs. If you have any questions, contact us and we will beam over a Comfort Guardian to help you find the right solution!

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