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BTU is a word often thrown in by heating and cooling contractors during new construction work, renovations, or HVAC upgrades. Homeowners must be familiar with this technical term because it equates to the capacity of the HVAC unit and its corresponding cost.

What is BTU?

The acronym BTU is defined as British Thermal Unit and is a way to measure energy. Specifically, it is used to determine the energy that an HVAC unit can deliver, and how much is its cooling capacity. It basically serves as a guide for contractors and homeowners on which air conditioning or heating unit to buy given the area that they want to warm or cool.

One BTU equates to the amount of energy needed to heat a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Lately, joules are being used as an alternative to BTU for other measurement applications, however when it comes to heating and cooling.

How is BTU used in heating and cooling appliances?

For heat pumps and furnaces, BTU relates to how much heat the heat pump and furnace can produce. The higher the BTU number, the higher the amount of heat it can produce. BTUs for air conditioners on the other hand however have a slightly different application. For ACs, BTUs refers to the amount of heat it can eliminate from the indoor environment. So the higher the BTU number, the wider the place an AC can cool.

Usually, whole-house heat pumps or air conditioners have 60,000 to 80,000 BTUs. The larger the living area, the higher the BTU is recommended since getting something lower than capacity could not deliver comfortably cool air. So, when buying ACs, it is best to use BTUs to compare the costs of similar units.

How to determine the amount of BTU needed?

Several factors could help determine how much BTU a certain house or establishment requires to cool or heat its indoor space. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach since every home and household is different, and so are offices and commercial establishments. Higher BTU units will require a larger ac condensate drain line for proper drainage, something to keep in mind.

Here are some of the factors that determine the appropriate amount of BTU:

  • Size of the house
  • The quality and the type of insulation used in the house
  • The size and type of the windows
  • The location of the house
  • Height of the ceiling

The best way to determine how much BTU a home will need is by seeking a professional assessment from a licensed HVAC Contractor. Also, keep in mind that BTU mainly shows the heating or cooling capacity of the equipment. It does not reflect energy efficiency. When trying to compare how efficient a furnace is in heating the home, refer to the AFUE or the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency measurement. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the unit is in dispensing energy.

As for ac condenser cost and air conditioner cost and heat pumps, energy efficiency is determined through the SEER. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER figure, the more efficient the AC or heat pump is in utilizing energy. Here in the United States, all newly manufactured air conditioners and heat pumps must have at least a 13.0 SEER rating. Fortunately for consumers, some products have higher ratings than this as some even reach about 21.0.     

Get in touch with us at Reliable Standard Heating, Air, & Solar to ensure the right size and capacity of heat pump, AC, or furnace for your home. Call us today.

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