When you are on the lookout for HVAC systems, whether you want to replace your current unit or if you are dealing with an HVAC professional, you may most likely encounter some terminologies, insider lingo, and jargon as you look into things like heat pumps, air conditioners, and furnaces. And one of these terms that will most likely come up is the acronym BTU. Before thinking that your HVAC maintenance personnel may be fooling you for sliding in a name of a Korean music group, be rest assured that BTU is a legitimate term used in the HVAC world. Once you understand what BTUs are and what their significance is to your HVAC system (particularly if you’re dealing with a replacement), you will get a better appreciation of the inner working of your HVAC systems and the factors that result in your home or business getting heated and cooled by your HVAC equipment.
So, get ready to know more about what BTU is and its significance to both a new AC installation in Pearland, and to your current HVAC system.
What is a BTU?
To start off, let us know what the acronym BTU stands for. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and to put it simply, it is a unit of measurement of heat energy. BTU represents an amount of heat that should either be taken away or added to your indoor space so that cooling or heating is produced, respectively. Technically speaking, one BTU is equal to the amount of heat it would take to increase the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Still confused? Think of BTU as something similar to a calorie. A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. So, a calorie’s effect on our bodies is the same as a BTU’s effect on our HVAC system. As with calories as well, one calorie doesn’t really matter much, practically (unless you’re some fitness obsessed nerd who counts every single calorie in the food you consume). So, we usually measure calories by the hundreds or thousands, and that is the same with BTUs. A conventional furnace, for example, will be rated from 80,000 or 100,000 BTUs. With that measurement, BTUs significantly indicate the performance level of an HVAC system.
Instead of heating, air conditioners remove heat from the air and circulates cool air back in. BTUs still work as a form of measurement in this case. Instead of measuring the amount of heat added to the air in your home, however, they measure how much heat is removed. Just like with heaters, the higher the BTU rating of an air conditioner, the more powerful it is.
So, Does Higher BTU = Efficiency?
A heating and cooling equipment’s BTU rating is an indication of how much energy an equipment uses to either produce heat, when we’re referring to a furnace or remove heat, when we’re referring to an AC unit. BTU is also a measurement of how much of the heat the equipment produces actually makes it into your indoor space via your ductwork. Thus, for example, a gas furnace with a 100,000 BTU input rating uses 100,000 BTU of energy per hour. This BTU rating is affected by the furnace’s overall efficiency, which is expressed by its AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating. If this furnace has a 90 AFUE, it means that 90 percent of the input will be converted by the furnace into usable heat or 90,000 BTUs and only 10% (or 10,000 BTUs) will be lost or go to exhaust.
Basically, as a consumer this means that the more BTUs you use, the more energy is consumed and the more it costs on your bill. By comparing BTU ratings, we can buy efficient products that can do the same job but “waste” fewer BTU.
Finally, Does Size Matter?
BTUs are usually directly related to a heating and cooling equipment’s size. Well, not necessarily the physical dimensions of the system but ore about its cooling or heating capacity. If you use a system that has a higher BTU rating than what is recommended for your space, the unit will be straining too hard, as it will cycle on and off a lot when it already senses that it has already cooled or heated the space entirely but it has not yet been turned off; thus, it will wear itself out eventually. On the other hand, if you use HVAC equipment with lower-than-recommended BTU ratings, you will not be satisfied with the heating or cooling capacity it produces, so you will also eventually want a replacement for it since you will think that your system is not working properly.
Of course, a room’s environment doesn’t just depend upon square footage. In some cases there might be environmental issues to be aware of. For example, in very sunny rooms, you should increase the necessary capacity of an air conditioner by 10 percent. For very shady rooms, decrease it by 10 percent.
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