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BTU – What it Means and Everything You Need to Know About it

Just like any other industry, the HVAC industry makes use of a range of acronyms and other terminology that may be hard for the layperson to understand. However, understanding the industry specific jargon means that you, as a consumer, can make informed decisions.

In this article, we will be sharing some information about BTU – an acronym commonly used in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry and which is important to understand when you are in the process of purchasing and installing an HVAC system in your building.

what is a BTU

What is BTU?

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit which is a unit of measurement that serves to show exactly how much energy your air-conditioning system uses every hour to remove heat from a building.

Before you brush BTU off as too technical to be concerned about, understanding it will help you make sure that you install the right kind of air-conditioning system in your building. Without taking BTU into consideration when purchasing and installing a cooling system may result in you spending far too much on energy bills, or worse, your building will not be adequately cooled.

How Does BTU Apply to Cooling Systems?

Air conditioners come with a BTU rating stipulated by the manufacturer and this rating describes how powerful the unit is.

As we mentioned previously, BTU is used to measure the amount of energy need to heat water, but when it comes to cooling, how is it applied?

Well, as we know, although air conditioners have the ability to heat a room or building, their main function is to cool, and they do this by removing hot air from the building and replacing it with cool air. Therefore, BTUs can be used to measure how much heat is removed instead of how much heat is added. The same concept applies, just in reverse. Furthermore, the higher the BTU rating of an air conditioner, the more powerful the system is.

How Many BTUs Do You Need?

Choosing an air-conditioning system that is the right size for its application is absolutely crucial and this can be done by checking the BTU rating of the system you are interested in.

The following are all factors to consider when determining the right BTU rating for your building:

  • The square footage of the building
  • The height of your ceilings
  • Location of the building
  • The local climate
  • Floor plan (is the building open plan or one with enclosed rooms and spaces?)
  • How well the building is insulated
  • How many windows the building has

Does More BTUs Equal Better Cooling?

Although we have mentioned that a higher BTU rating generally means that the system is more powerful, it doesn’t mean that you should automatically choose the biggest system on the market because in this case, bigger doesn’t mean better.

In fact, if you choose a cooling system that is too big for the room or building, it will result in the space being cooled too quickly and although this sounds like a great plan, it can bring its own set of issues. In addition to cooling your building, your air conditioner is also responsible for removing moisture from the air. When it cools the space too quickly, it may shut off too soon and as a result, it doesn’t have the opportunity to remove the moisture from the air. This could result in damp or mold issues later on.

Additionally, a system that cools a space too quickly will also switch on and off more frequently to maintain the set temperature. Although it’s designed to switch off and on, it shouldn’t do it more often than it is built to handle. This can result in wear and tear and a shortened lifespan.

What About Not Enough BTUs?

On the contrary, if your air conditioning system doesn’t have enough BTUs, you will likely end up spending more on energy bills as your system will be working overtime to try and cool the space effectively. This also means that your system’s lifespan will be shortened due to it overworking.

Air Options – Professional HVAC Company in South Africa

We understand if this all sounds a bit overwhelming but that’s why we are here. As one of the leading HVAC companies in South Africa, we are equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to determine the BTU rating for your building and air conditioning system. Contact us to find out more.

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