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Air Conditioner Sizing

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Selecting the proper air conditioner size for your space is a critical step. You want your investment to turn your space into a veritable oasis and to that end may be inclined to get the most powerful unit you can find. However, you want to avoid selecting a unit that is more suitable for a space larger than which you intend to cool.

A lot of people ask "what size air conditioner do I need?" You would be surprised to know that buying either an underpowered or overpowered unit can lead to a less-than- optimal cooling experience. While an underpowered unit may just not perform, an overpowered unit will cycle on and off too frequently and

never run at its peak efficiency when cooling your space. The constant cycling on and off will also lead to improper dehumidification. Use the chart below as a rough guide to get you started:

Square Footage Recommended BTUs
Min Max Min Max
100 300 5,000 7,000
350 550 8,000 12,000
600 800 13,000 16,000
850 1,000+ 17,000 21,000+

Finding a properly sized unit should be easy as looking at the accompanying label for any air conditioner. They will tell you the average space in square feet for which it is suitable. However, there are more factors to consider before you buy:

General Air Conditioner Considerations
Is your insulation adequate, especially in your ceilings? Poor or no insulation overhead will require a unit with more BTUs. Strongly consider purchasing and installing appropriate insulation if possible. Be sure your home is going green with this home insulation guide.
Do you have high ceilings? (Greater than 9 feet) High ceilings mean extra volume to cool - You may require a unit with more BTUs.
Is this air conditioner going to be used to cool an active kitchen, top-floor room or a large open floorplan? These situations may require a unit with more BTUs.
What is the condition of your windows? Do you have many of them? More windows means more loss of cooling. Single pane windows will lose your cooling faster than a double-pane window.
Do you keep your curtains closed during the day? If yes, you may be able to use a unit with fewer BTUs.
Does your space in question face North or East? These sides of your home are generally cooler since they receive less intensive sun exposure - you may be able to use a unit with fewer BTUs.
Does your space in question face South or West? These sides of your home generally warmer since they receive more intensive sun exposure - you may require a unit with more BTUs.
Are there any sources of shade from structure overhangs or trees? If yes, you may be able to use a unit with fewer BTUs.
Will the unit itself fit in the window frame or space you expect it to go? Generally speaking, the more BTU output, the bigger the unit. You may have to consider a portable air conditioner in lieu of one that fits into a window.
Do You have the proper power supply voltage and outlet? Larger units may actually require a 240V outlet.
Central Air Conditioner Specific
Is your ductwork is primarily located in your walls or attic? Attic ducts are exposed to the rising heat within your house and should be properly insulated. In this case, strongly consider purchasing and installing appropriate insulation if possible.
Are your ducts sealed tightly with no noticeable leaks? You will not require a unit with more BTUs.

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