What Does BTU Mean In Regards To Your Furnace/AC?

If you’re on the hunt for a new HVAC system, you’ve probably encountered the letters BTU. If you’re a new homeowner or haven’t needed to do much work to your furnace or AC, yet, you might be a bit baffled by what that means. We’re here to help you figure that out!

What Does BTU Mean In Regards To Your Furnace/AC?

What does BTU stand for?

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. Despite its name, it’s actually not commonly used across the pond. BTU is actually a standard unit of measurement for energy. A single BTU is equal to the amount of energy used to raise the temperature of 1lb of water up 1 degree Fahrenheit. Simple enough, right?

How does it apply to heating?

In regards to a furnace or heat pump, BTU refers to the heat output of the particular unit. The higher the number, the more heat the unit can produce.

What about cooling equipment?

When it comes to air conditioning, BTU refers to the amount of energy used to remove the heat from the air per hour (denoted as BTUh). As with heating, a higher BTUh number means more power. More power means your unit is likely to be more efficient at cooling down your home during the warmer months.

Another thing to note about cooling, is that central air conditioning units are usually rated in tons.
1 ton = 12,000 BTUs/hour.

Most residential central air conditioners have cooling capacities between 20,000 to 60,000 BTUh (BTUs per hour).

Does a larger BTU equate to a larger unit?

You might find it interesting to know that many modern small furnaces and air conditioners will actually have quite high BTU numbers. Larger, older units may actually have smaller BTU numbers and be more inefficient at heating and cooling.

What # should you be looking for in your replacement HVAC system?

Standard whole-home HVAC systems range between 60,000 to 80,000 BTU and above. The bigger your home, the higher number you’re going to want. That being said, every HVAC system is different so there’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution. The power you need for your individual home depends on a few different things:

  • The size of your home
  • The type and quality of your home’s insulation
  • Type and size of the windows in your house
  • Location of your home
  • Height of your ceilings

Not sure what size is right for your home? No worries, that’s what we’re here for. Give us a call so our experienced HVAC technicians can help you figure out the perfect size for your home.