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What Does BTU Stand For?

If you’re in the market for a new HVAC system, you might have seen the acronym BTU floating around. This is a crucial measurement that is important to understand and carefully consider when picking out a heating or cooling system. If you fail to take BTU into account when you install a component of your HVAC system, you could run the risk of damaging your system and increasing your energy bill.

Let’s take a look at what BTU stands for and why it’s so important to keep in mind. 

What Does BTU Stand For? 

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It refers to the amount of energy necessary to increase the temperature of a pound of water by 1° Fahrenheit. Unlike what the name would suggest, it isn’t actually a measurement used in the United Kingdom anymore. BTUs were used to measure gas consumption in the UK after the push to switch over to the metric system in the 1960s. Now they use a measurement called joules. However, BTUs are included in the United States customary units and serve as an important measurement when discussing HVAC.  

How Does It Relate to HVAC?

Measuring the energy output of a heating or cooling system is a vital aspect of determining how efficiently it will function in a given space. BTUs help to measure how powerful an air conditioner or heater is. The higher the BTU, the more powerful the equipment is. 

A furnace will be scored based on its heat output. As you might assume, the higher the BTU, the more heat the unit can produce. This is fairly straightforward. Air conditioners, on the other hand, are measured slightly differently. Instead of looking at the heat produced, air conditioners are scored on the amount of energy used to remove heat from the air. 

A typical heating and cooling system can score anywhere between 40,000 all the way up to 200,000 BTUs. There are many factors that play into which BTU you will need for your home. 

How To Determine What BTU You Need 

Figuring out the correct BTUs –or “sizing” as it’s sometimes called– for your home is a vital part of picking out heating and cooling equipment. By and large, square footage plays the most significant role in determining the number of BTUs necessary for a home. But it’s not the only factor. You’ll also need to take into account ceiling height, floor plan, climate, and quality of insulation.

If you want to get a rough estimate of the amount of BTUs you’ll need there are plenty of charts and BTU calculators available online. But, since there are so many factors to consider, it’s always best to consult an HVAC professional. 

What Happens If You Choose the Wrong BTU? 

Picking the wrong BTU can be a lot more detrimental than you might think. Sure, you might be tempted to go with a higher BTU to cool your home faster but there is actually such a thing as cooling your home too quickly. Your cooling system is also tasked with wicking away moisture from the air. If your home cools down too fast, it won’t have time to remove this moisture. The constant turning on and shutting off can also lead to unnecessary wear and tear. 

Having a BTU that’s too low will also lead to issues. If your system has too small of a BTU your heating and cooling system will constantly run to reach your desired temperature. This will waste a lot of energy and you’ll see a massive spike in your electricity bill. Your system will also be prone to breaking down so you’ll need to replace parts and even the entire unit sooner. 

Get Help From the Pros 

Figuring out the proper BTU can be a complicated process. Furthermore, it can be hard to narrow down your options for HVAC equipment even when you nail down the BTU. If you’re in need of a new heater or cooler, get professional help picking out and installing your system. 

WM Buffington proudly serves customers in and around the Central Pennsylvania area. We are here to address any and all of your heating and cooling needs from determining your ideal BTU to keeping up with regular maintenance on your existing system. Take advantage of our free, no-obligation estimate for complete system replacements and home energy audits!

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