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What Does “Tonnage” Mean for My Commercial AC System?

industrial-acsWhen you are looking to install an air conditioning system for your building, or to replace an older air conditioning system, you’re going to see the word tonnage referenced often. “What tonnage of system do you think you’ll need for the space?” That sort of thing. It’s standard HVAC lingo, and most people outside of the industry don’t know its specific meaning, except that bigger tonnage has something to do with more cooling power.

We’ll dispel some of the mystery around this term and explain why it’s important for your AC installers to know the exact tonnage necessary for your facility.

Tonnage Isn’t Weight, It’s Cooling Output

No, tonnage doesn’t have anything to do with how much the packaged air conditioning system weighs. It’s true that the higher the tonnage, the larger and heavier the system will be, but the two aren’t connected.

What tonnage refers to his how many tons of cooling the system can deliver. Okay, what are tons of cooling? It’s a unit for measuring powerful air conditioning systems. The measurement for small ACs used in homes for cooling is BTUs, or British Thermal Units. An AC’s cooling power is listed as the amount of BTUs the air conditioner can remove per hour. Because the amount of BTUs that a commercial AC removes, the numbers would be too large to easily deal with, so the term ton is used instead. A 1 ton air conditioner = average of 12,000 BTUs removed per hour. It’s a handy measurement that makes it easy for installers to gauge the cooling power of a system.

But why “tons” and “tonnage”?

Yes, it does seem like an odd choice. But there’s a reason for it. A ton is the amount of heat necessary to melt one ton of ice over a 24-hour period. (Remember, this is the heat being removed from a space to cool it, not added to it.) That’s approximately 288,000 BTUs. If you divide that by 24, you have the 12,000 BTUs per hour measurement that’s easy to work with.

What tonnage does my building need?

This is where you’ll need our professional installers. HVAC equipment for commercial buildings is defined as either light or heavy. Light commercial HVAC equipment is 25 tons and under. Over 25 and it’s heavy. These systems are modular, so it’s simple for technicians to put together a system with the tonnage that matches your facility’s needs.

Determining cooling requirements is a major part of our job—it’s vital to get this right because putting in an HVAC system with too little tonnage won’t cool the building well, and putting in a system with too much tonnage creates massive energy waste as the system gets caught in a start-and-stop cycle.

We will ensure you have accurate tonnage for your commercial space. And if you plan to expand at some point, it’s simple for us to add on to the existing HVAC system and increase its tonnage.

Enjoy the comfort you deserve: call Comfort Master Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. for your commercial HVAC services.

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