Choosing the right size unit for your commercial building

Commercial buildings come in all shapes and sizes, and commercial air conditioning installations do as well. Making sure your building is outfitted with the right one is of the utmost importance when it comes to maximizing the comfort of the occupants, and minimizing the costs on the effect of the bottom line. Don’t blindly walk into the discussion about what size you need, because while the HVAC crews are the experts, you know your building and it’s important to understand how it’s going to run.

A unit that’s too large will draw too much power, cost too much up front, and likely freeze everyone in the building out during July. A unit that’s too small will leave the center of the building sweating. To find that “Goldilocks” zone of commercial air conditioners to install, ask these questions:

How are commercial air conditioners sized?

Oddly enough these systems are rated in tons as well as the BTU (British Thermal Units). Every 1 ton measured can remove about 12,000 BTUs of heat from the building per hour.
To put it in perspective, the average residential home air conditioner install is rated between a half ton and 2 tons. A commercial air conditioning install is anywhere from 2 tons to 30 tons. You’ll want to figure out your building’s cooling load, and then use that to select the size of commercial air conditioner you need installed.

What’s the cooling load of my building then?

That number varies widely from building to building. But there is a straightforward formula/method of figuring out how many BTUs you need your air conditioner to handle.

To calculate:

  • Determine the square feet of the building
  • Divide that number by 500
  • Multiply by 12,000
  • Add 380 per person who’s going to be in the facility on a daily basis.
  • Add 1000 for every window installed
  • And add another 1200 for every kitchen in the building.

That number is approximately the number of BTU your commercial air conditioner is going to need to handle. To figure out the tons it will need to manage, just divide that number back by 12,000.

After that, it’s more or less up to you to find the right blend between size, efficiency, and cost. The higher the BTU and ton of the commercial air conditioner the higher the power and more expensive the initial price tag will be. So don’t get carried away and go with the biggest because it’s the biggest.

Find the balance between efficiency, effectiveness, and cost. Don’t make this decision by yourself, make sure you have a trusted HVAC professional doing the install, and talking with you about the process along the way.

Walking into the conversation about your commercial air conditioner installation armed with this knowledge is going to make it much easier for both yourself and your contractor and HVAC specialist. They’ll not only really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with the process, but you’ll be assured that the decision is going to be the ideal fit for your company, building, and bottom line for years to come.

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