If you live in an area with moderate heating and cooling needs, a heat pump can be an energy-efficient and affordable substitute for your furnace and air conditioner. This versatile heating and cooling system extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another, keeping you warm when it is cold outside and cool when outdoor temperatures rise. Before buying and installing a heat pump, you should consider and compare the capacities of different units.
The capacity measures a heat pump’s ability to transfer warm energy from a source of heat to another place. The heating and cooling needs of every home vary based on factors such as the climate, size of the home and rooms as well as insulation. Heat pumps come in different sizes and capacities, each designed to efficiently heat and cool a given area. Comparing heat pump capacities helps you to choose the right unit for your particular space.
What is heat pump capacity?
A heat pump is an appliance that transfers heat from one place to another. It doesn’t generate heat but instead absorbs heat energy from the outside air and transfers it to the air inside your home. When you want to cool your home, the heat pump will absorb heat from the indoor air and transfer it to the air outside through the outdoor unit. Heat pumps have different capacities depending on their size, technology, auxiliary equipment and other factors. Generally, heat pump capacity refers to the ability of the unit to heat or cool the air in your home. The capacity is rated in British Thermal Unit (BTU), measuring 12,000 BTUs per ton. In essence, a two-ton heat pump will have a capacity to produce 24,000 BTUs of heating and cooling. Heat pumps are sized based on BTUs, with higher BTU ratings meaning a more powerful system. The capacity will determine the square footage a unit can heat or cool efficiently.
2 ton heat pumps
Since there are 12,000 BTUs per ton, a two-ton heat pump has a capacity of 24,000 BTUs of heating or cooling, meaning that it would be rated at 24,000 BTU per hour. Essentially, it takes one BTU of energy to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. Compared to larger heat pumps, a two-ton unit will be less expensive and likely occupy less space. These units are more suited for heating and cooling smaller spaces or enhancing comfort in areas with moderate heating and cooling needs. A capacity of 24,000 BTUs will heat or cool areas of up to 1,000 square feet. But it’s important to confirm that a two-ton unit is suitable for your home and climate before investing in one. Picking the right unit ensures you save on energy consumption, reduce wear and tear and maximize comfort.
3 ton heat pumps
With a ton of heat pump capacity being equivalent to 12,000 BTU per hour, a three-ton heat pump is rated at 36,000 BTUs per hour. This rating means that it has a higher heating and cooling capacity than a two-ton unit and a lower capacity compared to a 4-ton heat pump. It will also consume more energy that a two-ton unit to maintain indoor air at the desired temperatures. While it’s not necessarily heavier than smaller-capacity pumps, it will likely cost more to buy and install. A quality three-ton heat pump can effectively heat or cool an average area of 1,500 square feet but will be too large for smaller spaces. If you are looking to save on energy costs, you can consider buying a 3 ton heat pump split system. Having a ductless system makes up for the energy that’s usually lost in duct work. It’s essential to work with an experienced HVAC professional when sizing a heat pump so you don’t spend more than you need.
4 ton heat pumps
A four-ton heat pump is rated at 48,000 BTU per hour. Greater in capacity than the two-ton and three-ton heat pumps, these units also cost more and use more energy to heat or cool your space in a given period. Four-ton heat pumps are designed to keep larger spaces comfortable. Most can easily cover areas as large as 2,000 square feet. Just like with any other size of heat pump, you must ensure that a four-ton heat pump is right for your space before investing in one. If the unit is too large for your home, it will short cycle and possibly damage the motor. On the other hand, a heat pump that is too small for your space will constantly try to run to meet the desired temperature.
The Bottom line
The capacity of a heat pump is the most important factor in determining the right unit for your particular home. This capacity is measured in tonnage of units as opposed to the physical size. Heat pumps with smaller capacities are more suitable for smaller spaces such as individual rooms and condos. Large-capacity heat pumps will heat and cool larger spaces more efficiently. There are other heat pump sizes in between, allowing you to keep your home comfortable throughout the year. With the broad range of choices in the market, you should take time to identify the one that will meet your heating and cooling needs. The right unit will help to reduce your utility bills and keep your unit in good condition.
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Answers to some of the frequently asked questions can go a long way in helping you choose the right heat pump. Use these points to help make an informed decision.
Is a 3 ton air conditioner enough for my house?
Apart from the capacity of the air conditioner, you also need to account for things like your climate, house size and existing insulation. In general, a three-ton air conditioner will work well on an area of around 1,200 square feet.
How many BTUs is a 3 ton heat pump?
Given that HVAC systems are measured at 12,000 BTUs per ton, a three-ton heat pump is rated at 36,000 BTU per hour, meaning it can effectively heat or cool mid-sized areas.
How much does a 3 ton heat pump cost?
The price of a 3 ton heat pump will depend on the specific brand and model you choose. On average, a three-ton heat pump with a 14 SEER costs around $5,229 including installation.*
How much does a 4 ton heat pump cost?
Apart from the brand, the amount of money you will pay for a four-ton heat pump will be determined by its energy efficiency and technological features. Expect to pay an average of $6,654 for complete system installation for a 14 SEER unit.*
How much does a 2 ton heat pump cost?
For a two ton heat pump, the average price, plus installation, is $4,352 for a 14 SEER unit.* The final price will also depend on the brand, efficiency ratings and other features.
*James A. Thomson, 2019 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator. Craftsman Book Company, 2018.