BTU and What it Means to You

When it comes to heating a home there are a ton of questions that you have to ask to make sure you’re choosing the right heat source for your home. One of the biggest things you need to consider is how much heat your chosen source will be able to give your home. One way to learn about how much heat your source can make is to consider the BTU rating. BTU, which stands for British Thermal Units, is a measure of the heat content of fuels or energy sources. One BTU is equal to the heat produced by one, single match. As an example, one cord of wood is equal to 2,000,000 BTU which means that a single cord of wood can produce the same amount of heat as 2,000,000 lit matches. That’s a lot of heat!

You may also see a BTU rating on an air conditioner. When you see the BTU rating it is telling you the rate of heat transfer needed to freeze one short ton of water into ice in 24 hours. The higher the BTU rating of an air conditioner, the bigger the room is that it can cool. For example, if you have a bedroom that is 10’ x 10’ you have 100 sq. Ft. of space to cool. You won’t need any more than 5,000 BTU. But if you’re trying to cool a room that is 20’ x 20’ you’d need at least 9,000 BTU to cool the space. When it comes to air conditioning, bigger isn’t always better. You want to make sure you have the right size unit for the room you’re looking to cool. A unit that is too small will over-work itself in an attempt to cool a room and possibly burn itself out too quickly. While a unit that is too large for the space will freeze the room too quickly and can actually freeze up the parts inside the unit causing it to malfunction.

When looking for any heating or cooling system, BTU is important. For heating you’re looking for something that can produce a lot of heat in an efficient manner. The higher the BTU rating, the more heat it will produce. For cooling, the higher the BTU rating, the larger the space will need to be to cool it efficiently. So next time you’re looking for heating or cooling and see a BTU rating at least you know what it means.