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What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need (Alberta Edition)?

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Air Conditioners, HVAC

Action Furnace installs air conditioners in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer, so we know how to choose the right size for your Alberta home. Learn all about the factors involved in our calculations here so you can make an informed decision when looking for a new AC.


Posted by Ryan | September 19, 2023

The dog days of summer can get sweltering, especially here in Alberta. And we all know how stifling it can be in a home with insufficient cooling! But what size air conditioner do you need to efficiently and effectively cool your home?

We can help. Our team at Action Furnace performs new air conditioner installations in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer every year, so we know all about how to make sure they’re the right size for homes of all kinds. Let’s help you understand the basics and get you on your way to a cooler summer.

Air conditioner outdoor unit near house in summer

Understanding BTU: The Key to AC Sizing

Air conditioner sizing is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), a unit that quantifies the amount of heat an AC unit can remove from your home per hour. In general, the larger your home, the more BTUs you’ll require.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Small-sized homes (up to 1,500 sq ft): ~18,000-24,000 BTUs.
  • Medium-sized homes (1,500 to 2,500 sq ft): ~30,000-34,000 BTUs.
  • Large-sized homes (2,500 sq ft and above): ~34,000 BTUs or higher.

But wait! You can’t just look at the numbers above and then rush out to buy a new AC, because numerous other factors affect the amount of cooling your home actually needs! These include insulation, sun exposure, and number of occupants—plus a consideration of Alberta’s unique environment. We’ll look at that next.

Alberta homes during hot and bright summer to emphasize importance of properly sizing air conditioners

Alberta’s Climate & Your Air Conditioner

Alberta’s unique climate characteristics can significantly impact your home’s cooling needs. We experience a vast range of temperatures, with hot summers and cold winters. This can mean your AC unit has to work harder during those peak summer months to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Summer Heat

Alberta’s summer temperatures can soar, increasing the load on your air conditioner. Your unit might have to work overtime to keep your home cool.

Sun Exposure

Alberta is also famous for its sunny days. While this is great for outdoor fun, it can heat your home quickly, again increasing your air conditioner’s workload.

Because of Alberta’s hot, dry, and bright summers, you might need an AC with a higher BTU rating than a similar-sized home in a cooler or darker region. We strongly recommend having any new AC you buy sized by professionals to ensure efficient and effective cooling.

Why Expert Sizing & Installation Is Critical for Buying New ACs

Proper air conditioner sizing and installation requires the expertise of our seasoned HVAC technicians. Not only do we understand the specific impact of Alberta’s climate on air conditioners, but we also perform a detailed calculation called the Manual-J to determine the ideal size for every air conditioner we install.

The calculation considers a multitude of factors to ensure that the system installed provides optimal comfort, energy efficiency, and longevity. Here are the main factors considered when performing a Manual J load calculation:

  • Size and Layout of the Home: The total square footage of your home, as well as the layout—how many floors it has, the shape of the rooms, ceiling height, etc.—all affect its heating and cooling needs.
  • Insulation: The type, quality, and amount of insulation in your home can greatly affect how much heating or cooling is needed. A well-insulated home will require less heating and cooling capacity because less conditioned air escapes.
  • Windows: The size, type, and number of windows in your home can have a significant impact on your heating and cooling needs. This includes factors like the window’s size, its type (single-pane, double-pane, etc.), and its orientation (whether it faces the sun or not).
  • Location and Local Climate: The location of your home and its local climate (average temperatures, humidity levels, etc.) will heavily influence your heating and cooling needs.
  • Number of Occupants: More people in a home means more body heat generated, and potentially more doors opening and closing, which can lead to more heating and cooling needs.
  • Building Materials: The type of construction and materials used in your home (brick, wood, etc.) can affect its ability to retain heat or stay cool.
  • Ductwork: The size, design, and condition of your home’s ductwork can affect how efficiently heated or cooled air can be distributed throughout your home.
  • Appliances and Lighting: Appliances and lighting generate heat which can add to the cooling load.
  • Shading: The amount of natural shade from trees or other buildings can reduce the cooling load of a house.

By using our professionals, you’ll ensure your air conditioner is the perfect fit for your unique home and needs. You’ll also be able to count on a proper installation, ensuring that your cooling equipment functions properly and keeps you comfortable well into the future.

Ready to Stay Cool this Summer?

Understanding how to size an air conditioner is an important first step. But remember, the key to a comfortably cool home in Alberta’s warmest months is an accurately sized and professionally installed air conditioner.

For personalized recommendations on the right air conditioner for your home, don’t hesitate to call Action Furnace. Our experienced technicians will help you find the perfect fit for your home, ensuring you stay comfortable all summer long.

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Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.

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