How to Calculate Heating & Air Conditioning Sizes for a Home

Determining how big an air conditioning or heating system needs to be for a specific room or household begins with measuring the square footage of each living space. Focus on the rooms that will be occupied on a regular basis and avoid measuring rooms that will not likely be heated or cooled, such as garages or basements. Being able to calculate the square footage (or cubic footage) of each room is handy when using the "Rule of Thumb" in determining the size of an HVAC system, especially if consulting with an HVAC professional for advice.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Calculator
  • Computer with Internet access

Instructions

  1. Measure Square Footage of Each Room

    • 1

      Determine the width and length of each inhabited room in your home. Do not bother with spaces that will not be connected to an HVAC system, such as basements or garages.

    • 2

      Multiply the width times the length of each room. The resulting number will equal the square footage for that room.

    • 3

      Add the number of square feet for each room together. This new number will be the total square footage, and it can be used to get a general idea for how big an HVAC system should be.

    Measure Cubic Footage of Each Room

    • 4

      Determine the width, length and height of each inhabited room in your home.

    • 5

      Multiply the width times the length times the height. The resulting number will be the cubic foot measurement for that room.

    • 6

      Add all the cubic footage measurements for each room together. The resulting number will be the total cubic footage of all the living spaces in your home.

    Use the "Rule of Thumb" Formula

    • 7

      Choose an air conditioner rated at 5,000 to 6,000 BTU for a room between 100 to 250 square feet.

    • 8

      Choose an air conditioner rated at 6,000 to 8,500 BTU for a room between 250 to 400 square feet.

    • 9

      Choose an air conditioner rated at 8,500 to 11,000 BTU for a room between 400 to 550 square feet.

    • 10

      Choose an air conditioner rated at 11,000 to 15,000 BTU for a room between 550 to 875 square feet.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make quick calculations of square footage or cubic footage without a calculator by visiting the Online Calculators link in the Resources section of this article.
  • Measuring a room's square footage is a quick way to get a rough estimate of the size an air conditioner needs to be, but there are many other factors to explore before completing a purchase. Remember to consider the level of insulation in each room, as this will determine the loss of heat and cold air, plus determine whether the windows in the room are double-paned to keep hot or cold air from escaping. You should also consider how often each room will be used and whether or not they face the sun. Consult with a professional HVAC technician for the most accurate measurement of the rooms you would like to heat or cool.
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References

Resources

  • Photo Credit NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

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