How to Size Refrigeration Systems


Refrigeration systems include refrigerators, chillers, air conditioners and evaporators. The devices differ in their specific mechanisms, but all work by pumping a refrigerant that changes temperature at different pressures. The device's cooling capacity depends on this fluid's volumetric flow rate. A higher rate of flow absorbs more heat. The fluid's temperature change also affects the cooling capacity. Factoring in these two elements produces the cooling capacity in British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour. A further conversion translates this answer to tons, the conventional refrigeration sizing unit.

  • Find the difference between the temperature of fluid as its leaves the refrigerator and the temperature of the fluid as it enters it. If fluid enters the system at 61 degrees Fahrenheit and leaves at 49 degrees Fahrenheit: 61 - 49 = 12 degrees.

  • Multiply the answer by the fluid's flow rate, measured in gallons per minute. If, for instance, the pump moves 250 gallons of fluid every minute: 12 x 250 = 3,000.

  • Multiply your answer by 500 to derive the cooling rate: 3,000 x 500 = 1,500,000 BTUs per hour.

  • Divide your answer by 12,000 to convert it to tons: 1,500,000 / 12,000 = 125. This answer represents the refrigeration system's size, measured in tons.

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