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Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better: The Importance of Load Calculations

Technician fixing air conditioner
As a homeowner, you probably understand the importance of your heating and cooling system. Not only does it keep your home and belongings comfortable throughout the various seasons, but heating and cooling is also necessary for maintaining a healthy air quality. Unfortunately, the installation of improperly sized units can lead to inefficient, ineffective heating and cooling.

Many homeowners believe the myth that a bigger unit is better, but that is not necessarily true. Professional contractors will complete a load calculation to determine what size unit is needed for your home and your climate. With this guide and your contractor's help, you will learn the importance of a load calculation so you can heat and cool your home in the best manner possible.

What Is a Load Calculation?

You may think HVAC contractors are only capable of installing your units and completing basic maintenance on your system, but that is not actually true. Contractors can also complete a mathematical load calculation, which is the first step in designing an efficient and effective residential HVAC system.

The main purpose of a load calculation is to determine the size of your home's heating load during the coldest time of the year and the size of your home's coolest load during the hottest time of the year.

Some contractors use a general rule when sizing a unit for homes, which states 1 ton of capacity is needed for every 600 square feet of home. While somewhat effective, this general rule does not take into account your home's layout and insulation or the local climate.

Your contractor will most likely use a software program to conduct these calculations in a more detailed and precise manner.

Calculating for Efficiency

While surprising for many homeowners to learn, heating and cooling accounts for about half of the home's total energy usage. Thankfully, a load calculation that ensures you are installing a system of the right size will help conserve energy, reducing your heating and cooling costs.

Units that are too small for your home and climate will cause your system to run longer in an attempt to reach your desired temperature. This leads to costly heating and cooling bills and excessive wear and tear on your system.

Calculating for Air Quality

On the other hand, oversized units are not smart choices, either. Oversized units will reach your desired temperature faster, but they will not run long enough to pull humidity out of the air.

Known as short-cycling, oversized units are a common cause for high levels of humidity, which can lead to home damage and health problems. If you are noticing or experiencing one or more of the following, you may have a humidity problem:
  • Warped wood
  • Peeling, bubbling paint
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Condensation on windows/mirrors
  • Damp upholstery
  • Musty odor
  • Growth of mold or mildew
  • Increased allergy symptoms
Living with these signs of high humidity is possible, but the damage to your home and health can become overwhelming.

Ask your contractor to measure the humidity levels. If your humidity is measuring higher than 50 percent, a load calculation is essential for determining if your heating and cooling units are sized appropriately. 

Calculating for Comfort

Last, but certainly not least, a load calculation that determines the best size of unit for your home will ensure you are comfortable throughout the various seasons.

An undersized unit will not heat and cool adequately or in a timely manner, so you will most likely feel cold drafts in the winter and excess heat during the summer months.

If your unit is oversized and your home has developed humidity issues, you may feel a constant sense of coolness due to the moisture on your skin.

Proper sizing of your units is imperative for energy efficiency, air quality, and your family's comfort. To learn more about load calculations for your heating and cooling system, contact B & K Services today.