How To Talk Capably With A Technician About Air Conditioners

People in all trades have lots of jargon that can separate their professions from average folks, and those who work on air conditioners are no different. You don't have to sound like a certified technician to talk with a pro, but it can be immensely helpful to understand the following 6 concepts.


The British Thermal Unit is one of the most widely used units of measure in the business. In the air conditioning business, a BTU is a measure of cooling capacity. About 5,000 BTUs of AC capacity is sufficient to cool 150 square feet of space in all but the muggiest of environments.


A somewhat-odd unit that's still often used to simplify discussing cool capacity is the ton. One ton equals 12,000 BTUs. 


This stands for cubic feet per minute, and it represents how much air can be moved by a blower in a single minute. With the exception of a few applications where air can't be blown too strongly, a higher CPM rate will almost always be better. Having a greater CPM throughput will allow an AC unit to push more air further and faster.


It's rare that anyone wants to have all the rooms in a house fully air conditioned. Modern thermostats allow systems to isolate specific zones of a house for more or less air conditioning depending on the occupant's needs.


This is the portion of an AC system that's typically placed outside. It is the heart of an air conditioner, providing the actual cooling action by exchanging heat and transmitting it outside your home. The tubing then sends the cool air back into your house. If the compressor doesn't work, your setup is just going to blow warm air when you turn it on.


Almost all air conditioners use chemicals that are entirely self-contained to perform the refrigerating action. These chemicals are known as refrigerants. When hot air goes by the coils that contain the refrigerant, the refrigerant will warm up. The coils then send the refrigerant to the compressor, a process that makes it warmer than the air outside. This causes the heat to be expelled.

Note that some older AC systems may use a refrigerant, such as Freon, that is no longer legal to purchase but is still legal to use. Only a licensed technician is allowed to remove these refrigerants and replace them with more modern alternatives.

To learn more about air conditioners, contact an HVAC contractor in your area.