What is air conditioner Btu? In North America and many countries, the unit for heat in used today is still British Thermal Unit or Btu. In other countries, the SI metric system Joule is used. Knowing the equivalent of both unit is necessary as many of the product data sheets are using both units.

Btu stands for British thermal unit and is defined as the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 °F.

1 Btu is required to increase the temperature of 1 pound of water from 63 °F to 64 °F. In SI metric, the equivalent is 4.187 kJ is required to increase the temperature of 1 kg of water from 17 °C to 18 °C.

Example 1: Find the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of 50 lb. of water from 50 °F to 80 °F.


Heat required = weight in lb. X temperature change in °F
= 50 lb. X (80-50)°F
= 50 X 30 Btu
= 1,500 Btu

Example 2 (SI metric): Find the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of 2kg of water from 5 °C to 30 °C.


Heat required in KJ = 4.817 X mass in kg X temperature change in °C
= 4.817 X 2kg X (30-5)°C
= 4.817 X 2kg X 25 °C
= 240.85 kJ

If the water is cooled, heat is removed from the it.


1 Btu = 1.055kJ

1 kJ = 0.948 Btu

Refrigeration Unit

Ton of refrigeration unit has been used for a long time and it represents the heat that is absorbed when 1 ton or 2,000lb. of ice melts in 24 hours. The ice is assumed to be at 32 °F (0 °C) and melted to become water at the same temperature. The more commonly used unit to rate a HVAC equipment is in Btu/hr.

1 ton of refrigeration effect = [Weight of 1 ton of ice (2000 lb.) X latent heat of melting of ice (144 Btu/lb)]/24 hours

= [(2,000 X 144)/24] Btu/hr
= [288,000/24] Btu/hr
= 12,000 Btu/hr

Hence, a 12,000 Btu/hr cooling capacity is equivalent to 1 ton of refrigeration.

Calculation In SI Metric Units

Latent heat is 335 kJ/kg
1 ton is about 907 kg

1 ton of refrigeration effect = [907kg X 335kJ/kg]/[24 X 3600 sec]
= 3.5167 kJ/sec
= 3.5167 kW

Air Conditioner Btu Equivalents Summary

1 Btu/hr = 0.29W

1 kW = 3415 Btu/hr

1 ton = 12,000 Btu/hr

Editorial Contributors
Alora Bopray

Alora Bopray

Staff Writer

Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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Roxanne Downer


Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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