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Here's How to Pick the Right Size Heat Pump for Your Home

The wrong heat pump can hurt your home's efficiency and cost you money.

a heat pump installed on the exterior of a brick home
Find out what size heat pump you need.
Roy JAMES Shakespeare/Getty Images

Your heat pump plays an important role in keeping your home at the right temperature by pulling heat from the outdoor air into your living space in the winter -- and by removing the heat and transferring it outdoors during the summer. But for a heat pump to work correctly, it needs to be the right size for your space. 

Finding the right heat pump may seem easier said than done. But there are some general guidelines to help you find the right size heat pump to properly heat and cool your home in an energy efficient way.

The importance of finding the right size heat pump

It might seem like the size of your heat pump isn't that important. After all, what's the worst that can happen if it's a bit too small or too large? You might be surprised to learn just how important it is to find the right size. Having a heat pump that's either too small or too large can result in you wasting money.

If your heat pump is too small for your home, it likely won't work properly. You could end up paying a higher utility bill because the heat pump will struggle to heat and cool your home. Because the heat pump has to work harder to get your home to the right temperature, you can also expect to pay higher repair and maintenance costs.

On the other hand, if your heat pump is too large it will produce more energy than you need, which wastes energy and reduces efficiency.

How to size a heat pump

There are a couple of different methods you can use to find the right size heat pump for your home: Manual J and square footage. We'll discuss each of those in further detail below.

Manual J

Manual J is the industry standard of sizing a heat pump. It was established by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America to help determine the proper size heat pump for your home based on eight different factors. The eight factors that Manual J considers are:

  • The local climate, including how many days per year you need heating and cooling
  • Your home's square footage and layout
  • How many windows you have and where they're located
  • Your home's air filtration
  • The insulation quality in your home
  • How many people live in your home
  • Your preferred temperature
  • Heat-generating appliances in your home

Square footage

There are a lot of factors that go into calculating your heat pump size, and it can be complicated to determine how each of those affects your heat pump needs. Luckily, there's a simpler approach you can take to choose the right size heat pump.

In general, every 500 square feet of your home will require one ton of air conditioning capacity. Here are some guidelines to help you determine how many tons you'll need:

  • 500 square feet: 1 ton
  • 1,000 square feet: 2 tons
  • 1,500 square feet: 3 tons
  • 2,000 square feet: 4 tons
  • 2,500 square feet: 5 tons
  • 3,000 square feet: 6 tons

It's also important to know what each ton equals in BTUs, or British thermal units, which is the measurement used to determine heat pump sizing. Use this chart to help you determine the BTUs needed for your home:

Heat pump size guide

Home size (in square feet) Heat pump size (in tons) Heat pump size (in BTUs)
500 square feet 1 ton 12,000 BTUs
1,000 square feet 2 tons 24,000 BTUs
1,500 square feet 3 tons 36,000 BTUs
2,000 square feet 4 tons 48,000 BTUs
2,500 square feet 5 tons 60,000 BTUs
3,000 square feet 6 tons 72,000 BTUs

Once you know the appropriate number of BTUs required for your home's heat pump, you can start shopping for the right one. Remember that you can also work with an HVAC expert who can help offer some guidelines and advice.

The bottom line

Finding the right heat pump size for your home is critical when it comes to saving money on energy and keeping your home at the right temperature in both the winter and summer. Sizing your heat pump may seem difficult at first, but it's actually pretty simple to figure out. And luckily, there are plenty of heat pump sizing calculators available online to simplify the process further. And once you know what size heat pump you need, the process of finding the right one should be a breeze.

Keep reading to learn more about heating and cooling your home: