2-Ton Air Conditioner vs 3-Ton Air Conditioner: What’s the Difference?

The “tonnage” of an air conditioner refers to its size. So, at the most basic level, the difference between a 2-ton AC and a 3-ton AC is the “size” of the units.

But we know that doesn’t give you much context so let’s look a little closer.

The 3 big differences between a 2-ton AC and a 3-ton AC include:

  1. How much cooling it can provide in an hour
  2. The upfront cost of the unit
  3. The monthly energy costs

We’ll take an in-depth look at each of these differences to help you understand which AC size works best for your home.

Difference #1: Level of cooling

Air conditioners are sized according to how many BTUs (British Thermal Unit—a unit of heat) they can remove from your home in an hour. So the larger the “ton” the more cooling an AC can provide.

As a general rule of thumb, the larger your home, the larger AC you’ll need. Let’s look at the difference in cooling ability between a 2-ton vs 3-ton air conditioner:

  • 2-ton AC removes 24,000 BTUs/hr and provides adequate cooling for a 900-1,200 square foot house*
  • 3-ton AC removes 36,000 BTUs/hr and provides adequate cooling for a 1,500-1,800 square foot house*

*Note: Keep in mind that matching the tonnage of an AC to the square footage of a house is a very imprecise calculation. To get an accurate idea of the size AC your home needs, you’ll need to have a professional perform what’s called a “Manual J” calculation.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have a choice when it comes to picking the size AC your home needs. Once you have a professional calculate the exact BTU capacity you need from an AC unit, we highly suggest sticking to the AC tonnage that provides that amount of cooling.

In other words, don’t go up or down an AC size.

Bottom line: Hire a contractor to decide what tonnage your AC unit should be.

Difference #2: Upfront cost of the unit

The larger the tonnage of an AC, the higher the upfront cost.

Typically, a 3-ton AC can cost up to $500 more than a 2-ton AC. However, the size of your air conditioner plays a relatively small part in the overall cost of your unit.

Other factors that affect the upfront cost of the unit include:

  • SEER rating
  • Brand of the unit
  • Contractor you choose to install the unit
  • Ductwork installations/modifications

For more information on how much these factors affect cost, check out our blog, “How Much Does a New Central Air Conditioner Cost in Minneapolis?”

Difference #3: The monthly energy costs

The larger the tonnage of your AC unit, the more you can expect to pay in monthly energy costs.

In fact, when you take into consideration electricity rates and average summer temperatures in Minneapolis, you can expect to pay roughly 20% to 25% more in monthly energy costs if you have a 3-ton AC vs a 2-ton AC unit.

Another factor that plays a large role in monthly cooling bills is the SEER rating of your AC unit. Basically, the higher the SEER of your AC unit, the more energy efficient it is and the lower your monthly cooling costs.

To get a better idea of how SEER affects your monthly cooling bills, read our blog, “13 SEER vs 16 SEER: Estimating Air Conditioner Efficiencies for Minneapolis Homes”.

Need advice from a Minneapolis tech?

If you’re not sure whether you need a 2-ton or a 3-ton AC for your Minneapolis home, just contact us.

We’ll send out an experienced tech to inspect your home and let you know the unit that will satisfy your cooling needs.

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