Key Cooling Terms

Sensible Cooling Load - The heat gain of the home due to conduction, solar radiation, infiltration, appliances, people, and pets. Burning a light bulb, for example, adds only sensible load to the house. This sensible load raises the dry-bulb temperature.

Dry-bulb Temperature - The temperature measured by a standard thermometer.

Latent Cooling Load - The net amount of moisture added to the inside air by plants, people, cooking, infiltration, and any other moisture source. The amount of moisture in the air can be calculated from a combination of dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperature measurements.

Wet-bulb Temperature - When a wet wick is placed over a standard thermometer and air is blown across the surface, the water evaporates and cools the thermometer below the dry-bulb temperature. This cooler temperature (called the wet-bulb temperature) depends on how much moisture is in the air.

Design Conditions - Cooling loads vary with inside and outside conditions. A set of conditions specific to the local climate are necessary to calculate the expected cooling load for a home. Inside conditions of 75°F and 50% relative humidity are usually recommended as a guideline. Outside conditions are selected for the 2.5% design point.

2.5% Design - Outside summer temperatures and coincident air moisture content that will be exceeded only 2.5% of the hours from June to September. In other words, 2.5% design conditions are outdoor temperatures historically exceeded 73 out of the 2,928 hours in these summer months.

Capacity - The capacity of an air conditioner is measured by the amount of cooling it can do when running continuously. The total capacity is the sum of the latent capacity (ability to remove moisture from the air) and sensible capacity (ability to reduce the dry-bulb temperature). Each of these capacities is rated in Btus per hour (Btu/h). The capacity depends on the outside and inside conditions. As it gets hotter outside (or cooler inside) the capacity drops. The capacity at a standard set of conditions is often referred to as "tons of cooling."

Tons of Cooling - Air conditioner capacity is rated at 95°F outside with an inside temperature of 80°F and 50% relative humidity. Each ton of air conditioning is nominally 12,000 Btu/h (this comes from the fact that it takes 12,000 Btu to melt a ton of ice). While an air conditioner may be called a three ton unit, it may not produce 36,000 Btu/h in cooling. There is a wide variety of actual capacities that are called "three tons."

EER - The Energy Efficiency Ratio is the efficiency of the air conditioner. It is capacity in Btu per hour divided by the electrical input in watts. EER changes with the inside and outside conditions, falling as the temperature difference between inside and outside gets larger. EER should not be confused with SEER.

SEER - The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is a standard method of rating air conditioners based on three tests. All three tests are run at 80°F inside and 82°F outside. The first test is run with humid indoor conditions, the second with dry indoor conditions, and the third with dry conditions cycling the air conditioner on for 6 minutes and off for 24 minutes. The published SEER may not represent the actual seasonal energy efficiency of an air conditioner in your climate.

Manual J - Manual J is a widely accepted method of calculating the sensible and latent cooling (and heating) loads under design conditions. It was jointly developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI).

Manual S - Manual S is the ACCA method of selecting air conditioning equipment to meet the design loads. It ensures that both the sensible capacity and the latent capacity of the selected equipment will be adequate to meet the cooling load.

Manual D - Manual D is the ACCA method for designing duct systems. Contractors often find it a laborious process and most duct systems are just installed, not designed. The amount of time necessary to design a duct system is certainly warranted in tract construction where the design is used repeatedly and for custom homes where the total cost of the home warrants a proper design. In short, designing a duct system is essential for proper equipment performance and customer comfort.


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