Heat Pump Capacity: 2-Ton, 3-Ton, and 4-Ton

HVAC Logo IconBy Tom MoorAugust 1, 2023

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Buying a new heat pump system is an important decision and a significant financial investment, so it’s crucial to perform your due diligence when shopping for a new unit. That includes finding the right-sized system.

In the world of HVAC systems, size matters. Purchasing a heat pump that is either too small or too large can result in inefficient heating or cooling, leading to discomfort, potential energy loss, and system damage. The perfect sized HVAC system will consider factors such as the climate, the size of the home and rooms, and insulation levels.

Heat pumps come in different sizes and capacities, each designed to efficiently heat and cool a given area. Comparing heat pump capacities helps you to choose the right unit for your particular space.

What Is Heat Pump Capacity?

Heat pumps have different capacities depending on their size, technology, auxiliary equipment, and other factors. Capacity is rated in British Thermal Units (BTUs), measuring 12,000 BTUs per ton. Within the HVAC industry, BTUs pertain to the capacity of a unit to either add or extract heat from the air within a span of one hour.

A higher heat pump BTU rating means a more powerful heat pump system. The capacity will determine the square footage a unit can heat or cool efficiently.

2-ton heat pump3-ton heat pump4-ton heat pump
Home size1,000 sq. ft.1,500 sq. ft.2,000 sq. ft.

2-Ton Heat Pumps

Since there are 12,000 BTUs per ton, a 2-ton heat pump has a capacity of 24,000 BTUs for heating or cooling.

Compared to larger heat pumps, a 2-ton unit will be less expensive and likely occupy less space. These units are more suited for heating and cooling smaller homes or spaces or enhancing comfort in areas with moderate heating and cooling needs.

A 24000 BTU heat pump will heat or cool areas of up to 1,000 square feet. But it’s important to confirm with a professional HVAC technician that a 2-ton unit is suitable for your home and climate before investing in one. Picking the right unit ensures you save on energy consumption, reduce wear and tear, and maximize comfort.

3-Ton Heat Pumps

A 3-ton heat pump is rated at 36,000 BTUs per hour. This rating means that it has a higher heating and cooling capacity than a 2-ton unit and a lower capacity than a 4-ton heat pump. It will also consume more energy than a 2-ton unit to maintain the indoor air at your desired temperature.

While a 36000 BTU heat pump is not necessarily heavier than smaller-capacity pumps, it will likely cost more to buy and install. A quality 3-ton heat pump can effectively heat or cool an average area of 1,500 square feet but will be too large for smaller spaces. It’s essential to work with an experienced HVAC professional when sizing a heat pump, so you don’t spend more than you need.

4-Ton Heat Pumps

A 4-ton heat pump is rated at 48,000 BTU per hour. Greater in capacity than 2-ton and 3-ton heat pumps, these units are more expensive and use more energy to heat or cool your space.

4-ton heat pumps are designed to keep larger spaces comfortable. Most can easily cover areas as large as 2,000 square feet.

Just like with any other heat pump size, you must ensure that a 48000 BTU heat pump is right for your space before investing in one. If the unit is too large for your home, it will short cycle and possibly damage the motor. A heat pump that is too small for your space will constantly try to run to meet the desired temperature, raising energy costs and increasing wear and tear that can lead to frequent breakdowns and a shorter expected lifespan.

Cooling Larger Homes

If you live in a larger home, you’ll need a heat pump with a higher heating and cooling capacity than the ones we’ve previously mentioned. A 5-ton heat pump is rated at 60000 BTU per hour and is ideal for homes with 2,500 square feet. A 60000 BTU heat pump can adequately cool these spaces.

Meanwhile, a 72000 BTU heat pump (6 tons), is recommended to cool a 3,000-square-foot home.

Heat Pump Capacity: The Bottom Line

The capacity of a heat pump is the most important factor in determining the right unit for your home.

Heat pumps with smaller capacities are more suitable for smaller spaces such as individual rooms and condos. Large-capacity heat pumps will heat and cool larger spaces more efficiently.

The right unit will help to reduce your utility bills and keep your home comfortable.

Using a heat pump size calculator and working with a reputable HVAC technician can help ensure you install the right size heat pump for your home.

Heat Pump Tax Credits

If you’re considering buying a new heat pump system, significant tax credits are available. Through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, homeowners can claim a tax deduction of 30% on the purchase and installation of a new air-source heat pump, up to a maximum credit of $2,000. Meanwhile, the government is offering a 30% tax credit for geothermal heat pump systems.

FAQs on Heat Pump Capacity

How do you calculate heat pump capacity?

A heat pump’s ability to cool and heat a space is measured in BTUs. It typically takes 24,000 BTUs to effectively heat or cool 1,000 square feet and 48,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home. An HVAC technician will consider factors such as the square footage of an area, insulation levels, desired indoor temperature, and the climate you live in to determine an accurate heat pump capacity.

How many BTUs is a 3-ton heat pump?

Given that HVAC systems are measured at 12,000 BTUs per ton, a 3-ton heat pump is rated at 36,000 BTUs per hour, meaning it can effectively heat or cool mid-sized areas.

How much does a 3-ton heat pump cost?

The price of a 3-ton heat pump will depend on the specific brand and model you choose. On average, a 3-ton heat pump costs between $4,000 and $6,500 including installation, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors.

How much does a 4-ton heat pump cost?

The amount of money you will pay for a 4-ton heat pump depends on its energy efficiency and technological features. Expect to pay an average of $4,200 to $7,500 for complete system installation, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors.

How much does a 2-ton heat pump cost?

For a 2-ton heat pump, the average price plus installation is between $3,500 and $5,500, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors. The final price will also depend on the brand, efficiency ratings, and other features.

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