Heat pump capacity: 2-ton, 3-ton, and 4-ton

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If you live in an area with moderate heating and cooling needs, a heat pump can be an energy-efficient and affordable substitute for your furnace and air conditioner. This versatile heating and cooling system extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another, keeping you warm when it’s cold outside and cool when outdoor temperatures rise.

The heating and cooling needs of every home vary based on factors such as the climate, size of the home and rooms, and insulation. 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.

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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.

A higher BTU rating means a more powerful 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 spaces or enhancing comfort in areas with moderate heating and cooling needs.

A capacity of 24,000 BTUs will heat or cool areas of up to 1,000 square feet. But it’s important to confirm with a professional 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 indoor air at your desired temperature.

While 3-ton heat pumps are not necessarily heavier than smaller-capacity pumps, they 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 also cost more 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 size heat pump, you must ensure that a 4-ton 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.

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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. In 2023, you may be able to get a free or reduced-cost heat pump thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Heat pump capacity FAQs

Is a 3-ton air conditioner enough for my house?
Apart from the capacity of the air conditioner, you also need to account for things like your climate, house size, and existing insulation. In general, a 3-ton air conditioner will work well in an area of around 1,200 square feet.
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 with a 14 SEER costs around $5,229 including installation, according to the 2019 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator.
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 $6,654 for complete system installation for a 14 SEER unit, according to the 2019 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator.
How much does a 2-ton heat pump cost?
For a 2-ton heat pump, the average price plus installation is $4,352 for a 14 SEER unit, according to the 2019 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator. The final price will also depend on the brand, efficiency ratings, and other features.