How to Calculate BTU for AC in a Room

A room in a house can be cooled efficiently by using an individual AC unit, rather than a whole house air conditioner.
You can use an online calculator to calculate the size of the amount of Btu (British thermal units) that will be needed by taking the dimensions of the room, the type of insulation and the number of windows into account. The resulting calculation will provide the number of Btu’s that the compressor of the portable AC unit must accommodate. This number is noted on the specifications of the portable AC unit.

Step 1

Measure the length and width of the room, in feet, using a tape measure. Write these measurements down. Multiply the width by length to arrive at the square footage of the room. Write this number down.

Step 2

Launch the default web browser by selecting it from the “Start” > “All Applications” pop-up menu. Enter the URL web address in the top field for a website that provides a free air conditioning calculator, for example, the BTU Calculator on the Hearth website (see Resources).

Step 3

Enter the “length” measurement you wrote down in the “Length” field on the website’s air conditioning calculator. Enter the “width” measurement you wrote down in the “Width” field.

Step 4

Select the type of house you have from the drop-down menu or from a list on the web page (the selection process may vary, depending on the website).

Step 5

Enter any other information that is requested on the web page, for example, how many windows there are in the room and whether it has a skylight or not.

Step 6

Press the “Compute” or “Calculate” button on the web page (the actual name may vary, depending on the website).

Step 7

Read the number of Btu’s that are needed in the “Btu” text field on the web page. Use this number when buying the portable AC unit for the room. Match the Btu number with that listed on the unit’s specifications -- typically found on a side or back panel. Purchase a unit that matches or slightly exceeds the Btu number that is needed.

Things You Will Need

  • Tape measure
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Computer
  • Internet access

About the Author

Marshal M. Rosenthal is a technology maven with more than 15 years of editorial experience. A graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography with a Bachelor of Arts in photographic arts, his editorial work has appeared both domestically as well as internationally in publications such as "Home Theater," "Electronic House," "eGear," "Computer and Video Games" and "Digitrends."