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What is a Heat Load Calculator?

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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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A heat load calculator is a tool used by HVAC professionals to determine the necessary size of a furnace and air conditioning unit. This tool was once only available to those professionals, but is now can be found online for free. The calculator takes many factors about a room, from size to window quality, insulation, doors, floors and desired temperature, to calculate the proper BTU output.

A heat load calculator is more of a computer program than a physical calculator, like the kind used in arithmetic. This complex equation that once needed to be performed by hand can now be finished in a few minutes. The calculator is commonly found online as a free program that presents easily filled fields. Precision in inputting these factors is essential to get the proper HVAC system size.

The most physical labor required when operating a heat load calculator comes with measuring the rooms. For each room the HVAC system will reach, the length, width and height must be measured and inputted in feet. Exposed walls, also known as the exterior-facing walls, must also be inputted into the calculator.

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The insulation level that needs to be inputted into the heat load calculator takes research, often looking back at remodeling paperwork. The insulation level of the walls and ceilings needs to be entered into the appropriate calculator field. The insulation level, in the United States, is measured between R6 and R20. The higher the number, the thicker the insulation. A heat load calculator will also ask what type of flooring the room has and what level, if any, of insulation is under the floor.

Door and window values are also essential for the calculator's estimate. This means having to measure each door and window and enter the value into the calculator. Most calculators also ask what type of door, like wooden, glass or sliding, the room has. The number of panes within each window is also necessary to understand the room's current insulation level.

Finally, the ideal room temperature must be entered, in Fahrenheit for United States calculators. Once all this data has been inputted the calculator performs a complex calculation based on all the factors and determines the heat load for the home. The heat load is measured in BTUs and watts. These numbers will correspond to various HVAC systems' capacities that will be able to properly supply heat and air to the room.

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