2.5 Ton and 3 Ton AC Unit: Core Features of an Air Conditioning Unit and Its Cost

Kenneth Wilson

Have you ever wondered what parts the AC unit consists of? Did you even consider the features it needs to have before buying an AC unit?

No need to worry because in this article, we’re going to be talking about the 2.5-ton and 3-ton AC unit, the core features that has to be present in these AC units, and the costs of purchasing these air conditioning systems.

What is an Air Conditioner?

The purpose of having an air conditioner is to remove the heat in your home, leaving you feeling comfortable by helping you cool down on a scorching day. An air conditioner is a system used to cool down space, usually measured in square feet, by removing heat from the space and moving it to some outside area. The cool air can now be carried in the space/building using ventilation systems for more accessible transport of cool air.

AC units are commonly used in small and large, preferably enclosed areas where they can provide cool air in the room while removing heat simultaneously with the evaporator coil found in each AC unit. It's also common to see these units in bedrooms, conference rooms, and even in offices. They're built to give more comfort to the people staying in that designated space where the cool air would stay.

Commonly, an air conditioner can be referred to as a "split system" that's because it needs an outdoor unit (the condenser) and an indoor unit (the evaporator) to operate. These two systems work together to accomplish the objective of cooling and dehumidifying an enclosed interior space to provide more comfort to people in a specific room/area. However, some air conditioning units combine these components into one outdoor system, also known as the "packaged" system.

7 Major Parts of an Air Conditioning Unit

Suppose that you're like most homeowners. You probably don't care about the different AC units, how much cooling they provide in square feet, and the parts and components found in them. As long as you can find yourself staying cool in the summer heat, it's the only thing that matters, right? Homeowners are not concerned about these things unless it suddenly stops working.

We're not going to be talking about how to diagnose or troubleshoot your AC unit, no. In this section, we'll be talking about the parts responsible for achieving the cooling system that we all know and love, which most homeowners use pretty much every day.

There are many different types of AC units, and it really depends on the enclosed space/area where you're going to install the air conditioning unit. (Related: The Best Type of AC Unit For Your Home: A Consumer Guide) The AC unit has 7 major parts and components that are essential for working correctly and efficiently. Basically, each AC unit is composed of a thermostat, air filter, fan, condensing coil, compressor, evaporator coil, and a blower.

  • Thermostat - The thermostat may be that digital number that you see in air conditioners. It's the control center of an air conditioning unit. It's responsible for the temperature settings you can change yourself. Most air conditioning units have thermostats that can be controlled using a remote control or built-in buttons you can press to manually set the temperature of your preference. The lower you set the thermostat, the higher your cooling bills will be, and vice versa.
  • Air Filter - Air filters are responsible for filtering out the dust and dirt gathered by the AC unit that can potentially damage the other engine parts and components. It's also responsible for the air quality you get indoors. Not only does the air filter provide quality cooling, but it also makes sure that the air you breathe indoors is clean and free from dust particles.
  • Fan - The fan is commonly located on the outside unit. Fans and fins are used to ensure that the condensing coil, which is also found on the outdoor unit, doesn't overheat.
  • Condensing Coil - The condensing coil is the outdoor equivalent of the evaporator coil. This means it expels heat outside the room/building, reducing heat build-up that may occur indoors.
  • Compressor - According to Roth-Heat, once it (the AC unit) has absorbed heat, the refrigerant is in a gaseous state. It passes through the compressor, where the gas is pressurized and heated even more. This critical step prepares the refrigerant to give up its heat.
  • Evaporator Coil - This is the indoor component of the split system air conditioning units. It's responsible for extracting heat and humidity from the air. It's possible thanks to the refrigerant running through the coil.
  • Blower - Air flowing in the supply registers is the blower's job. The blower is responsible for distributing cool air in your room and pulls room temperature air back for re-cooling. 

How Many Square Feet Does a 2.5 and 3-Ton AC Unit Cover?

Compared to common belief, tons in the air conditioning industry are not the weight of these air conditioners. Instead, they're used for measuring the air conditioner's capacity to cool specific areas/spaces indoors. According to AllYearCooling, a ton is a number that represents how much heat a unit can remove in an hour.

To determine the tonnage needed in your home, you must first look at the weather conditions and climate you live in. For example, if you live in tropical areas, it'll require a higher tonnage for efficient cooling.

You have to worry about the climate you're living in and the square footage of your space, which will determine the proper tonnage of AC units you need to purchase for that space.

Units with 2.5 tons can cool off 1201-1500 square feet, while a 3-ton cools off 1502-1800 square feet. It may not look much like it, but a 3-ton has better efficiency in cooling areas with a tropical-like climate. This measurement can vary wherever you live.

Core Features of an Air Conditioning Unit

You need to know basic guidelines as a buyer if you want to purchase air conditioning units for your home. Whether you want them to be installed in your living room, bedroom, or even in your office (if you have an office at home). The core features of air conditioning units will help serve as a guide to ensure that you get the most cooling out of the AC units you decide to buy.

The core features of an air conditioning unit will help you compare and contrast AC units with different specifications. It can also help ensure that you don't overspend on the wrong air-cooling system in your home.

Efficiency and Its Cost to Run Per Hour

Your AC unit should be efficient every hour it operates to ensure that you get the most cooling out of your air conditioning system. One of the tips we can give you is by checking their SEER ratings. The basic rule is, the higher the SEER rating, the lower the utility bill.

So, if you find an air conditioning unit that meets the specifications you are looking for, try finding other similar units but with a higher SEER rating. It's a money-saving factor if you plan on purchasing one of these units.

Location of Indoor and Outdoor Unit

Before buying an air conditioning unit, you have to ensure that its design is compliant with the space you need the AC unit for. The worst location of the outdoor unit of your AC unit is where it can be seen and heard. You don't want the outdoor unit to be on the facade of your home, where people can see and hear the AC unit before entering your home.

This is similar to indoor units as well. Attic-mounted furnaces are hard to service and may cause potential leaks and ceiling damages. Unless you take precautions, such as a secondary condensate pan and a drain line to the exterior, you won't run the risks and potential repair costs. Compared to attic-mounted furnaces, furnaces mounted in closets at floor levels are much easier to service and have low chances of causing leaks and water damage.

Better Return-Air Considerations

An AC unit should maintain the balance of air in the room. For there to be conditioned air to enter the room, there should be an equal amount of air leaving the room. Otherwise, there would be no space for the conditioned air to occupy.  

Easy Access to Air Filters

This is a feature that makes AC unit maintenance easier for the users at home. Usually, you take out these air filters, wash them, and put them back in the AC unit. That's why easy access to these air filters will make your life ten times easier.

Better Accessibility Features

Unlike the early versions of air conditioning units, today, we have the luxury of having a remote control for changing the thermostat of our air conditioning units. If you compare an AC unit without remote control, it would definitely be at a disadvantage if you compare it to AC units with remote control.

Imagine this, you want your room to be a little bit cooler. However, you don't want to do all the hassle of manually pressing the thermostat buttons. That's where the better accessibility features come in. The remote control saves time and effort to do a simple task with an AC unit.

Factors Affecting the Cost of a 2.5-Ton and a 3-Ton AC Unit

Planning to buy a centralized air conditioner? Then you should be ready for the price each air conditioning unit costs. Expect to spend $5,000-$7,000 for a professionally installed 2.5 or 3-Ton HVAC system.

However, there are a lot of factors you need to consider before purchasing these air conditioning units. Here are several factors you need to look into before purchasing AC units:

  • Brand - If you're buying from a highly reputable manufacturer of these AC units, expect to pay more since they’re well-known for their durability and reliability.
  • Efficiency Based on Performance -As previously mentioned in the article, you need an AC unit with a higher SEER rating to make sure it's as efficient as possible. An AC unit with a SEER rating of 20 will gradually decrease utility bills compared to that of 10+ SEER ratings.
  • Cost of Materials - Typically, a 2.5-ton AC unit with 30,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) costs around $2,500, not including the installation, permit or auxiliary fees. However, a 3-ton AC unit with 36,000 BTUs costs around $3,200.
  • Labor Cost - Labor on the installation will fall in the range of $2,000 - $3000.  While it might appear to be a simple one-day project, skilled tradesman is in short supply and are likely to make nearly as much as your doctor lawyer.
  • Permit Fees - Permits are required for HVAC system replacement in nearly all cities / counties.  In most places they are just a couple hundred bucks, but in major cities like San Francisco, they can get pricey.
  • Auxiliary Supplies - Although the cost of indoor and outdoor unit is already accounted for there are many little supplies that will be needed such as a drain pan, or disconnect box. These little supplies add an estimated $250 to the project.
  • Profit - Ah that dirty word.  But let’s be real.  Nobody is here to replace your HVAC system for free, and your community simply wouldn’t exist without profit.  Expect about 10-15% of your project to go profit. Profit in the home service industry is small relative to other industries.

Yes, that’s probably more than you’ll read in other places online, so why the discrepancy?  Well first most of what you read online is a few years outdated.  Second i have actual HVAC trade knowledge and experience… while most of the writers on the topic have no actual trade knowledge and are simply regurgitating what they found on other sites. 

Kenneth Wilson
October 21, 2021
Cost Guides, HVAC

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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