Informational Guide

Compare 2 Vs 2.5 Vs 3 Ton AC Units

We compare various central AC units sizes for homes so you can purchase the right model. Compare 2, 2.5, and 3 ton air conditioners.

by Josh M

The tonnage of an air conditioner confuses many in the HVAC industry. At times it might feel that air conditioning engineers and technicians are speaking an entirely different language.

Even though some of the words they use feel common, the way they are using them does not.

One word among them is ‘tonnage.’ Hence, this guide will help you learn the similarities and differences between 2 ton VS 3 ton AC.

While BTU is used to measure heat energy, ton, also called tonnage, refers to the amount of heat your air conditioning unit will remove in an hour from your house.

Tons and BTU both determine the same thing. Therefore, they can be used interchangeably to make it easier for you to identify the cooling capacity of your air conditioner.

The tonnage ratings are usually identified in 0.5 tons’ increments. This is why most residential air conditioning units are rated as 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, to 5-ton units.

Multiple variables might affect your tonnage requirements. For example, many homes will require a ton for each 400-1000 sq. meters.

But be careful; an air conditioner with a higher tonnage rating’s operation will also be more expensive.

Related ArticleHow Many BTU In A Ton

Pros & Cons of Lower Tonnage Air Conditioners

The Good
  • They do not make much noise and do not vibrate as much
  • The compressor is more efficient than higher tonnage models
  • Their running costs are lower than higher tonnage models
  • Suitable for all sizes of room, though they will not cool as efficiently in bigger ones
  • Increases user comfort
The Bad
  • Higher manufacturing cost since most lower tonnage models have an inverter compressor
  • Have high maintenance and repair costs than their counterparts
  • Cooling effectiveness is decreased if the outside temperature is too high

Pros & Cons of Higher Tonnage Air Conditioners

The Good
  • They are less expensive than lower tonnage (inverter) models
  • Will cool bigger rooms
  • Higher tonnage models have higher BTU making them great for conference rooms and event locations
  • Their efficiency remains the same regardless of the outside temperature
  • Easier to maintain
The Bad
  • They make a lot of noise while functioning
  • They consume 10% more power than the lower tonnage models
  • Their compressor operates at a fixed speed

2 Vs. 2.5 Vs. 3 Ton AC Unit: Similarities & Differences Compared

Without wasting much time, let us look at some of the factors to determine the tonnage you might need for your space by comparing them in various aspects:

2 Vs 2.5 Vs 3 Ton AC Unit

Cooling Capacity

Tonnage is directly proportional to the cooling capacity. Hence, a higher-ton air conditioning unit will have a higher cooling capacity than your lower models.

However, cooling capacity also comes along with your needs. For example, if you have a smaller sized room that needs to be cooled, you would benefit better from a 2 Ton AC unit than a 3 Ton one.

So consider the size of your room when selecting a higher cooling capacity model.

Related ArticleWhat Size Of AC Do I Need?

Area Size To Be Cooled

The area that must be cooled is also a significant factor affecting your choice between a 2-ton and 3-ton AC.

For example, if you live in a house of 1200 sq. feet in a hotter climate; so based on various variables, you might need a 2.5 ton (30,000 BTU) or a 2 ton (24,000 BTU) air conditioning unit.

These variables include:

  • The number of occupants
  • Ceiling height
  • Insulation
  • Others

However, if you live in a colder climate, then a 2.5 ton might be oversized.

But if the area that needs to be cooled is around 1800 sq. feet, has a typical 8-foot ceiling, average sun exposure, and cold climate, you may probably require a 3-ton unit of 36,000 BTU.

Energy Efficiency and Electricity Cost

A higher BTU unit typically uses more energy to cool your house. A 2-ton unit operates at 24,000, 2.5-ton at 30,000 BTU, and 3-ton at 36,000 BTU.

So if you are looking for energy-efficient models and ones that will have lower electricity costs, look at the SEER rating as well.

A high SEER rating and low BTU will be ideal in that scenario. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standardized SEER value according to tonnage, but it is understood that a higher BTU will have a higher electricity cost.

However, if you get a 3-ton AC (36,000) with a relatively higher SEER (let’s say 17), it will lower your electricity bill considerably compared to a 2.5-ton unit with no SEER certification.

Air Conditioner Unit Cost

In the battle between 2.5-ton AC unit VS 3-ton, you might have guessed that 2 and 2.5-ton units will be considerably cheaper than the 3-ton one.

There is not a significant difference in prices between 2, 2.5, and 3-ton air conditioning units (around $200-300); however, their running cost is an entirely different matter.

A 2-ton AC unit costs around $2600-2700 USD, a 2.5-ton $2800-2900 USD, and a 3-ton AC unit is approximately $2900-3300 USD.

So as you can see, there is a significant difference in the unit cost, but their running cost as we have covered before is an entirely different matter.

HVAC Installation Cost

HVAC installation cost typically increases with the area. For example, if you install a 2-ton AC unit in your HVAC system, it will demand a lower installation cost to cover a 1200 sq. feet area.

The ductwork is less extensive in a 1200 sq. feet house than an 1800 sq. feet one, which requires a 3 BTU unit. So, the installation costs are directly related to the area size you want to be cooled.

A bigger place will need a higher tonnage AC unit, which will increase the HVAC installation costs.

HVAC Installation Cost

People Also Ask (FAQ)

What is the difference between the 2, 2.5, and 3-ton heat pump?

Like the 2, 2.5, and 3-ton AC unit, a 2-ton VS 2.5-ton VS 3-ton heat pump carries a similar difference. However, 2 and 2.5-ton heat pumps have lower BTU and thus will only heat an area of around 1200 sq. feet.

What is the difference between 1 ton and 2-ton mini split AC?

The main difference between a 1-ton and 2-ton mini-split is that a 2-ton mini-split is somewhat expensive and consumes more power. Whereas the 1-ton model is cheaper and does not have high power consumption, they are only suitable for a room size of around 140 sq. feet.

How does the AC tonnage affect the electricity cost?

Yes, a higher tonnage affects your electricity cost. High tonnage is associated with higher BTUs, and they essentially increase your energy bills. However, most AC units have a SEER rating, which lowers energy costs and makes them more efficient.

What are some good 2, 2.5, and 3-ton AC brands?

Various brands operating in the market provide suitable 2, 2.5, and 3-ton air conditioning units; some of the top names include Goodman, Trane, Daikin, Rheem, Lennox, Bryant, Carrier, and Mitsubishi.


Selecting the proper AC tonnage for your home depends on your cooling requirements and the space you need to be cooled.

For example, 2-ton air conditioning units are much more energy-efficient and less expensive than their 2.5 and 3-ton counterparts.

However, a 3-ton AC unit can cool a much bigger area than your typical 2 and 2.5-ton unit.

Last Updated on July 15, 2022

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.