British thermal unit

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The British thermal unit (BTU or Btu) is a traditional unit of energy equal to about 1 055.05585 joules. It is approximately the amount of energy needed to heat 1 pound (0.454 kg) of water 1 °F (0.556 °C). It is used in the power, steam generation, heating and air conditioning industries. In scientific contexts the BTU has largely been replaced by the SI unit of energy, the joule, though it may be used as a measure of agricultural energy production (BTU/kg). It is still used unofficially in metric English-speaking countries (such as Canada), and remains the standard unit of classification for air conditioning units manufactured and sold in many non-English-speaking metric countries.

In North America, the term "BTU" is used to describe the heat value (energy content) of fuels, and also to describe the power of heating and cooling systems, such as furnaces, stoves, barbecue grills, and air conditioners. When used as a unit of power, BTU per hour (BTU/h) is the correct unit, though this is often abbreviated to just "BTU".

The unit MBTU was defined as one thousand BTU, presumably from the Roman numeral system where "M" stands for one thousand (1,000). This is easily confused with the SI mega (M) prefix, which multiplies by a factor of one million (1,000,000). To avoid confusion many companies and engineers use MMBTU to represent one million BTU. Alternatively a therm is used representing 100,000 or 105 BTU, and a quad as 1015 BTU.



A BTU is defined as amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one 1 pound (0.454 kg) of liquid water by 1 °F (0.556 °C) at a constant pressure of one atmosphere. As is the case with the calorie, several different definitions of the BTU exist, which are based on different water temperatures and therefore vary by up to 0.5%: A BTU can be approximated as the heat produced by burning a single wooden match[1] or as the amount of energy it would take to lift a one-pound weight to a height of 778 feet (237 m).[2]


One BTU is approximately:

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