How often do you want the top-of-the-line product, but settle for something middle of the road? These “compromise” decisions are commonplace in HVAC.
But what if I told you that for many homeowners, there’s no need to compromise with HVAC equipment?
The Trane XV20i is the top of the line when it comes to cooling comfort. In HVAC, as in most aspects of life, you get what you pay for. Unlike some other investments, though, this one can continue to benefit you and your family for years or even decades of your life.
To be clear: the XV20i isn’t for everyone. There are situations where it doesn’t make sense to install one. We’re going to cover those cases too, because - and this is something I’m passionate about - we’re not here to sell air conditioners. We’re here to find the best fit for our customers. If we do that, we honor our commitment to building trust, and it’s going to be better for everyone in the long run. We’ll always honor that commitment, whether it’s across the dinner table during a home estimate or in a blog article.
With that said, I’m equally excited to talk about the XV20i, because it’s an amazing upgrade from most other equipment on the market today, and it often makes the most long-term sense for homeowners who initially weren’t even considering it.
Cars, Couches and Dinner Parties
I want to pose a few different scenarios that will directly relate to the XV20i’s benefits. We’re not always used to thinking about the benefits of HVAC equipment, since it’s purchased so infrequently, and it can help to find useful analogies for its benefits.
You’re on a road trip, and this road trip will take you across major highways, small neighborhood roads, and everything in between. You have two options:
- Every time you need to give the car gas, you have to slam the pedal to the floor.
- You have an advanced cruise control that will intelligently take you from 20mph to 80mph depending on the situation.
Which would you pick?
Another scenario: you have a $1,200 budget for a new couch. You head to a bunch of stores, and nothing for $1,200 feels remotely comfortable. However, you find one for $1,900 that is very comfortable, and has options you hadn’t even considered, but that you know you’ll use, like reclining sections and cup holders.
Which would you pick?
This last one isn’t even an analogy, just a real-world example. So you’re hosting a dinner party, and 20+ people will be in your home. It will be very warm, but it’s 57 degrees outside, so you can’t turn on your air conditioner without risking it freezing up. Opening windows might help, but could pull in humidity or rain, or simply create pockets of hot or cold air.
What are the odds you’ll be hosting the next party?
We’re going to come back to each of these as we discuss the technology in the XV20i.
The Variable-Speed Advantage
SEER Rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is something we focus on a lot because it’s an indicator of the overall efficiency of an AC unit. It’s not all that matters, though.
The XV20i can reach up to 22 SEER (or 20 SEER for its heat pump option). Both are excellent and will provide amazing efficiency. However, I want to talk about how its variable-speed compressor equates to unreal comfort for your home.
If it’s 80 degrees and you set your thermostat to 70 degrees, any air conditioning unit will kick on to 100% of its output and begin cooling your home. Once it gets to 70, though, most systems will kick on and off as the temperature jumps from about 68 to 72. You only get that 100% output setting.
With a two-stage system, you might have one more setting at ~70%, which allows the system to run more smoothly and efficiently. But it’s still only one more setting.
The XV20i has 700 stages of cooling! This number is actually 750 for the heat pump. In either case, what this translates to is hundreds of settings for exactly what your home needs. Are you a full 10 degrees off? It’ll take it up to 100%. But is it already at 70, and just wants to chill out (pun intended) there? It’ll ramp the system down to as low as 30% output (or 25% for the heat pump) so that you don’t have the constant temperature swings, and frequent on/off of your A/C unit. In this way, it might be “on” longer, but it’s ultimately using a lot less energy while also keeping you more comfortable.
Remember the cruise control analogy? This is it right here. A single-stage air conditioner compressor has one setting: pedal to the metal. A variable-speed system is the intelligent cruise control that will navigate any terrain (or rather, any weather condition) optimally.
Some equipment out there will call itself variable-speed, but may only have 4-5 stages. This is variable-speed in a technical sense, but lacks the practical value of the XV20i. Those 700+ stages aren’t just for show! They have real, practical value when it comes to your comfort and utility bills.
Low Ambient Cooling
Now let’s go back to the dinner party. You’ve probably seen ice bubbles on refrigerant lines of air conditioners, and one of the ways that can happen is if the A/C is being run when the outdoor temperature is lower than it’s built to handle.
Usually, this threshold is 60 degrees. Any lower and you’re playing with fire (or rather, playing with ice).
But because the variable-speed system can manage its heat absorption and moisture absorption so carefully, this temperature threshold is considerably lower. This is referred to as low ambient cooling.
The Trane manufacturer’s manual for these systems states that it can cool with outdoor temperatures “below 55 degrees.” While this isn’t an exact lower limit, the system also comes equipped with an emergency shutoff in case conditions become too adverse.
In practice, the XV20i can and will go below this number. So is it 50 degrees outside for your dinner party, but a bit hot and/or humid inside? No problem.
Low ambient cooling is a function that is more common in commercial equipment than residential equipment. But technology like that in the XV20i is slowly changing that fact.
Communicating for Comfort
You’ve probably heard about “smart home” technology, or even that certain HVAC equipment communicates with itself to optimize your heating and cooling. This is true, but not all forms of communication are equal in terms of their benefit.
You can set a single-stage air conditioner with a programmable thermostat, and it will read indoor and outdoor temperatures and operate accordingly. In a technical sense, it’s communicating.
The sophisticated technology in top-of-the-line systems is beyond this, though, and it means good things for your comfort.
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Because the XV20i (and compatible HVAC systems) have hundreds of cooling stages, it has a lot of options for how it cools your home. So based on the outdoor temperature, indoor temperature, the settings you’ve provided, and the system’s past knowledge, it actively builds algorithms that allow it to cool more efficiently.
That’s right: it learns.
The benefit here is when you set up routines to your heating and cooling, since it has a chance to optimize over time. One positive result of this is that, outside of some extreme temperature circumstances, you’re rarely going to be at the system’s maximum output. Instead, it will take the most efficient path to your desired settings.
Temperature vs. Humidity
Since the system is communicating with not just the air conditioner but also the blower motor in your furnace, it can adjust multiple variables to achieve both your desired temperature and desired humidity.
Air conditioners also remove humidity, and ideally, your system is providing comfortable levels of both. If you have a single-stage or two-stage system, it’s sometimes not going to be able to manage both levels properly.
So what happens if your home is at the desired temperature but excess humidity from your basement is still making your home muggy? Most systems can “overcool” up to about three degrees to remove additional humidity. This often isn’t enough, though, and will also create energy sinks and colder temperatures than you’re comfortable with.
By being able to independently control things like the evaporator coil intake on your A/C and the blower fan speed in your furnace, the XV20i can manage these levels much more easily. In the most humid circumstances, you might still have a little bit of overcooling. However, this is rare due to the granular level of control the system has over both temperature and humidity removal.
Equipment Matching Considerations
An air conditioner is only as good as the system it is paired with. We’ve talked about the 700+ cooling stages the XV20i has. But if your furnace’s blower motor has two stages, you only have access to two of those 700+ on the air conditioning side, since the blower fan is what is moving the air through your system for both heating and cooling.
Obviously that would be a waste of technology, and thus a waste of your money.
The solution is a variable-speed blower motor, with compatible heating technology that can leverage these options as well.
For the XV20i, that means pairing it with either the XC80 or the XC95M furnace. Both have a variable-speed blower motor, and the XC95M has a modulating gas valve for more granular control over the heating capacity. While the XC95M is the more efficient of the two, both are excellent options to get everything possible out of your variable-speed air conditioner.
XV20i Air Conditioner vs. Heat Pump
The XV20i comes as both an air conditioner and an electric heat pump. We’ve discussed small differences in them, but want to discuss when each will be ideal.
The heat pump can both cool and heat, so it will initially be more expensive, but can be of use into the winter months as well. Heat pumps have a limit, past which they’re less efficient in the cold, which is when the furnace kicks on and supplements the heat coming from the heat pump.
The heat pump also has 50 more cooling stages than the A/C. While, yes, this allows for even more precise control, the difference will be minor for most homes. The difference between one or two stages and 700+ is far greater in terms of comfort and efficiency.
More than anything, the “right fit” between these two will be dependent on your home and equipment. If you don’t have access to a natural gas line, electric equipment may be best, while the low cost of natural gas makes an air conditioner plus gas furnace optimal for many.
Importantly, the XC80 and XC95M that we talked about in the equipment matching section are only available as gas furnaces, but an XV20i heat pump can still be paired with a compatible electric air handler and furnace.
Is the XV20i Harder to Service?
In a word: No. In fact, there are a few ways in which it’s actually easier to install, maintain, and service than comparable or less expensive equipment.
To be clear: the XV20i is a piece of equipment that will need to be maintained, tuned up, and eventually repaired or replaced (ideally in 15-20 years or longer). This is true of every system. No technology will avoid those things entirely.
What the XV20i does, however, is find ways to proactively prevent many potential problems. How does it do this? A few ways:
- Trane’s patented spine-fin coils line the outside air conditioning unit, replacing a more traditional coil. Those traditional coils can be efficient as well, but have dozens of welded connections that could eventually leak. The spine fin technology avoids this potential complication.
- Since the system is built to match with similarly advanced Trane furnaces and thermostats, the amount of wiring needed for the system to communicate is minimal. Despite the sophistication of its communication, the electrical work involved is often less than during the installation of less advanced units.
- The system comes with built-in diagnostics, with simple “Green/Yellow/Red” indicators. As soon as something is running sub-optimally or could need maintenance, inspection, or repair, you’re alerted to this fact. Many systems have some form of emergency shut-offs or simpler diagnostic procedures, but rarely as advanced as this.
What this equates to is peace of mind.
So with this unit, as with any HVAC system, it’s entirely possible to proactively manage your system to prevent performance issues in the first place, minimizing the risk and cost while maintaining your high level of comfort.
What About Cost?
Yes, the XV20i is a larger initial investment than most systems on the market. Sometimes significantly so. This may be the deciding factor in your decision not to get one. Before you make that choice, though, I hope you’ll consider long-term value as well.
If you’re going to be in your home for 10+ years, and assuming proper installation and regular maintenance, you’ll be getting your money’s worth compared to single-stage or two-stage equipment.
Exact savings depends on things like usage and climate, so it’s not something that anyone can put an exact number on, but it’s always going to provide significant cost savings relative to cheaper alternatives. For many homeowners, the unit will pay for the initial difference in cost within 7-10 years.
Lastly, robust financing options are available, and it’s often the best financing options that are available for the most efficient equipment. As a result, it’s surprisingly affordable for many homeowners. Often, these options are supplemented by energy-efficient tax credits or rebates as well, since manufacturers and utility companies are incentivized to provide benefits for customers who purchase efficient equipment.
When Wouldn’t You Want the XV20i
This isn’t a question we can answer for you, but reasons could include:
- You’re moving from your home within the next five years. You’ll still get the comfort benefit, but will miss out on some of the long-term utility benefits.
- You rarely use your air conditioner. High-use areas of the country, including high humidity areas, will benefit most from prolonged use of variable-speed equipment.
- You’ve only budgeted to replace the A/C, and don’t have a compatible air handler or furnace. Technically variable-speed equipment can be installed along with lower-stage equipment. You’re just losing most of the benefits of the new unit at that point, so it’s not worth it. That said, full system installations can often be cheaper than doing A/C and furnace separately. If the furnace will need replacing soon too, it may make more sense to plan for both at the same time.
- You don’t like extreme comfort.
Just kidding with that last one. But in seriousness, if you’re going to be in your home for any extended period of time, it’s always worth at least looking into a variable-speed system before making a final decision.
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The Ultimate in Comfort
This might seem like a ridiculously thorough article for one air conditioner, but believe it or not, we’ve had to leave a lot out. We could talk about how the XV20i manages to stay very quiet in its operation, or how the thermostat can be fitted to take inputs from multiple sensors throughout the home to provide even more precise control, or the various additional “smart home” options it gives you due to its communicative technology. Or others that had to be left on the cutting room floor.
Hopefully, though, you get the point by now. This is a really good piece of cooling equipment, and can be part of a spectacular HVAC system.
If it isn’t the right choice for you, there are plenty of other options available to meet your needs. If you ultimately decide to install the XV20i, though, along with compatible HVAC equipment, you won’t be disappointed.
Ready to get an estimate for your home? If you made it this far, we hope so. If you’re in Columbus, Ohio, or the surrounding areas, click the button below or give us a call. We’d love to help you find your dream system!
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