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Types of Air Conditioners & Which One Should You Choose?

When it comes to residential HVAC systems, there are three types of air conditioners. In this video, we’ll break down their differences and compare the benefits of each system.

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June 30th, 2022

When it comes to residential HVAC systems, there are three types of air conditioners. In this video, we’ll break down their differences and compare the benefits of each system.

Hi, my name is Bryan from Fire & Ice, and we believe in educating our customers so they can make the best decision. When it comes to air conditioners, there is a lot to choose from, and understanding the different types and how they can affect your overall indoor comfort is essential. In this video, we’ll go over how your home naturally heats up in the summer and then look at how single-stage, two-stage, and variable-speed air conditioners compare.

How does your home naturally heat up in the summer?

Every day as soon as the sun rises, your home begins to warm up. Sunlight comes in through the windows, and the indoor temperature rises. The hot ambient air also tries to get inside through your exterior walls by mid-afternoon.

The heat entering your home can be even higher if you have a lot of eastern or western-facing windows. If your walls and attic aren't well insulated, your home's indoor temperature will rise further. Combine all that with a bedroom above a garage or a basement. You're likely experiencing a very uncomfortable home.

The air conditioner's primary job is to remove as much excess heat as possible and replace it with cool conditioned air. The truth is, it's all about how well the air conditioner can mix the air inside your home. Imagine a bottle of salad dressing. Shake it for a few seconds, and you will not have a good combination of all the ingredients.  But the longer you mix the ingredients, the better the dressing will mix. Let’s look at the different types of air conditioners and how they compare when mixing the air inside your home.

Air Conditioner Types: Single-stage

The first type of air conditioner is your tried-and-true, single-stage variety.  These units are either on or off and use 100% of their capacity every time they kick on. So, when the temperature inside your home rises a few degrees beyond the thermostat’s set point, it’ll kick on full throttle. Then, it’ll run for a few minutes to rapidly bring the temperature inside your house down and shut off once the desired temperature is reached. But once that system turns off, the heat will enter the home again, and the cycle continues. If we think back to our salad dressing analogy, it’s like giving the bottle three or four quick shakes. The primary benefit of single-stage air conditioners is they are inexpensive, and their technology has been around the longest. As a result, they are ideal for homeowners with smaller square foot homes and don’t experience temperature swings inside the house. Examples of single-stage air conditioners are the Trane XR14 and the Carrier Comfort 13.

Air Conditoiner Types: Two-stage

The second type of air conditioner uses two-stage cooling, which means it operates in two capacities. When they first turn on, they’ll start in their first stage and use about 60 to 70% of their total capacity. Most of the time, a two-stage air conditioner will run in its first stage and only use its second stage on the hottest days of the summer. Since it’s primarily running at its lower speed, the system will be running longer and mixing the air inside your home simultaneously. This allows for better temperature control and higher efficiency. Two-stage air conditioners are great for homeowners who suffer from those indoor comfort concerns like uneven temperatures between floors or hot and cold spots between rooms. Examples of two-stage air conditioners are the Trane XR17 and Carrier Performance 17.

 Air Conditioner Types: Variable Speed

The third type of air conditioner uses variable speed technology. Unlike single-stage and two-stage air conditioners, variable speed systems can throttle up and down in speed. So, when it’s still relatively calm in the morning, it may use only 35% of its total capacity. Then, as the day goes on, it’ll increase in speed.

Believe it or not, the system's highest energy draw is when it kicks on. But once the system is on, it's easy to maintain. Considering air conditioners kick on between 3,000 and 5,000 every summer, a variable speed system constantly running at a much lower speed can bring considerable cost savings.

Not to mention, by running nonstop, you’ll have a continuous mixing of the air, giving you complete control over your indoor comfort.

Variable-speed air conditioners can keep the temperature inside your home within a half degree regardless of the temperature outside. Not only can variable-speed air conditioners help keep you comfortable inside your home they’ll also help save you the most in terms of energy costs and boost the highest efficiency ratings of 20 SEER or greater. So if you’re looking for ultimate comfort and energy savings, variable systems might be for you. Examples of variable speed systems include the Trane XV20i and the Carrier Infinity 28.

Which system is right for you?

I hope by now you have a better understanding of the different types of air conditioners and which system might be for you. If you want help determining which type of air conditioner is right for your home, click the free estimate button at the top of the screen. We’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss your options. Thank you for watching, and we look forward to making your day better.

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