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Is a Variable Speed AC System Worth It?

August 4, 2021

Living on the coast, we appreciate the warmer temperatures during the winter. But, during the summer, the Southern heat can feel unbearable, especially without a working AC! Charleston, SC is no exception—but how do you know which AC system is right for you? There is a lot to consider when choosing the best air conditioning […]

Living on the coast, we appreciate the warmer temperatures during the winter. But, during the summer, the Southern heat can feel unbearable, especially without a working AC! Charleston, SC is no exception—but how do you know which AC system is right for you?

There is a lot to consider when choosing the best air conditioning system for your home, including cost and long-term performance. That’s why our certified team of Trane Comfort Specialists is here to help you make the best choice for your needs.

Variable Speed vs Single Speed AC Systems: Which Is Better?

Whether you have already gone down the rabbit hole or are just starting to research, it’s important to understand how each type of AC system operates. In general, there are two types of AC systems: single-speed and variable speed.

Other types of AC systems sit somewhere in between the two. You are probably more familiar with a single-speed AC system, as most American homes use a single-stage compressor.

Key Differences Between Single-Speed and Variable Speed Systems

Single-speed air conditioning systems operate similarly to that of a light switch. When you flip on a light switch it is operating at 100% capacity. A single-speed AC functions in the same way. When it is on, it blasts cool air at 100% capacity then shuts off quickly after cooling down your home. This on/off cycle occurs throughout the day and night. This may be why you notice hot or cold spots in your home leading to inconsistent temperatures.

In contrast, variable-speed air conditioning systems adapt operating capacity to fit the cooling needs of your home. While a single-speed operates at either a 100% capacity or off, a variable-speed AC system can operate anywhere between 10% to 150% capacity. This means it may blast AC into your home at 150% capacity then drop down to 30% or 40% once the house has been cooled off to maintain a steady stream of cool air.

5 Benefits of Having a Variable AC System

1 – Continuous Comfort
Longer running times at lower speeds lead to consistent temperatures that ensure comfortability for the whole household. Variable-speed AC systems minimize temperature swings and continuously push cool air at an efficient capacity, making your house an even temperature throughout. No more swarming to the cool spots of the house because with variable-speed AC systems, everyone in the house is comfortable.

2 – Lower Energy Bill
You may be surprised to learn that variable-speed AC systems can often contribute to a lower energy bill, especially when considering how much more time they are on than single-speed AC systems. This is because a variable-speed AC system uses the lowest energy amount needed to cool your house; variable motors require significantly less power to move the same amount of air. In addition to saving money on your energy bills in the long run, variable speed systems often have a longer lifespan than single-speed systems.

3 – Dehumidification
A variable-speed AC system also can provide dehumidification of the air as it pushes it inside—music to any local Charlestonian’s ears. Because variable-speed AC systems run for a longer amount of time, more moisture can be removed from within the house. This points to a better balance between the indoor temperature and humidity, ultimately ensuring maximum comfort.

4 – Quieter Operation
If you currently have a single-speed AC system or have had one in the past, you know that they can produce inconsistent noise levels. Complete silence is randomly interrupted by the loud hum of air blasting. And once you have turned the volume on the TV all the way up, back to silence. Variable-speed AC systems, however, can effectively run while producing lower sound levels. This is because the variable-speed blowers can operate at many different capacities while single-speed AC systems can not.

5 – Increased Air Filtering
It’s simple: longer running times mean more time for the air to be filtered through the system. Because variable speed AC systems push out air at lower speeds for longer, the air is given more opportunity to interact with the air filtering components of the system. As a result, variable-speed air conditioner systems can provide higher indoor air quality levels.

What to Consider When Choosing a Variable Speed AC System

Of course, one of the most important things to consider when choosing your air conditioning system is the cost. The plain truth is that a variable-speed AC system comes with a higher upfront cost than a single-speed AC system.

But, there is an emphasis on the word upfront. While a variable-speed AC system might seem like a large initial cost, e savings on your energy bill often make the investment well worth it. Plus, the initial cost is negated by the longer AC life expectancy.

So we arrive back to the original question at hand, is a variable-speed AC system worth it? We say yes. Just like most sustainable options, variable-speed AC systems come with a higher upfront cost but prove to be wise long-term investments.

Installing Your Variable Speed AC System

While variable speed AC systems are especially beneficial during our hot, Charleston, SC, summers, we can help you find the optimal balance between affordability and performance.
There are many integrated systems in between single-speed and variable-speed AC systems, including two-stage and multi-stage systems, that may serve as a happy medium. For this reason, we offer a variety of options and affordable products—always from industry-leading brands—to cater to your unique comfort needs.

And if you aren’t quite ready for a full system replacement, we are still happy to help you handle these hot, humid summers with routine maintenance and AC repairs. For more information, or to set up your diagnostic consultation, contact us at AGL Heating and Air today!

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