There's no shortage of choices when it comes to installing a new air conditioning unit. Although many homes still use simple, single-stage units, dual-stage and variable air conditioners are quickly gaining popularity. These units offer many potential benefits, but they come with one notable and often decisive drawback: cost.
Understandably, buying a dual-stage or variable air conditioner will always cost more than an equivalent single-stage unit. Assuming you're considering systems with equivalent or roughly equivalent capacities, is it worth it to spend the extra money? The answer will depend on your specific budget and needs.
What Do You Gain By Upgrading?
You can find plenty of sources on the internet espousing the advantages of upgrading to a dual-stage or variable-speed air conditioner. As their names imply, these systems can operate in either two modes (low and high) or many modes. In either case, this allows your air conditioner to tailor its behavior to your home's current cooling needs.
This design means you can save money on your utility bills since your air conditioner doesn't need to run at full power all the time. You'll also enjoy a home that's cooler and more comfortable, with fewer temperature variations. Variable units offer the best efficiency and cooling consistency, while dual-stage units are closer in design to traditional single-stage air conditioners.
Is Upgrading Right For You?
There's no question that a dual-stage or variable-speed air conditioner provides advantages, but that doesn't mean they're suitable for every home. If you're considering this upgrade, ask yourself these questions:
If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, an upgrade might be worthwhile. Since the purpose of dual-stage and variable-speed AC is to run at less than full strength, they provide the most significant gains when your home's cooling load is low, such as in the fall and spring. During these off-seasons, they can help keep you cool without freezing you out of your own home.
Are There Alternatives?
If upgrading to one of these systems is out of your budget, you may want to consider "right-sizing" your AC install instead. Problems such as inconsistent temperatures or extreme hot-to-cold swings may indicate that your current system is either too powerful or not powerful enough for your needs. In either case, your air conditioner will struggle to maintain consistent temperatures.
Your installer can work with you to perform a cooling load calculation for your home. This information will allow you to determine the best capacity for your new air conditioner and may help you decide if upgrading to a more advanced dual-stage or variable-speed system is worthwhile. Contact an air conditioning installation company for more information.