One of the ways that your air conditioner can be classified is the type of ‘stage’ conditioner it is. The word stage refers to how many modes the compressor can operate in. Single stage air conditioners have one mode of operation, and two stage air conditioners have two modes of operation.
Single stage air conditioners are less expensive to install and repair than two stage air conditioners. However, a two stage air conditioner offers greater indoor comfort, is quieter, and is more efficient in its use of power, which saves you on the cost of energy when it is time to pay your power bill.
When it is time to install a new air conditioning system, the type of air conditioning you choose will depend on your budget and personal circumstances. The best way to know what you are getting into is to be informed about what you are buying. We’ll give you a guide to help you make a selection that is right for you.
What Is A Two Stage Air Conditioner?
A two stage air conditioner is one that has two modes of operation. It comes with a low mode and a high mode.
The low mode does not use as much of the air conditioner’s capacity. It runs at around 65% of the capacity of the air conditioner, using less power and doing less cooling.
The high mode is the air conditioner running at full capacity. In this mode, it is running at 100%, cooling your home with max capability.
A two stage air conditioner tends to run continuously. It switches between the low and high modes depending on the cooling needs of your home.
How Does A Two Stage Air Conditioner Work?
The compressor – the part of your air conditioner that actually makes things cooler – goes between the two stages of cooling depending on the temperature needs of your house. It will switch to high if it needs to cool the house rapidly and back to low to maintain the temperature.
The air conditioner will likely stay on the low setting between 75% to 85% of the time. If the system senses that the outside temperature is rising or if you make a significant change to your thermostat setting, it will kick into high mode. One the temperature is reached and it no longer has to work as hard, it will switch back to low mode again.
How To Install A Two Stage Air Conditioner?
Installing an air conditioner is not a simple DIY project. When you are getting ready to put in a new two stage air conditioner, it is usually best to call a certified technician who can do it properly.
The cost of installation depends on the type of unit you purchase and whether you require additional work like ducting. The national average for air conditioning installation is $6000, with $1000 of that being labor costs. However, this figure primarily accounts for single stage units – a two stage air conditioner will cost you between $500 to $1000 more than a comparable single stage unit.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Two Stage Air Conditioner?
Despite their higher costs upfront, two stage air conditioning units come with many benefits that make them worth considering. The primary reason you may consider a two stage air conditioner is that they are better at climate control in your house than a single stage air conditioner, both in keeping it cool and dehumidifying your home.
These air conditioners run more effectively than single stage air conditioners, which saves you money on power and reduces wear and tear in the system, potentially extending the life of your system. Two stage air conditioners also runs quieter than single stage air conditioners do.
Dehumidification On Demand
Since your two staged air conditioner is running on low most of the time, it is better at dehumidifying your home. Dehumidification is the process of drying or removing moisture from the air.
In the air around us are microscopic particles of water vapor. Too much of this water vapor results in a stuffy, sticky feeling that makes the temperature seem hotter than it is – humidity. High humidity is bad for your home because it encourages mold growth.
Because your system runs on low, it means that air has more time to condense on the indoor coil. This allows your air conditioner to remove moisture from your home’s air more efficiently.
Doesn’t Work As Hard With Reduced Load
A two staged air conditioner will not have to work as hard due to its reliance on the low setting to cool your home. Your air conditioner’s low setting will keep your compressor running just enough to maintain the temperature of your home, and it can do this for extended periods of time. The high setting does not need to come on unless it gets really not outside.
Since your air conditioner is running with a reduced load, it consumes less power. If you are using less power to cool your home, that means your energy bill will be lower overall.
We’ve already implied this above, but the two staged air conditioner is more efficient than a single staged air conditioner because it can switch between the two modes. With only a single stage, the compressor only has two choices – 100% or off. Having to kick on and off to cool your home consumes a lot of energy.
By steadily running at a reduced capacity, a two staged air conditioner may be on longer, but it is using less energy and it is doing its job more efficiently. This not only saves you money, but it also keeps your home at a steady comfort level.
A two staged air conditioner is quieter than a single stage air conditioner because it is operating at a low setting. When the air conditioning system is on, it will produce the noise of a rush of air because air is passing through your vents.
At a high setting, this rush of air is noticeable, even if tends to blend into the background noise of your home. However, at lower settings, this noise becomes more of a whisper, one that you may not even notice. Let me reiterate – the two staged air conditioning is running on low most of the time, so you will have reduced noise most of the time.
What Is A Single Stage Air Conditioner?
As the name implies, a single stage air conditioner has a single ‘stage’ or mode of operation – high. These air conditioners are the most common type of systems you will find present in homes today. They operate by turning on and off at various times during your day to keep your home cool.
Single stage air conditioners differ from two stage air conditioners in that they do not have the capability of running at reduced capacity. They are either on or off. They are also simpler in terms of the technology involved and have fewer internal components than a two stage air conditioner.
How Does A Single Stage Air Conditioner Work?
A single stage air conditioner kicks on the air conditioner when the temperature goes higher than the thermostat is set for. When the temperature of the air in your home reaches the desired temperature, the air clicks off. In other words, the single stage air conditioner is only working when your home needs to cool back down.
A single stage air conditioner will do this again and again throughout the day, turning on and off to keep your home cool. A single stage air conditioner will also dehumidify the air in your home, though not as effectively as a two staged air conditioner would.
How To Install A Single Stage Air Conditioner?
Installing a single stage air conditioner costs an average of $6000, with labor included. This price tag can go up or down depending on whether your home needs new ductwork or other additional labor and parts. The price of the unit itself is on average $2000 to $3000 dollars, though bigger homes will require pricier systems.
If you are getting ready to install a new single stage air conditioner in your home, we recommend talking to a professional to ensure that it is done correctly. An incorrectly installed air conditioning system can end up costing you more money down the line.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Single Stage Air Conditioner
The single stage air conditioner is the most common type of system in America. The technology behind it isn’t as complex as a two stage air conditioner, and technicians are more familiar with these systems. This makes single stage air conditioners cheaper to install and cheaper to maintain.
It is true that a two stage air conditioner is more cost-effective in terms of power used. However, depending on your location, a single stage air conditioner may make more sense, especially if you live in a cooler climate. The cost savings for energy are not enough to justify getting a two stage air conditing system in this case.
There is no denying that one benefit of a single stage air conditioner is that it costs less to purchase and install than a two stage air conditioner. It also costs less to make repairs to it.
As long as the air conditioner is the right size for your home, it will cool your home just fine, making it a cost-effective option when you don’t have a big budget. Here are some prices for a 16 SEER 1.5 ton single stage unit to give you an idea of costs:
Since single stage air conditioners are so common, the installation is easier. Technicians are more familiar with the system and can set it up for you more quickly, and a system replacement likely can use the existing ductwork in your house. A typical installation will take somewhere between four to eight hours, depending on the size of your unit and the weather on the day of the installation.
The technician will need time to set up both the outdoor compressor and the indoor coil. The setup time includes wiring, getting the system ready to run for the first time, and finally commissioning the system.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Using A Two Stage Air Conditioner?
With a two stage air conditioning system, everything boils down to costs. The cost of the systems are more expensive than their single stage counterparts. The cost of repairs are also more expensive due to the advanced technology.
A two stage air conditioning system has a lot of benefits that make its installation attractive. But before you decide to go straight to a two stage air conditioning system, you may want to speak with a service technician and find out whether it is right for you and your home.
A two stage system can handle your home’s climate more efficiently, but is it needed? For people living in cooler climates, the answer may be no.
When you are installing a new two stage air conditioning system, you are expecting the cost savings in electricity to pay for the difference in cost from a single stage air conditioning. But if you are living in a climate that doesn’t need much cooling, those savings will never show up for you.
Likewise, if you are expecting to leave your home in the next few years, you are installing a more expensive unit and not receiving the cost savings benefit. The two stage air conditioner may add to the value of your home more than a single stage unit might, but this must be balanced against what you are paying.
Two stage air conditioners will be more costly than single stage air conditioners, ranging from $500 to $1000 more for the unit. This depends largely on the specifications of the systems you are considering and the manufacturer, but this is a general rule of thumb.
However, it should be noted that while it has higher upfront costs, it has lower operational costs. Depending on your location, this may justify the higher price of installation. Here are some prices for a 16 SEER, 2 ton system to give you an idea of cost:
A two stage air conditioner uses more complex technology and more components than a single stage air conditioner. That means that when something breaks, it can result in complicated repairs. The cost of repair will depend on the part that breaks in your air conditioner.
You may be spared the cost of the faulty part if the system is still under warranty. However, you will still have to pay for the labor costs. With the technology present in a two stage air conditioner, finding a technician that is trained to deal with it may be more difficult, and more expensive.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Using A Single Stage Air Conditioner?
Single stage air conditioners may be cheaper to install and maintain, but they do not do nearly as good of a job at taking care of your home’s climate, and they are inefficient with their power use. Because they must turn on and off more often, they are also subject to more wear and tear, which means that your single stage air conditioner will not last you as long as a two stage air conditioner unit will.
While single stage air conditioning units may make more sense in a cooler climate, they do not perform nearly as well in humid or hot climates. The dehumidification process is less effective, which means that your home is more subject to high humidity levels, driving up the costs of feeling comfortable in your own home, and subjecting your home to potentially destructive levels of humidity.
As with two stage air conditioners, the cost will be the determining factor on whether a single stage air conditioner is right for you. If you live in a climate that is hot and humid, your single stage air conditioner may end up costing you more in energy and home repairs than you saved by installing a cheaper unit.
Single stage air conditioners are less efficient than two stage air conditioners because they are always either all the way on or all the way off. This is inefficient in terms of air cooling, power used, and strain on the compressor.
When your system turns on, it will always be at 100% whether the temperature is a single degree above the setting or ten. The switch on to full and back off consumes more power and puts more strain on the compressor than a continuous run might. This means that you might be paying more in terms of power used than you are getting for the system’s use.
Less Comfortable Climate Control
A single stage air conditioner cannot control the climate as effectively as a two stage air conditioner will be able to. Single stage air conditioners only activate when your house heats up, so the temperature in your house will rise and fall throughout the day. This means that you may start to feel uncomfortable before your system cools your home again, several times a day.
Single-stage air conditioners also do not dehumidify the air inside your home as effectively as a two stage air conditioner. Higher humidity can cause you to feel uncomfortable even at 70 degrees, making you lower your temperature further and using more energy.
Which One Should I Choose?
What system your install in your home depends on your unique situation, but the answer will come down to costs. A single stage air conditioner makes sense if you do not have a lot of money to spend, or you see yourself moving out of the home soon, making costs saving on energy a moot point.
Two-stage air conditioners (and even two-stage furnaces for that matter) offer better comfort and more energy savings. However, there is a third option: variable-speed air conditioning.
A variable speed unit will adjust the air conditioner’s capacity to match exactly what is needed in your home. Variable speed air conditioners are thousands of dollars more expensive than two stage air conditioners however, so they are recommended only if you have the budget and expect to be in your home for a long time. Here are some comparisons to give you an idea of cost of installation:
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If you are installing a new system in your home, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership over the life of the system. A single stage system is less expensive up front and less efficient, while a two stage system is the opposite. The best thing to do is speak with a professional to get advice on what your home needs.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.