Informational Guide

Are Two Stage Air Conditioners Worth It?

We explore the benefits and problems associated with 2 stage air conditioners. See if this model is best for you.

by Josh M

When buying an air conditioner, you have to consider several factors such as cooling capacity, AC size, energy efficiency rating, electrical installations, and of course, speed.

Thus, most people are installing two-stage air conditioning units in their homes. These have two operation levels, low for mild days and high for hotter days.

It sounds pretty straightforward, but is a two-stage air conditioner worth it? Read on!

Single vs Two Stage AC

Single-stage air conditioners only have one mode, i.e., ‘high.’ This means the AC unit will run at full-blast (maximum cooling capacity) whether you require it or not.

On the other hand, two-stage air conditioners have a unique compressor that runs on two different modes:

  • High: Operates like a standard single-stage air conditioner (at full-blast)
  • Low: Consumes less cooling power on mild days when homeowners don’t require much cooling

This ‘low’ mode stage is a secret weapon of two-stage air conditioners. If you run the unit on this ‘higher energy efficient’ setting, you’ll get lower monthly power bills, better comfort, even cooling, and enhanced humidity control.

Nevertheless, choose a single-stage AC unit if you have a limited budget. However, if you’re ready to spend more upfront cost for enhanced comfort and better energy savings, you should select a two-stage air conditioning system. Also, they are perfect if you live in areas with high humidity.

Benefits Of Two-Stage Air Conditioners

Run At Two Speed

Two-stage air conditioning systems have a dual-mode:

  • High: Full-blast cycle with 100% capacity
  • Low: Less cooling capacity between 60% and 70% in case the home is frigid

This means the air conditioner operates at medium capacity during mild days, saving adequate money on your monthly energy bills and evenly cools the home. Likewise, when it’s searing hot outside, the AC system can switch to the full-blast quickly.

Greater Saving On Energy Bills

Savings on Energy Bill

A two-stage air conditioner helps you consume less power for its process primarily because of the dual-compressor speed.

It minimizes the constant off-on cycle of the single air conditioner, which means you can prevent the power surge caused as you start the unit.

Most two-stage AC units have a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), meaning considerable savings.

Related ArticleHow To Avoid AC Short Cycling

Lower Setting For Quieter Operation

Two-stage air conditioners are quieter than most other units available on the market. They have a noise range between 67 and 76 dB. Also, the system doesn’t create any distracting sounds because of the minimized speed.

Even Cooling Throughout Your Home

Here’s the thing: when an air conditioner’s cooling cycle is longer and slower, they can cool the home gradually.

So, since two-stage air conditioning systems expel a steady flow of air, the cool air gets the opportunity to spread within all the rooms evenly.

Dehumidify Your Home Well

A two-stage air conditioning unit can double as a dehumidifier.

The rationale behind this is that the longer air conditioners run, the better they can dehumidify indoor air. And, two-stage air conditioning systems produce a constant stream of cool air, allowing this to happen.

Improve Temperature Accuracy

Improve Temperature Accuracy

Unlike single-stage AC units that can reach only within +/-3-6°F of a set temperature, two-stage air conditioning units can easily get +/-2°F.

Apart from the cooling power, the system’s ability to generate accurate temperatures can assist in adapting promptly to a sudden change in heat-load concentration.

Longer Life Span

On average, these air conditioning systems have a lifespan of 15-20 years.

They don’t start or stop as frequently as the single-stage units. This reduced off/on cycling helps the AC unit’s compressor experience less strain.

Due to slow wear-and-tear, your unit will have fewer problems, repairs, and yearly maintenance.

Common Problems With Two-Stage Air Conditioners

Higher Costs

Two-stage air conditioners will cost you an arm and a leg compared to single-stage air conditioning systems since they have a higher production cost. The upfront cost is about $1000 to $2500 more than single-stage AC units.

Complex Repairs

Although the system can last longer than most think and has reduced downtime, the repair and maintenance cost is way higher than standard air conditioners. This is mainly because two-stage AC units are trickier than single-stage systems.

Additionally, you’ll have to ensure only an experienced HVAC technician repairs and maintains your two-stage AC unit since their troubleshooting differs from that of standard AC systems.

Thermostat Compatibility

Make sure the thermostat is compatible with your two-stage AC unit. Otherwise, you’ll need to replace it. This further adds to the overall cost. In addition to that, you’ll need to get your new thermostat wired professionally, which may put a dent in your budget.

Related ArticleAnalog Vs Digital Thermostat

Real-World Performance

According to an ACEEE study published in 2006, the higher SEER ratings on two-stage air conditioning units are often unfulfilled under real-life operating conditions.

The study points out that single-stage AC systems performed close to the advertised SEER ratings; however, two-stage AC units performed at just 60%-84% close to the adverted SEER.

Two-Stage Air Conditioners In Different Climates

Many homeowners often ask which air conditioner is better for Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, and NJ climates: single-stage air conditioner or two-stage air conditioner.

Since all these places have high humidity levels and their temperature changes suddenly, the best choice is two-stage air conditioners. This is because single-stage AC units only have one speed, i.e., high.

However, the two-stage AC units can change their speeds between low and high. These systems are meant to operate at a much higher rate on searing hot summer days and low-speed on days when there’s a slightly moderate temperature.

While working at a low speed, the two-stage air conditioners will run much longer to cool down the house. Still wondering why two-stage AC is the right choice for different states such as California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and NJ and their climates?

Here’s why they are:

  • They push out air constantly, providing even temperatures in the most uncomfortable cold and hot spots
  • These units use up less power in two different ways. One, they don’t turn off and on much. Two, they employ lower speed
  • Most importantly, two-stage AC units remove excess humidity from your indoors, better than single-stage units
  • Lastly, they are durable

All in all, two-stage air conditioning systems are worth buying if you live in humid places such as above!

People Also Ask (FAQ)

How do I know if my AC is a 2 stage?

Here are a few ways to find out:

  • First, check the thermostat. See if it has different heat settings like low and high.
  • Locate the product’s model number. You can find the number either by looking into the manual or looking directly inside the panel or the front.
  • When you find it, place your model number in any search engine. Choose the result that brings product descriptions. See whether your unit is a two-stage or single-stage
  • You can also utilize the “Department of Energy” AC decode document. Visit the section that identifies your AC manufacturer. Take the model number and carefully align them to the chart.

How much more does a two-stage AC cost?

On average, two-stage air conditioning systems will cost you anywhere from $800 to $1500 more than single-stage AC units. The cost can be lower or higher based on the manufacturers, SEER ratings, and unit specs.

How much electricity does the two-stage AC use?

The two-stage AC system minimizes the peak stop/start load cycle, reducing the strain on electricity. The compressor’s capacity changes to match the cooling needs and minimizes energy consumption. Thus, it uses less power than single-stage systems.

Why is two stage AC difficult to repair?

They’re tough to repair and maintain due to their complex, state-of-the-art technology. In addition, it involves some of the latest tech components that require specialized skills to solve.

Related ArticleGuide To Air Conditioning Repair

Conclusion

Are you looking for reliable cooling, better comfort, and higher energy efficiency? If so, you should buy a two-stage air conditioning system. These AC units provide better moisture control and even cooling, even in the scorching heat. However, these units have higher upfront costs!

Last Updated on July 15, 2022

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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