Two-Stage AC Compressor vs. Single Stage

Compressor Cabinet Cutaway
Our most-asked question: “Is a two-stage ac compressor better than a single stage compressor?” Our answer is, “Yes, if you want more comfort at lower operating cost.” That answer leaves just a bit of wiggle room, so let’s first take a look at what a two-stage AC compressor is and what advantages it offers.

Normal and Max Operating Levels

A single-stage compressor is either on at full speed, or it’s off, but a two-stage compressor has two levels of operation. Let’s call them normal and maximum. On “cooler” hot days, below 85-90 degrees, a two-stage  air conditioner will run on the lower, normal speed. When the temperature cranks up later in the day, as it does in the North Dallas area, it will run at maximum speed.

Advantages of Two-Stage AC Compressors

The two levels of operation provide these important benefits.
  • Fewer Temperature Swings – longer cooling cycle times allow your home to be cooled gradually, so it isn’t either too hot or too cool. Temperatures are more consistent, day and night.
  • Removes Humidity Better – because the air conditioner is running for longer periods of time (while using less electricity) it removes up to twice as much humidity from the air, which increases comfort.
  • Uses Less Electricity – because a two-stage compressor runs frequently at its lower, normal level, it uses much less electricity than a single stage compressor running full out for shorter periods.
  • Less Equipment Strain – your air conditioner is under the most strain (and uses the most power) when it turns on and off. Longer cooling cycles reduce the number of times it has to turn on and off, which puts less wear and tear on the equipment.
Most high-efficiency air conditioners also feature multi-speed condenser fans designed to move more air using less electricity. Improved blade and exhaust diffuser design allow them to operate more efficiently, while reducing fan noise.

When Single Stage Makes Sense

Remember that wiggle room I mentioned above? The key word in our answer to the question about two-stage AC compressors vs. single stage compressors is “operating” cost. Two-stage compressors clearly run more efficiently and reduce operating costs. Single stage equipment usually costs less up front, but over time it will cost more because of operating and maintenance expenses. Single stage units can achieve efficiency ratings as high as 16 SEER, but the better high-efficiency equipment is all two-stage. So, if up-front cost is your main consideration, single stage may be the right decision for you. It all depends on the facts of your situation. A qualified air conditioning professional can help you make the best decision. See this page for more information about Mascot Mechanical’s air conditioning services. We always welcome your calls at 469-854-8667, and you can contact us online anytime to talk with one of our experts.

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