Variable-Capacity Central Air Conditioners & Heat Pumps from Lennox: 2023 Overview

May 9, 2023

While our team at Save Home Heat Company continues to install plenty of traditional, single-stage central air conditioners for our customers in the Denver-Boulder metro area, the growing popularity of heat pumps (heating and AC) and variable-capacity equipment has us talking a lot with homeowners about these two trends in whole-home, forced air comfort.

Heat Pumps in Dual Fuel Systems

In the case of central heat pumps, they are often installed in tandem with a gas furnace in what’s commonly known as a “dual fuel” heating and air conditioning system. Heat pumps are recognized as a green heating alternative, and they also provide a built-in backup heating system if the furnace should happen to have issues.

The Variable-Capacity Difference

Variable-capacity central air conditioners and heat pumps offer many benefits, including very high efficiency ratings and lower utility bills, very quiet operation, and enhanced comfort levels around the entire home. The list goes on – there’s good reason for the growing popularity of variable-capacity systems.

Energy Star HVAC Products

In this blog post, we’re going to focus on the full line of variable-capacity central air conditioners and central heat pumps that our longtime manufacturer partner Lennox Industries has to offer for the 2023 cooling season. We’ll provide a brief overview of model numbers, efficiency ratings, and outdoor sound level ratings of units currently available. Our team feels that a nice, broad look at this particular playing field will prove useful for homeowners who are considering premium central systems. There’s a wider selection of variable-capacity central air conditioners and heat pumps to choose from than ever before. So, without further ado…

Variable-Capacity Central AC & Heat Pumps: Some Key Terms

Lennox Centurion AwardWhile the Lennox product line is fairly representative of offerings available from other manufacturers, our team at Save Home Heat certainly has good reasons for currently recommending this manufacturer. These reasons include quality of design and construction, customer support, broad product offerings, very high efficiency options, and low sound ratings on many units. Let’s look closer at some of the terminology you’ll see below:

’Variable-Capacity’ versus ‘Variable-Speed’

First, it’s worth noting that “variable-speed” and “variable-capacity” are terms that are often used interchangeably when discussing high-end heating and cooling systems. Just for the record, “variable-capacity” refers to the heating or cooling output capabilities of a system, while “variable-speed” refers to the design and internal components of a piece of equipment (such as the compressor and fans in the outdoor unit, and the fans in some furnaces). In essence, variable-speed internal components are part of what allows a variable-capacity system to perform as designed.

Updated SEER & HSPF Efficiency Ratings

Lennox Healthy Climate Solutions LogoBefore we dig into the list of models, we’d like to share an update about the efficiency ratings we’ll be presenting. On January 1, 2023, the national standard for cooling and heating efficiency ratings for air conditioners and heat pumps changed a bit. Because the terminology is currently in the transitional phase, you may see some systems with the traditional SEER rating – plus an HSPF rating if it’s a heat pump – and others with a “SEER2” or an “HSPF2” rating, or in some cases both. According to the Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), SEER2 and HSPF2 ratings present a more accurate reflection of system efficiency, taking furnace or air handler blower performance into better account. The new designations typically produce a slightly lower number for AC systems, but not necessarily for heat pumps.

For alphabet soup lovers: SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” and HSPF is short for “Heating Season Performance Factor.” Enuff said!

dB Sound Level Ratings

When it comes to decibel (dB) ratings, the numbers focus on the sound level of the operating outdoor condensing unit. It’s interesting to note that while dB ratings published in consumer brochures and equipment summaries are helpful in comparing designs and brands to one another, these numbers typically represent just a generalization/summary of a series of measurements taken at varying distances, as well as taken from several different size systems. (If you were to dig deeper into technical manuals,  like our team did, there’s enough published sound ratings to make you dizzy!) For example, a smaller size unit, such as a 2-ton model, generally operates more quietly than a larger unit such as a 5-ton system. Consumer brochures normally do not provide these types of details.

One of the great things about variable-output air conditioners and heat pumps is that when they’re operating at lower output levels (quite a bit of the time), their operating sound levels and corresponding dB levels are often significantly quieter than the published numbers. As a result, variable-capacity units often perform more quietly than their sound ratings might lead you to expect.

Decibel Ratings in Everyday Life

Regardless of all the above qualifications, as a baseline for helping you to understand the published dB ratings that we’ll present below, here’s a quick summary of the approximate decibel levels of some common sounds we hear in day-to-day life: whispering (15-20 dB); a library or office, or birdsong (40-50 dB); normal conversation (60 dB); a modern vacuum cleaner, loud talk, restaurant (70 dB); car horn (110 dB).

Decibel chart

Lennox Variable-Capacity Central Air Conditioners & Heat Pumps For 2023

As promised, below is a quick overview of the variable-capacity, central heat pumps and air conditioners that homeowners in the Denver-Boulder metro area have available from Lennox Industries for the 2023 cooling season. As always, our team at Save Home Heat works closely with each homeowner we visit to determine the best match for their specific needs.

Save Home Heat is a Lennox Premier Dealer


Variable-Capacity Lennox Central Air Conditioners

Central air conditioners continue to be popular with many of our customers, and Lennox presents more variable-capacity options than ever before.

The SL28XCV: The Top of Our Central AC Line!

This top-end, industry leading central air conditioner has an efficiency rating up to 28 SEER/25.8 SEER2. It has a very low published outdoor condensing unit sound rating of 59 dB, which puts it in the same volume range as normal conversation.

EL23XCV: High Performance & Very Quiet

The EL23XCV has a cooling efficiency of up to 22.4 SEER2, with a sound rating comparable to the above top-of-the-line unit at 59 dB.

Moderate High Efficiency: The XC20

At 22 SEER/20.2 SEER2, the XC20 provides reliable, high efficiency, variable-capacity performance at a slightly higher sound level rating, 65 dB – but keep in mind that variable-capacity units often perform more quietly than their sound ratings suggest.

EL18XCV: Versatile & Efficient

This especially versatile unit has a cooling efficiency of 18 SEER/18.8 SEER2. What makes the EL18 unique is that it can be matched with most models of standard, single-stage furnaces. A variable-speed furnace is not required! Its sound rating at full capacity is 72 dB, similar to sound levels you might expect to hear in a restaurant.

ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2023

Lennox Variable-Capacity Central Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are in many ways very similar to air conditioners, with the bonus that in addition to cooling, they also provide heating during the winter. As a result, heat pumps have a SEER efficiency rating for cooling and also an HSPF rating for their heating performance.

Our Top-End Central Heat Pump: The SL25XPV

The SLP25XPV has a cooling efficiency of up to 24 SEER/23 SEER2, and a heating efficiency rating of 11.8 HSPF/10.3 HSPF2. Its published sound rating is a very quiet 58 dB.

Efficient & Quiet: The EL22XPV

With a cooling efficiency rating of up to 22 SEER2, a heating efficiency rating of 9.5 HSPF2, and a low sound rating of 61 dB, this unit is another great high efficiency heat pump option offered by Lennox.

Lennox 90+ install plus BW water heater (3)

EL18XPV: Efficient & Versatile

This very versatile heat pump features a 20 SEER/21.6 SEER2 cooling efficiency rating, and 10 HSPF/8.7 HSPF2 for heating. Similar to the EL18 central AC unit, this heat pump also can be matched with most models of standard, single-stage furnace – a variable-speed furnace is not needed! The EL18XPV’s low 61 dB sound rating is also worth noting.

XP20 – An Industry Standard

The XP20 has a great track record, with a 20 SEER/SEER2 cooling rating and 10.4 HSPF/8.4 HSPF2 for heating. The sound level of these units is 65 dB, which it is interesting to note was among the very quietest in the industry not very long ago.

The Right Central Air Conditioner or Heat Pump for Your Denver-Boulder Home!

ACCA LogoOf course, the above numbers only tell part of the story. Our comfort advisors at Save Home Heat Company always take the time to discuss the differences between the several models of variable-output air conditioners and heat pumps, and answer all questions in a friendly, highly informative, low-pressure manner, so that our customers can make purchasing decisions that make the most sense for their needs and for their homes. In some cases, the most logical solution may not even be a variable-capacity system!

For more information about variable-capacity and traditional central air conditioning and heat pump systems, and other cooling and heating options for your Boulder-Denver metro area home, please reach out to our team today.

Please contact me to schedule a free install quote for my home!