What’s The Best Central AC For Your Home?
The scenario: You own a nice home that you’re hoping to remain in for a good number of years, maybe even raise a family there. Your home is heated by a forced air furnace, which you’re reasonably satisfied with, maybe with some minor reservations. After considering various options of ways to cool the house during the summer, you’ve decided it’s time to add central air conditioning to your home comfort system.
You desire the most efficient, quietest, most comfortable central AC system, and are looking for recommendations on the best products to meet these wishes.
The answer for many homeowners is a high efficiency, variable-output central AC system.
What Is A Variable-Output Central Air Conditioner?
Also known as a variable-speed air conditioner, a variable-output AC system performs as its name suggests, adjusting its cooling output in response to outdoor temperatures and the cooling needs inside the home. These state-of-the-art systems automatically adjust their cooling capacity upward or downward in very small increments (typically 1% steps), resulting in very precise temperature control per the setting on the thermostat. This virtually eliminates the wide temperature swings between cooling cycles that many of us associate with traditional central AC systems.
Variable-output air conditioners often run at reduced cooling output and lower fan speeds. This results in longer cooling cycles, accompanied by lower electrical consumption and quieter operation. Other benefits include doing a better job equalizing temperatures between the main level and the upstairs of the home.
The Benefits Of Variable-Output Central AC Include:
- Very high efficiency ratings, with reduced electrical consumption & lower utility bills
- Quieter operation indoors and outside
- Less Intrusive fan operation (see ‘furnace’ section below)
- More even cooling all around the home
- Help to reduce temperature differences between floors in multi-level homes
- Improved furnace filter and air purifier performance
- Use of environmentally friendly refrigerants
Variable-output central AC systems offer industry-leading efficiency ratings as high as 26 SEER, much more efficient than equipment that was available a decade ago. This makes these systems a good fit for our regional grid, which continues to make greater use of ‘clean’ wind and solar energy in the electrical production process each year.
If you’ve ever noticed in some homes that the central AC doesn’t do a good cooling the upstairs, while the main floor is fine, you’re not alone. Often, the upper level will get warmer than the main floor, and with the thermostat located on the first floor, the AC turns off before the upstairs can catch up. While ducting issues may be related to this type of situation – and possibly be somewhat remedied – the longer run-times associated with variable-output systems will help alleviate this situation, allowing the upstairs more time to cool down.
Another advantage of the longer cooling cycles inherent in variable-output systems is that they give the furnace filter and the central air purifier (if you have one) more time to do their jobs, with improved results!
The ‘Catch-22’ Could Be Your Furnace
The ‘catch’ involved with experiencing the many benefits of a variable-output central AC system is that the furnace must have a variable-speed fan, needed to match the advanced design of the air conditioner. A number of 90-plus efficient furnaces offer this feature, as well as a limited number of 80% efficient units. Some homes may already have this type of heater, but for those that do not, this means upgrading the furnace when the variable-output AC is installed. The initial reaction of a homeowner whose furnace would need to be upgraded, not surprisingly, might be to bum out about the additional expense. But given careful consideration of the parallel benefits that a high efficiency, variable-output furnace provides during the winter, upgrading the entire system for the long haul might make good sense.
The benefits of variable-output furnaces closely mirror the benefits of the top-of-the-line AC systems we’ve been discussing. Very high efficiency ratings (up to 98% AFUE) with lower heating bills, quieter operation, and more even heating in all rooms and on all levels of the home, are some key benefits. The longer heating cycles associated with variable-output furnaces not only provide a better opportunity for the furnace filter and air purifier to perform their important tasks, but if you have a central humidifier, the same can also be said!
Compared with fans on more traditional equipment, the variable-speed blower used on these advanced furnaces is much quieter and less intrusive. When a variable-speed furnace blower turns on, it starts up almost unnoticed in a very low speed, and slowly ramps up to the speed dictated by the furnace controls. In many cases, the homeowner may not even notice the fan turning on – quite a contrast from the ‘wind tunnel’ effect many of us are all too familiar with.
Get Expert Advice
If you’re thinking about upgrading to a variable-output cooling and heating system, it’s important to consult with a company that is very experienced installing and maintaining these types of systems. For example, in some older homes, or homes with heating systems installed to less than ideal standards, the ducting system may not be adequate to handle the advanced features of this type of equipment. In most newer homes, this is not an issue, but this is something that must be checked in every case, before upgrading the system. In addition, the setup procedure for a variable-output air conditioner or furnace is more detailed than a basic, single-stage unit, and making sure it’s done right is the final step before enjoying the big difference that one of these systems can make for the comfort levels in your home.
In the Denver-Boulder metro area, Save Home Heat Company is one of the most experienced residential HVAC contractors who work regularly with variable-output home comfort systems. In addition to expert installation and top-level service, we can assist you in taking full advantage of valuable manufacturer and Xcel Energy rebates, to help make this important investment in your home as affordable as possible. Please give our friendly team a call today to learn more, or to schedule a free, low-pressure install quote.