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If you’re shopping for a new air conditioner, it’s important to know the difference between single-stage, dual-stage & variable-speed ACs. A single-stage system is either on or off, and always runs at 100% capacity. A dual-stage system has two different speeds at which it can run. A variable-speed AC system can run at many different speeds. So what do these differences really mean for your Ocean City, Maryland home? Read on to find out.

Comfort Levels

You’ll enjoy more control over your home’s comfort levels when you have a dual-stage or variable-speed air conditioner. These options can operate at lower speeds, which allow you to make smaller adjustments to your temperatures. With a single-stage system, you can still enjoy cool comfort; you just won’t have the finer nuanced control that you can get with the other options.

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is better when your system runs for longer periods of time. The lower your AC speed, the longer the system will run. This means that a variable-speed air conditioner will cycle air almost constantly, cleaning it with every pass. A dual-stage system is in the middle, cycling air longer than a single-stage installation but not as long as a variable-speed system.


Your air conditioner manages humidity much the same way that it deals with air quality. The more the air cycles, the less humidity it will retain. Cool air can’t hold as much humidity as warm air. Moisture from the air is deposited on the evaporator coils when warm air passes over them and is cooled. This means that a variable-speed AC is the best option for managing humidity, while a single-stage system will only remove moisture in short bursts when it’s running at full capacity.

Noise Levels

Air conditioners are quieter at slower speeds. All three options can operate at high speeds, which typically take their noise levels up to about 76 decibels. A two-stage system can get down to about 67 decibels, and a variable-speed option can operate at as low as 55 decibels. If quiet cooling is a priority for your family, you’ll definitely want to look for a variable-speed option.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is best with a variable-speed air conditioner. Though this system runs more often, it does so at low speeds that are extremely efficient. Cycling on and off takes more energy than running continuously. Therefore, the single-stage air conditioner’s operation consumes more energy not only when it’s running but when it’s cycling as well.

Compare the SEER ratings for different systems to get a better understanding of how they measure up in terms of energy use. Single-stage air conditioners typically have SEERs of 18.5 or lower. A dual-stage system can get up to 21 SEER, while a variable-speed air conditioner may offer a SEER as high as 26.

Climate Concerns

Your overall air conditioning needs change based on the climate that you live in. In our climate, you can see summer highs in the mid or upper 80s. For many families, this means that they’re looking for the optimal cooling comfort provided by a variable-speed air conditioner. However, a top-of-the-line system isn’t as important here as it is in a place like Texas or Arizona. You can easily cool your home with a dual-stage or even single-stage system and still avoid the worst of the summer heat.

A more advanced variable-speed system will cost more than a simple single-stage option, so you must balance your cooling considerations with your budget. Consider how sensitive your family members are to the heat and choose a system that can provide for your needs while staying within your means.

If you’re interested in learning more about the latest air conditioning technology, we can help. Our knowledgeable technicians will help evaluate your comfort needs, energy efficiency goals, and budget to help you find the right fit for your home. We will also size your dwelling professionally to make sure that you’re getting an air conditioner that fits appropriately. Give Griffith Energy Services a call at 888-474-3391 to get started.

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