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The Different Types of Air Conditioning Systems

The hot summers here in Maumelle, AR make air conditioning a must-have, but not all air conditioners are the same. There are three major types of central air conditioning systems in use today, so here’s the difference between single-phase, three-phase, and variable-speed air conditioning systems.

Single-Phase Air Conditioners

Single-phase air conditioners are by far the most common type of central air conditioning system found in American homes. That’s because they rely on the most common type of electrical service homes receive — single phase, 120- or 240-volt alternating current. It’s a designation that describes the way that the electricity travels over the wires coming into the home as well as inside it.

One of the main advantages of single-phase air conditioners is that they rely on fairly simple motors and wiring standards. That makes them less expensive to buy and easier to install. It also makes replacement parts less expensive when something breaks down through ordinary use.

The only major limitation of single-phase air conditioning systems is cooling capacity. Single-phase electrical service can’t handle the electrical demands of heavy-duty motors. That puts very high-capacity AC systems out of reach for residences with single-phase electrical service.

Three-Phase Air Conditioners

Three-phase air conditioners are far more common in commercial and industrial settings. That’s because buildings designed to accommodate heavy-duty equipment almost always have three-phase electrical service.

The main physical difference between single-phase service and three-phase service is the number of wires used to transmit the power. Single-phase systems use two wires, while three-phase systems use four.

The additional wiring makes it possible to accommodate motors that need more voltage than a single-phase system could carry. As a result, three-phase air conditioning systems typically feature higher cooling capacity. They’re also more energy-efficient because three-phase motors use less power to do the same amount of work as a similarly-sized single-phase motor.

It’s important to note, however, that three-phase air conditioners aren’t usually an option in residential settings. Three-phase electrical service isn’t even something the local power company would offer to homeowners under most circumstances. The good news is that most homes don’t need air conditioning systems large enough to take advantage of the enhanced service.

Variable-Speed Air Conditioners

Variable-speed air conditioners, by contrast, are so named because they feature motors that can operate at more than one speed. Many residential air conditioning systems feature single-speed motors. This means they run at 100% speed whenever they’re on, even if conditions in your home don’t require it.

As a result of their motors, variable-speed systems can run at lower speeds when maximum cooling isn’t necessary, saving electricity in the process. That helps them deliver the same amount of cooling power as single-speed systems at a fraction of the cost.

Another benefit of variable-speed air conditioners is that they can operate continuously at a low speed to remove more humidity from your home. This enhances your comfort without simultaneously increasing operating costs. It also means they run quieter than most single-speed systems.

The main downside of variable-speed AC systems is their cost. Since they’re more complex than single-speed systems, their upfront costs and ongoing maintenance costs are somewhat higher. Most owners of variable-speed AC systems recoup those costs through increased operational efficiency over time, however.

Buying the Right Type of AC Is Essential

Although the three aforementioned types of air conditioners have significant differences, they’re all built to provide a comfortable indoor environment. The most important thing is to choose the right type of air conditioner for your building as well as your budgetary and cooling needs.

We have decades of experience recommending, installing and servicing residential and commercial air conditioning systems. Our staff members are Trane Comfort Specialists, which means we meet Trane’s highest standards of excellence in installation, customer education and customer service. You won’t find a more trustworthy HVAC service in Maumelle, AR. Call Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling today to ask about our air conditioning installation service so we can help you stay cool and comfortable all summer long.

Image provided by iStock

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