There are numerous areas of our lives where technology has made a major impact and continues to with each passing year, and one great example here is the heating and cooling world. New HVAC technology that’s come out over the last several years, and continues to be improved regularly, makes it easier for both HVAC technicians and homeowners to keep their homes comfortable, their systems efficient and their costs down.
At My Buddy the Plumber, we’re proud to offer a variety of both plumbing and HVAC services, from simple areas like heating and air inspections up to major jobs like furnace installation, air conditioner repair and related needs. We’re also always up to date on the very latest in HVAC technology, including advanced components or even system types that will make your home more comfortable and, in many cases, significantly improve both efficiency and costs.
One of these areas of technology that’s becoming more popular among many homeowners in recent years is known as variable speed HVAC technology, which is used to increase the precision of your system as it adjusts to temperature demand. What does this term refer to, how is variable speed technology used within different HVAC components, and what impact does it have on your system’s efficiency and other important areas? Here’s a primer.
Variable Speed Compressors
In most cases, those referring to variable speed HVAC will be speaking primarily about the type of compressor that’s found in either an air conditioner or heat pump. All such systems have a compressor of some sort, and this is considered the heart of the system in most cases – it’s what’s responsible for actually creating the hot or cold air that will be pumped into your home.
For the majority of systems, especially those created more than five years ago, compressors only have two settings: ON and OFF. These are known as single-speed compressors. But for variable speed compressors, there’s a whole range of capacities available, all the way from 30% capacity up to 100% – and the system has the ability to toggle between these regularly.
This allows for different levels of output coming from your system depending on what’s truly needed. During the hottest parts of the Utah summer in mid-July, for instance, your system may need to function at 90% or even 100% capacity – but during the milder spring or fall period, this sort of capacity often isn’t needed. As a result, your system can operate at a lower strain level during these times if it has a variable speed compressor.
Variable Speed Fan Motors
Now, there are other potential uses of the variable speed theme, and a primary one is within the blower motor in the air handler or gas furnace in your home. Like the compressor, this is a fan that operates at various speeds – just in a different area.
A variable speed fan motor offers better control for the amount of air that’s flowing through the home. One of the top issues it helps prevent is that “cold air blow” concern many Utahns have experienced during winter, where as the system starts up, it blows almost exclusively cold air even though it’s cold inside. A variable speed fan, though, stops this from happening, plus may use up to 75% less energy than a single-stage motor uses for the same amount of air. Your home becomes both more comfortable and more efficient, saving you money simultaneously.
Understanding Energy Usage
To fully grasp why variable speed systems are generally far more efficient than single-stage ones, you have to understand how energy usage works within the HVAC system. Specifically, energy usage is at its very highest when the system is turned on – and as we noted above, single-stage systems that are on are always operating at 100% capacity, with no in-between. Think of this like a runner who chooses to run up a bunch of hills when they had a different path that was far flatter; they might be covering the same distance, but they’re doing so at incredibly different rates of efficiency.
The variable speed system, then, is like that same runner taking the smoother path. These systems tend to limit the strain of the stop-start cycle by allowing components to ease into their usage, drawing less power to perform the same tasks. And once your temperature actually reaches the point where you’ve set the thermostat, this system minimizes the capacity needed to maintain that temperature, causing less strain during operation.
Additional Variable Speed Benefits
Efficiency isn’t the only benefit of a variable speed system, either. Here are some others:
- Comfort: Variable speed technology is known to help limit the temperature swings certain homes experience with their old HVAC equipment. Shut-downs are less common, replaced by prolonged periods of a set temperature that keeps your air consistent. Those who prefer a specific temperature range notice the difference quickly, especially when just returning home after several hours away where the temperature needs to adjust by several degrees.
- Filtering: For those who count air quality as a top priority, especially those with allergies or asthma symptoms, variable speed systems are highly beneficial. They allow more time for circulating air to interact with filters – this does mean filters might need to be changed a bit more often, but your air will be even cleaner on a regular basis.
- Dehumidifying: As your HVAC system runs, it also picks up moisture from the indoor air so it doesn’t become too humid. Because the system runs longer with variable speed components, even more humidity can be pulled, which brings more balanced and comfortable air.
For more on the basics and benefits of a variable speed HVAC system, or to learn about any of our HVAC or plumbing services, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.