Buying a New Heat Pump? | Choose an Air Handler with Variable Speed for the Most Benefit

Benefits of Variable Speed Air Handlers and Heat Pumps  If you’ve been shopping for heat pump systems, you’ve been faced with the decision of choosing a single-speed air handler or spending more on a variable-speed model. The same thing is true for the heat pump itself, with single-stage, 2-stage and modulating heat pumps available.

What are the advantages of staged heating and variable-speed air handlers? Are they worth the extra money? Here are the benefits, so you can decide if they’re worth the money for your situation.

Benefits of Staged Heating

A single-stage heat pump runs at full capacity all the time it’s on. The drawbacks are that it runs at peak decibels too, which can be noisy. Secondly, single-stage units tend to produce slight temperature fluctuations and imbalances that can be noticeable at times.

Two-stage heat pumps run at low capacity, which is about 65%, most of the time. The first advantage is quieter operation. Secondly, they heat more gently and evenly. Finally, they reduce humidity better in warm weather.

A modulating heat pump runs between 40% and 100%, adjusting in 1% increments. The result is the quietest operation of any type heat pump as well as the most comfortable temperatures and humidity level.

Benefits of a Variable Speed Air Handler

Variable speed air handlers start on low and gradually ramp up to high at the peak of the cycle before slowing down again. First, this eliminates blasts of cold air at the beginning of a heating cycle. They don’t push out full-capacity air before it is properly heated. In the summer, you don’t get warm air at the start of a cycle.

Secondly, because they run on lower speed most of the time, variable speed air handlers are quieter than single speed models. When they are combined with 2-stage or modulating heat pumps, they work much more gently. The cycles are longer, so the house slowly heats or cools. The result is that the areas furthest from the thermostat have time to heat or cool before the thermostat shuts off the system. This approach also removes more humidity in warm weather, creating a more comfortable home, and increases the effectiveness of air purification systems in any season.

Finally, variable-speed air handlers maximize the efficiency of heat pumps, producing SEER ratings up to 1.5 points higher than single-speed air handlers can. The effect is optimized when a variable speed air handler is matched with a 2-stage or modulating heat pump. The result is lower energy bills throughout the year, helping to pay back the higher cost of the equipment.

As you can see, a variable-speed heat pump system produces a more comfortable home, quieter operation and lower energy bills. If low cost of the equipment is your top priority, a variable-speed system may not be worth it.

However, if better climate control and indoor comfort is the goal, a variable speed system makes sense, especially one that helps you recover the extra cost through reduced utility bills.

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