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Common Variable-Speed Air Conditioner Problems

Variable-speed air conditioners meet your cooling needs by ramping up or down. They’re also more efficient than systems that only turn on or off or run at a high or low speed. But while there are many benefits, common variable-speed air conditioner problems can occur.

Here are some problems you may encounter if a system isn’t properly matched with your home:

Uninsulated Ductwork

If your ducts aren’t insulated, replacing your central HVAC unit with a variable-speed AC can lead to condensation issues. It runs longer, so your air ducts will always be cold. Ductwork can then start to sweat. Once condensation forms on metal ducts, it can start dripping onto walls, through ceilings, or inside a floor. Wood rot and other forms of damage and mold can become problematic if the issue isn’t resolved.

Limited Cost Benefits

Investing more to install a variable-speed AC can be worth it. But it’s not ideal for every climate zone. A single- or two-stage AC may be adequate if summers are typically mild and not especially humid in your area. In that case, you probably won’t see the most energy savings from a variable-speed unit. Also, if energy costs in your area are relatively low, it can be hard to recoup the extra upfront cost.

You Don’t Plan On Staying In Your Home Long

This doesn’t sound like an AC problem. But add up your potential monthly electricity savings. The difference between your options may add up to a few hundred dollars per year. If you plan to move before you break even, a variable-speed AC may not be worth it. However, it might be if you can squeeze out a higher resale value for your home or care more about increased comfort and reducing your carbon footprint.

You Might Need a Special Thermostat

If your thermostat isn’t designed for your system, this can be a variable-speed air conditioner problem. Most standard thermostats don’t let you adjust the fan speed. To avoid this issue, purchase a unit that’s the same brand as your AC. The best options include a programmable thermostat that lets you set a cooling schedule or a smart thermostat with more advanced controls that can be accessed remotely.

Your Home Isn’t Airtight

A variable-speed AC may struggle to remove humidity if there are gaps around doors, windows, and attic and floor penetrations. These can constantly let in moisture. To compensate, you can lower the thermostat setting and, in effect, overcool your home, but this won’t solve the problem. 

The most effective solutions include having a professional perform an air leakage test. They’ll set up a blower door to depressurize your home and use an infrared camera to identify where the air is leaking. Closing these areas with caulking or closed cell foam can prevent moisture and humidity from entering. A whole-house dehumidifier, which assists your AC in removing humidity, is also an option.

Why Install a Variable Speed AC?

While a variable-speed system runs for longer, it minimizes the energy spikes of frequent start-ups or running at peak capacity. A system can run at full throttle on a scorching day or only at 40% on a mild day. Depending on the unit, you can set the fan speed in 1% increments.

Some homes are better off with a single-stage or two-stage air conditioner. But if temperatures fluctuate from day to day and from season to season, a variable-speed system is beneficial. Since it runs for longer periods, it helps provide a balance that reduces hot and cold spots. Improved humidity control is another benefit.

Contact Monarch Home Services

Our NATE-certified technicians provide the latest HVAC technologies and solutions in Central California homes. They calculate load capacity, perform airflow analyses, and manage ductwork design and AC installation and replacement. If you’re considering an AC upgrade, we can help you avoid common variable-speed air conditioner problems. To learn about our coupons, financing, and if a variable-speed AC is right for your home, call (661) 215-6428 today.

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