What is Staging, and What Does it Mean for Me?
Most people who are faced with having to consider replacing their HVAC system are not experts. In an average homeowner’s life, they will likely only have to go through the process of buying a new system once or twice. But there are so many options that make it difficult to understand what the options will really do for them. It is also difficult to understand and decide what’s best for a particular situation at a particular time.
Hopefully, if you find yourself in this situation, you decide to have a Summit Comfort Expert come to your home. Our teammates are trained not to be salesmen, but instead educators. If you are just starting to look, it’s important and fairly easy, to understand what options are available, and what they can do for you. In this article, we will be discussing one of the more confusing options in the HVAC world, Staging.
So, what is HVAC Staging, and what does it mean for me and my in-home comfort?
When thinking about an HVAC system, it is easiest to relate the conversation to a car. There are 3 main considerations: 1) Efficiency, 2) Blower Dial, 3) Temperature Dial. Staging is simply the temperature dial. Efficiency is how much input energy (electricity or gas) is needed to create the capacity required. In an 80% furnace, 80 cents of every dollar spent creates heat in the home. Air Conditioners are rated by SEER or SEER2, the higher the rating the more efficient the unit. The Blower Dial in our example is the Fan for your HVAC system. On a road trip, do we put the dial on full blast and leave it? Nope, we get the car comfortable, then we turn the blower down to match an even more comfortable temperature for the entire trip. Variable speed blowers in the furnace do the exact same thing, it adjusts the blower set to constantly circulate the air throughout your home all day and all year round. It has the ability to increase the fan speed as demand increases (when it gets hot outside) and decrease it when there isn’t as much demand. This constant circulation of air throughout the home evens temperatures throughout all the rooms and floors in the home. This provides comfort and efficiency. Variable speed blowers can run all the time because they are DC powered and thus run on 30-60 watts versus 600 watts like traditional PSC blower motors. 3) The temperature dial is where Staging comes into play. Thinking about the same road trip example, do we put the temperature dial on full blast and drive all the way to our destination? No, we get comfortable and turn it down to make things comfortable in our car. Not turning off and on the heating or cooling in your car limits the uncomfortable times when it’s too hot or too cold in the car. This adjustment keeps the occupants comfortable for the entire trip. HVAC systems can do the same thing with Staging. The concept is the same. If the system automatically adjusts the temperature dial, increasing and decreasing the capacity of the system, then remains on much longer, if not always. This reduces the stop/start time on the system, increases dehumidification, and keeps the in-home temperature more consistently at the desired temperature.
The next question is usually “If I’m running my AC all the time won’t that make my electric bill go up and wear my AC out sooner?” The simplest answer is no. Most staged equipment nowadays is variable capacity, which is inverter-driven, DC power. This sounds complicated, but it just means it’s way more efficient than things used to be. The standard system we are replacing today was 10 SEER, the efficiency of even the basic staged equipment starts around 17 SEER and goes upwards of 30 SEER. The other consideration is that the time when we are using the most electricity in the whole process is when we start the compressor. If the compressor rarely stops, then we don’t have to start it as often, lowering how much electricity is used. This Start/Stop process is also the part of the process that wears out the system the most. If we are limiting how often we must start, then the equipment lasts longer than previous systems. Granted that this is assuming that the system was installed correctly. Another fantastic benefit of staged equipment is increased dehumidification. An air conditioner’s primary function is as a dehumidifier, cooling is the accidental byproduct of dehumidification. This is the primary contributor to indoor comfort. If we do a better job of dehumidification, we are more comfortable in the home, at times even at higher temperatures. There are many benefits to staging air conditioners but these 3 are the primary benefits: Efficiency, Longevity, and Dehumidification.
These are the main types of Staging: Variable Capacity, Multistage, and Single Stage. Single stage equipment is the most traditional type of system. Single stage equipment is either on or off. It’s been the mainstay for generations but has limitations in efficiency and dehumidification. It has the widest variance of indoor temperature vs thermostat setting, on average a 4-degree swing. The most popular multistage is 2 stage. Typically, these systems have a high setting (100% capacity) and a medium (roughly 60% of capacity). These systems are more efficient and better at dehumidification than single stage equipment. These systems are very good in hotter climates that have a cooler Spring and Fall. When it’s really hot outside, they have the full capacity demanded, but at milder times like an 83-degree September in Missouri, it goes into the medium setting. This means that the unit can stay on longer, which leads to a longer run time, and better dehumidification. The third category of staging is variable capacity. Depending on the manufacturer, variable capacity systems have between 50 and 125 temperature settings. These are internally controlled by the system, you don’t have to do the adjusting. The variation of the dials depends on what you set the thermostat to and what is going on inside and outside of the home. Different systems can be communicating or non-communicating. A communicating system is one where the furnace and ac are talking to each other, allowing the system to adjust the blower settings. This allows for more precise control over the capacity being used, keeping the temperature closer to the thermostat setting, within .1 of a degree. Non communicating systems are called hunting systems. They have one sort or another of a sensor to base the variation on. They are still fantastic, but they aren’t as precise as communicating systems.
The team at Summit Heating & Cooling loves all types of HVAC equipment but is especially fond of variable capacity equipment. It provides the best possible comfort, efficiency, and longevity for our customers. We spend our time during slower times of the year training our technicians, installers, comfort experts and entire staff on all the advancements in the industry, especially variable capacity. The folks at Summit have installed the highest percentage variable capacity equipment of anyone in the Kansas City Metro Area for 5 years in a row. Our team is trained better than any of our peers on the proper installation, service, design and maintenance techniques. Rest assured that Summit Heating & Cooling is prepared to take the best possible care of you and your home’s indoor comfort needs. If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us at (816) 545-9017 or summitHCKC.com. Remember, if you’re looking for the top, REACH for the Summit.