Two-stage ACs offer more comfort at lower operational costs (compared to single-stage units).
You might be thinking: “That sounds great! Why the heck wouldn’t I choose that option?”
Well, it all comes down to price.
You see, two-stage ACs have higher upfront prices than single-stage units, so it really depends on your budget:
- On a strict budget?Choose a single-stage AC.
- Willing to pay a little more upfront?Choose a two-stage AC.
In this article, we’ll explain:
The price difference between two-stage and single-stage
How two-stage is beneficial for Minnesota’s climate
But first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page as to what “two-stage” and “single-stage” really mean…
Live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area? Want a FREE quote on a single-stage or two-stage AC? Just contact us.
How they work: Single-stage vs two-stage
The bottom line: Two-stage AC units can operate at two different speeds while single-stage units only have one speed.
A two-stage unit has a “HIGH” speed (100% capacity) and a “LOW” speed (67% capacity). The main benefit here is that the AC can “ramp down” to a lower speed on mild temperature days so that it consumes less energy—without sacrificing comfort.
A single-stage unit, on the other hand, only has one speed: “HIGH”. So, anytime the system calls for cooling, the AC jumps on and blasts cold air at 100% capacity. That said, these units eat up more energy in 2 ways:
- By running at 100% capacity when it’s not necessary (i.e. on a mild 80° summer day)
- By turning ON/OFF frequently (ACs require a lot more energy on startup vs when it’s running)
So now that we know how they work, let’s look at how much more you can expect to pay for a two-stage vs a single-stage…
How much they cost: Single-stage vs two-stage
The bottom line: A two-stage AC unit typically costs anywhere from $1,000–$2,500+ more than a single-stage AC unit.
Note: The price difference between these two ACs vary depending on SEER, tonnage, etc of the units. The only way to get a true cost difference is to get a professional estimate. For more on AC install cost factors, check out our blog, “How Much Does It Cost to Replace an AC in Minneapolis?”.
But remember—two-stage units offer lower operational costs. So really, you’re trading a higher upfront cost for lower monthly energy bills.
That said, let’s answer the next logical question…
Will I eventually pay back the higher upfront price with the monthly savings of a two-stage unit?
Unfortunately, for Minnesota homeowners, the answer is usually no.
Here’s why: Minnesota has a much shorter cooling season than the majority of the country. And, because most Minnesota homeowners would only run a two-stage AC for 3 months out of the year, they’re not going to accumulate nearly as much savings over the lifetime of the AC unit as, say, a Florida or Arizona homeowner would.
So should you rule out a two-stage unit completely? No.
In fact, because they offer such a higher degree of comfort, two-stage units are still a great option for Minnesota homeowners who don’t mind spending more.
Two-stage units offer optimal comfort—especially for Minnesota’s climate
Minnesota’s summers often bring mild temperatures but high humidity levels. And the 2nd “LOW” speed option makes a two-stage unit specifically well-suited for this climate.
For example, a two-stage unit offers:
- Better dehumidification. A two-stage unit runs longer at a steady pace compared to a single-stage. And, the longer an AC runs, the better it absorbs moisture from your home’s air.
- Even cooling. Because two-stage units in Minnesota will typically only need to run on low, it pushes out cold air slower and longer. This slow and steady airflow allows conditioned air to reach every part of your home, eliminating those annoying “hot spots” in your house.
- Precise temperatures. A two-stage unit usually gets within +/-2°F of your set temperature. A single-stage unit, on the other hand, only gets within +/-4-6°F of the set temperature.
- Longer AC lifespan. Because a two-stage unit doesn’t stop/start as often as a single-stage unit, its motors undergo much less strain and the unit as a whole typically lasts years longer.
- Lower energy bills. Like we’ve mentioned, that lower speed option on a two-stage unit means the unit consumes less electricity while running/starting up, which means lower monthly energy bills.