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Single-Stage vs Two-Stage AC: Which Is Best for Florida Homes?

If you’ve been shopping for a new air conditioner, you may have come across the phrases “single-stage” and “two-stage,” and you’re probably wondering which AC you should get.

Well, when Florida homeowners ask us which is best, this is what we tell them: Two-stage ACs are better than single-stage ACs because they provide better comfort and higher energy savings.

However, the BEST option—and by “best” we mean highest comfort and energy savings—is a variable-speed AC, which we recommend for many Florida homeowners.

That said, variable-speed ACs are much more pricey than single-stage or two-stage ACs. For that reason, some Florida homeowners are forced to cross variable-speed options off their list.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • What AC Stages Are and How They Work
  • How Much Each Stage Costs

Want a quote on an AC installation?


...or visit our AC installation service page for more information.

What Are AC Stages and How Do They Work?

AC stages refer to the operating modes of air conditioner’s compressor, which is the part that circulates refrigerant (the liquid/gas that cools your home’s air) throughout your home.

An air conditioner compressor, located in the outdoor unit

New air conditioner compressors come in 3 different stages:

  1. Single-Stage
  2. Two-Stage
  3. Variable-Speed

Let’s look at how each of these stages work...

Single-Stage Compressor (Good)

Single-stage air conditioners only run at one operating mode (like their name suggests). This means when your thermostat calls for cold air and your AC system turns on, it will only produce cold air at 100% capacity—all the time.

An AC that runs at 100% capacity all the time leads to a problems like...

  • Higher energy bills: Since single-stage ACs run at 100% capacity, they turn on and off more frequently. The more an AC has to start and stop, the more energy it consumes. (Think of your car: it gets better mpg when it doesn’t turn on and off constantly).
  • Uneven cooling: The longer an AC runs, the more it can cool your home. But if your AC is running at 100% all the time, your AC will cool your home fast. When your AC cools your home at top speed, it limits the blower’s ability to run long enough to push cold air into all the corners of your home, which leaves you with hot and cold spots. 
  • More humidity: The longer an AC runs, the more it can dehumidify the air. But if your AC is running at top capacity all the time, it can’t run as long which means your home will be more humid (and who wants that in Florida?).
  • More repairs: Running an AC at 100% capacity all the time leads to more wear and tear on AC components, which means more repairs.

Two-Stage Compressor (Better)

Two-stage air conditioners run on 2 operating modes (true to their name):

  1. LOW: 60–70% Capacity
  2. HIGH: 100% Capacity (Like a Single-Stage AC)

Having this second low-speed option allows a two-stage AC to run for longer times and conserve energy.

Compared to single-stage ACs, two-stage air conditioners offer…

  • Better Dehumidification (Which Every Florida Home Needs)
  • Lower Energy Bills
  • More Even Cooling
  • Less Wear and Tear on AC Components

Variable-Speed Compressor (Best)

The BEST option in terms of comfort and energy savings is a variable-speed compressor.

Here’s why: Like a car can accelerate at any speed from 0 mph to 120 mph, a variable-speed compressor can operate at any mode between 10% and 150%.

Since it runs at multiple operating modes, a variable-speed AC can run for longer times at lower speeds and uses even less energy than a two-stage AC.

Because of their multi-speed technology, a variable-speed AC offers…

  • The BEST dehumidification (ideal for Florida homes).
  • Lowest energy bills of the 3 types of stages.
  • The most even cooling.
  • The least amount of wear and tear on your AC components—meaning your AC will last longer.

How Much Each AC Stage Costs

Of course, the next question on your mind is probably price. Let’s look at how each AC stage ranks in terms of cost:

  • Single-Stage = Least Expensive
  • Two-Stage = Mid-Priced
  • Variable-Speed = Most Expensive

Now, you’re probably thinking: “How much more is a two-stage or variable-speed AC going to cost me compared to a single-stage AC?”

  • A two-stage air conditioner will cost you more than a single-stage AC.
  • A variable-speed AC will cost you more than a single-stage AC, and more than a two-stage AC.

For more information about AC, read our article: How Much Does it Cost to Install a Central AC in Tampa, FL?

So is the higher price of a two-stage or variable-speed unit worth it for Florida homeowners?

We think so. Remember: Both of these ACs provide more dehumidification, lower energy bills, and just overall better comfort than a single-stage AC.

And since Florida homes naturally struggle with high humidity, hot temperatures, and expensive energy bills, we think variable speed is worth the investment.

Trying to save money?

If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend going with at least a two-stage AC.

Want a FREE Quote to Install a Two-Stage or Variable-Speed AC?



We’d be happy to answer any questions about AC stages or help you choose a unit for your home. And when you’re ready, we can install your new air conditioner.

We service the following areas:

  • Tampa
  • Brandon
  • Clearwater
  • New Tampa
  • St. Petersburg
  • And More… (Just Contact Us and We’ll Let You Know if We Service Your Area)

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