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1-Stage, 2-Stage, and Variable Speed ACs: What's the Difference

Aircon Comparison

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What is a 1-Stage, or Single-Stage Air Conditioner?

The single-stage air conditioner is the standard AC unit often known as a non-inverter air conditioner, or a conventional air conditioning unit. The compressor speed on single-stage air conditioners operate at either 100% performance, or none at all, which indicates the unit is powered on or off, respectively.


Single-stage units are the standard units in air conditioners, and are typically priced lower than two-stage air conditioners, or variable speed air conditioners. Most aircon brands carry single-stage air conditioners, and basic models often use a single-stage compressor. Single-stage air conditioners are relatively inexpensive, and affordable.

Energy Efficiency

The single-stage compressor is not energy efficient, and consumes high amounts of energy throughout usage as the compressor constantly runs at 100% performance as long as the unit is powered on. Out of the types of air conditioners, the single-stage air conditioner is the least efficient system when it comes to energy savings.

Cooling Power

The cooling capacity of single-stage systems depends on the British Thermal Units (BTU) of the brand and model of the unit. Because the compressor works at full capacity, single-stage air conditioners are highly efficient in cooling spaces as they do not compromise on performance.

Space Requirements

Space and size depend on the model and type of air conditioner, and because single-stage systems are considered standard units, they are available in virtually any type of cooling system from portable and window units, to mini split systems, and even central air conditioners. Single-stage units offer a wider variety of models compared to two-stage units.


However, there is a risk of overworking the compressor as single-stage AC units operate at full performance as long as the unit is powered on. This may cause overheating and breakdowns, which will require the troubleshooting of professional HVAC technicians. Fortunately, most AC repair companies can repair single-stage AC units.

What is a Two-Stage Air Conditioner?

As its name suggests, the two-stage air conditioner works in two stages: at 100% performance, and at 60%-70% performance depending on the model of the air conditioner. When the room temperature reaches close to the desired indoor temperature on the thermostat setting, the two-stage air compressor will automatically work less.


Two-stage air conditioners are somewhat pricier than single-stage units, but provide higher energy efficiency, and savings on energy bills. Two-stage air conditioners will cost you more than a standard unit, but the operating costs of two-stage air conditioners are reduced in the long-run as you keep using the unit.

Energy Efficiency

Shifting to 60%-70% performance makes the two-stage air conditioner a more efficient system than the single-stage AC unit. By lowering the speed of the two-stage compressor, the AC unit decreases the amount of energy consumed by the unit, leading to lower energy usage, lower operating costs, and higher savings.

Cooling Power

Two-stage air conditioners are known for being powerful cooling systems that can effectively cool spaces at a reduced energy consumption requirement. Because of their reduced energy consumption, people tend to think a two-stage air conditioner has a weaker airflow than a standard unit, but this is not the case, and its cooling capacity is dependent on its BTU.

Space Requirements

Two-stage air conditioner models range across different aircon types, which have different space requirements. However, not all models will have a two-stage air conditioner variety as some budget models may only have single-stage units. Nevertheless, the space requirements of a two-stage AC unit depends on the type, shape, and size of the air conditioner.


Despite working at 100% performance, a two-stage AC is not as susceptible to overworking as a single-stage air conditioner is. This is mainly due to the compressor that automatically slows its speed in a two-stage AC system. Many aircon repair companies can work on maintaining two-stage systems as well, so you can most likely find a repair shop near you.

What is a Variable Speed Air Conditioner?

Variable speed compressors can be found in high end efficiency air conditioners. Also called inverter air conditioners, the variable speed air conditioner can shift the compressor speed up to 700 distinct settings. This is done to regulate the indoor fan and temperature control, while optimizing energy consumption, thereby reducing energy costs.


Variable speed AC units are among the most expensive units as they provide the best air conditioner cost savings in the long run. Inverter units are priced 30%+ higher than standard units, and may not be available across all brands.

Energy Efficiency

While the price is high, the energy savings of a variable speed air conditioner is higher, reducing electricity bills by 30%-80% compared to standard, conventional units. Variable speed AC systems are the most energy efficient, and provide adequate cooling comfort while optimizing energy consumption.

Cooling Power

Energy consumption might be low, but variable speed units do not compromise cooling capacity. Depending on the model of the unit, variable speeds may be as low as 5,000 BTU for portable units, or as high as 120,000 BTU for central air conditioners.

Space Requirements

Space requirements also vary depending on the type of air conditioner. The variable speed compressor isn't much bigger than the single-stage or two-stage compressor, so variable speed air conditioners don't require additional space requirements.


Maintenance for a variable speed unit can be done by professional HVAC technicians that have experience with the compressor type. Fortunately, variable speed compressors have been getting increasingly popular, therefore most aircon repair companies can clean, maintain, and repair these compressors without any problems.

Single-Stage vs Two-Stage Air Conditioner: The Difference

Factors 1-stage 2-stage Variable Stage
Budget Standard unit; Often priced at base rate. 4.5 out of 5 rating Mid-price units. 4 out of 5 rating 30% more expensive than standard units. 2.5 out of 5 rating
Energy Consumption High energy consumption. 1 out of 5 rating Lowered energy consumption. 4 out of 5 rating Optimized energy consumption for cost-efficiency. 5 out of 5 rating
Space Requirements Size and space requirements vary depending on the model. 3 out of 5 Size and space requirements vary depending on the model. 3 out of 5 Size and space requirements vary depending on the model. 3 out of 5
Cooling Power High cooling efficiency as the unit operates at peak performance. 5 out of 5 High cooling efficiency with reduced energy consumption. 4.5 out of 5 High cooling efficiency with optimized energy use. 5 out of 5
Maintenance Prone to overheating and overworking. 3.5 out of 5 Low maintenance unit. 4.5 out of 5 Low maintenance unit. 4.5 out of 5

The Verdict

In terms of seeking the right air conditioner type for you, you have to assess your own requirements and limitations. Check on the availability of space where you plan to place the AC unit, as well as the size of the room you need to cool. Stick to your budget, and inquire with us at Luce Aircon to find the right brand, model, and type of AC unit for your home!

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Staff Writer

This article is written by our passionate staff writers who seek to share our knowledge from our business

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