I recently had an air conditioning system replaced at my house. Out went the old energy hog with a noisy, fixed speed compressor, and in came a high efficiency unit with a quiet compressor and fan, both of which run at variable speeds. So, today’s question is: Why does varying the compressor speed increase efficiency, and how is that achieved?
Golden Rule: The longer and slower a compressor can run, the more efficient it will beEfficiency in refrigeration and air conditioning systems is measured as a ratio of power out to power in, and can be in several forms. The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is the ratio of output cooling energy in Btu’s to input electrical energy in watts under certain fixed conditions. So a system with an EER rating of 10 will produce 10 Btu’s of cooling for every watt of power consumed under the specified conditions. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) that is used in commercial and residential equipment is similar to the EER, but is assessed over time and under varying conditions.
When a fixed speed compressor is operating under light-load conditions, i.e. nighttime, cool weather, etc., a fixed-speed compressor will be running for short spurts and do a lot of cooling in a hurry, which is inherently very inefficient. If we were to be able to slow the compressor down during periods of light load, the system would run longer and be more efficient overall, but would still have the required capacity available for high heat-load conditions.