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High velocity vs. low velocity air conditioning systems

Published On: Jul 01 2013 04:33:58 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 13 2014 02:30:40 PM EDT

By Steve Graham, Networx

So you think your air conditioner is pretty cool, right? What if we told you it is a low-velocity system? Suddenly, you might have an inferiority complex about your home’s cooling system. A cool alternative is high-velocity systems, which have been around for a while, but are slowly gaining in popularity. They are a good option for older homes, but also have significant disadvantages.

The major differences between low- and high-velocity air conditioning systems are in the equipment and ductwork. High-velocity systems rely on smaller, more flexible tubing than the standard ductwork for low-velocity systems. They also have an additional air handler that works in conjunction with a standard thermostat and air conditioner or heat pump.

These differences make for a range of advantages and disadvantages of high-velocity air conditioning systems.

Advantages of high-velocity systems

• High-velocity systems are easier to install in an older home with no existing central AC system. At just two inches wide, the ducts are much easier to retrofit into older homes than the standard eight-inch-deep HVAC ducts. The miniature ducts can run inside walls, below floors and in other tight spaces.

• High-velocity systems also are ideal for new homes with radiant floor heating. These homes don’t need bulky heating ductwork, so the smaller high-velocity ducts are a good cooling option.

• As the name suggests, high-velocity systems typically make a room colder faster, using half the air flow. They also remove up to 30 percent more moisture than standard systems, a particularly strong selling point in hot, humid climates.

• The circulation system and high-velocity air are designed to create more even temperatures throughout each room.

Disadvantages of high-velocity A/C systems

• The main stumbling block for most homeowners is cost. The specialized ductwork for high-velocity systems can be substantially more expensive to buy and install. However, again, retrofitting an older home with these smaller ducts might require less additional remodeling work, so they could save money in the long run.

• Some users also complain about the noise level of high-velocity AC systems. When running, some systems sound like wind blowing in the house, but it is not necessarily louder than the mechanical noise in standard AC systems. There is also some specialized sound-deadening equipment available, and some installers promise their systems are nearly silent.

• Others complain about the high-speed air being uncomfortable.

High-velocity air conditioning systems are a small, but growing segment of the HVAC market. They are ideal for some situations, but certainly have drawbacks that should be considered.