Best Central Air Conditioner Brands 2018

When is 25 the same as seven? No, it’s not a clever math problem, it’s a central air conditioning problem. The top 25 brands of central AC equipment in the United States are actually made by only seven different companies. So when you go to compare “brands” of AC units, you need to know that the logo on the nameplate may not tell the whole story.

Seven Manufacturers

Trane is one of the seven leading brands and top-rated manufacturers in the country. Trane also builds American Standard central air conditioners. Carrier owns the Bryant, Payne, and Tempstar brands. This sort of thing goes on and on:

  • Lennox produces Allied, AirEase, Armstrong, Concord, and Ducane
  • Rheem makes Rheem and Ruud
  • Nortek Global HVAC produces Frigidaire, Kelvinator, Maytag, Westinghouse, and other brands

Two other manufacturers, Goodman and York, make six brands between them. That’s 25 different names on equipment rolling off just seven assembly lines.

Compare Trane Vs. Lennox Vs. Rheem Air Conditioners

When reviewing what many contractors consider the three main air conditioning brands – Trane, Lennox, and Rheem – there are several considerable factors to successfully determine which one is best:

  • Temperature variance: As a general rule, systems with variable-speed compressors are much more precise with temperature and humidity control.
  • Size: Units that are too large consume additional energy, whereas insufficient sizes struggle to cool enough on sweltering days. As a general rule of thumb, for 1,600 square feet of indoor space, you will need a 4 ton AC ― this number varying on the room’s windows and insulation quality, as well as the local climate.
  • Noise: Something with a decibel level (dB) of 50-65 is considered quiet; equivalent to normal conversation. ACs from 66-90 dB have moderate noise ratings, with higher dBs getting exponentially louder. To better compare, a blender operates at about 80-90 dB.
  • Energy Efficiency: Variable-speed condensers that adapt to outside temperature and ENERGY STAR certified models could save you as much as 60 percent in electricity costs, in addition to rebates offered by energy companies. Energy efficiency is measured using the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). A SEER of 14 is the minimum recommended, with 21 considered to be excellent.
  • Cost: This refers both to the purchase price of the air conditioner and the unit’s overall lifetime costs in energy consumption, installation, and repair. In other words, you get what you pay for, and cheaper systems often break down faster than high-quality brands.

It is important to remember that there is a range of different models available from all three manufacturers, so it is not difficult to find the size, output, and energy efficiency you’re looking for in an AC unit.

Trane AC Review

Trane is a favorite of consumers and HVAC installers everywhere, likely because of its excellent reputation among central air conditioner brands for excellent construction and long-lasting operation. Trane even services well-known landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, The Kremlin, SeaWorld, and La Scala Opera House in Milan.

Advantages of Trane:

Trane HVAC systems have a lot going for them. Some of their notable attributes include:

  • Reliability: Trane ACs are beloved in contractor circles for lasting well beyond their term of warranty free of leaks or other issues. Durability of 10 to 20 years or more is common with proper installation, correct care, and ongoing maintenance.
  • Quality: Trane’s patented spine fin aluminum coil offers great corrosion resistance and significantly reduces the chance of leaks. Top HVAC models provide variable compressors with ComfortLink technology for optimum performance, monitoring, and digital diagnostics tools.
  • Warranty: The warranty offered by Trane surpasses other reviewed models, mainly because of the 12-year warranty on variable speed compressors.
  • Energy Efficient: While it may not be the top performer for energy efficiency, Trane pops in at second place with an average SEER rating of 17.3 and a peak rating of 22.
  • Excellent Dehumidification: Models featuring TruComfort technology are exceptional at keeping a dry and cool home when needed. Using lower compressor speeds spread out over a longer time efficiently eliminates moisture.
  • Very quiet: Even Trane’s loudest model is relatively quiet at a modest 72 dB, compared to top picks clocking in at an almost non-existent 55 dB.
  • Affordable: Trane is not the cheapest option available, which is probably a good thing. The brand is located in the higher end of the spectrum but finishes far less – sometimes $1,000-$2,000 less – than other well-known brands such as Lennox.
  • Maintenance: Due to its popularity, finding Trane replacement parts and brand-authorized installers is a breeze. Staying cool in emergencies is not a problem.

The Bottom Line

Trane is an all-around great HVAC manufacturer that produces trustworthy models with the right balance of energy efficiency and cost. Its systems are excellent in any climate and especially outperform in our extreme desert heat.

Lennox AC Review

Lennox is one of the oldest air conditioner manufacturers, which also translates into high quality and dependable operation.

There are quite a few notable features with Lennox ACs:

  • Energy efficiency: Lennox models offer, quite frankly, spectacular energy efficiency with an average SEER of 17.9 and a peak SEER of 26. However, expect to pay for this excellent performance with much steeper upfront costs.
  • Easy access for maintenance: The SmartHinge louver and coil design makes repairs pretty easy. Sadly, Lennox’s customer service and repair network is severely lacking; replacement parts are expensive and hard to obtain, meaning several weeks of wait time if your HVAC breaks.
  • Smartphone compatible: This cool feature lets you control your thermostat while at work or when you’re on the road with a simple app. Of course, other brands such as Trane and Rheem also provide similar high-tech systems.

The Bottom Line

Lennox is a solid player in the HVAC world, but it carries a higher price tag than other brands offering similar capacity and features. By far the biggest reason to opt for a Lennox AC would be for that SEER 26 energy efficiency rating.

Do you need that high of an energy efficiency rating? Well, that depends on where you live and how efficient other areas of your home are. In climates with average or cool temperatures, possible energy savings do not justify the much higher initial purchase price. In very hot climates where you are running your AC year-round, however, very energy efficient models can provide significant savings as long as the rest of your home is also efficient.

People who prioritize environmentally-friendly operation may also want to strive for the higher SEER rating coupled with Lennox’s solar panel compatible top-end models.

Rheem AC Review

Rheem has a reputation for state-of-the-art tech and helpful features that would likely put its air conditioners near the top of the spectrum for contractors if it were not for significant reliability issues.

Pros of Rheem HVAC:

  • Excellent humidity control: Rheem’s modern features, such as monitoring software and precise variable speed compressors, remove moisture from the air quickly and quietly.
  • Easy maintenance: Because it does not use brand-exclusive technicians for repairs, finding parts and getting someone to make repairs is pretty easy. Unfortunately, that same benefit can also be an Achilles heel due to improper installation or underprepared repair technicians.
  • Energy efficiency: Units stay neck and neck with competitors when it comes to great energy efficiency levels.
  • Cost: Rheem HVACs have significantly lower upfront costs which can look appealing to homeowners at first; however, do not expect the same quality of construction with leaks and failures being much more likely than with Trane or Lennox brands.

The Bottom Line

Rheem’s low costs make it an attractive consideration in situations where you need the lowest possible unit price coupled with smartphone solutions and solid energy efficiency. Though the ten-year parts warranty helps somewhat, understand that you are taking a big gamble when it comes to durability and longevity.

Which is the Best AC Brand?

Winner in Performance

  • Trane: You just can’t beat the combination of energy efficiency, high-quality parts, customer service, durability, and cool extras for providing day-and-night results you can trust.
  • Second Place: Lennox

Winner in Energy Efficiency

  • Lennox: Expect to spend more upfront for a significant boost in energy savings.
  • Second Place: Trane

Winner in Noise Levels

  • Trane: Ultra-quiet operation is the norm.
  • Second Place: Lennox

Winner in Purchase Price

  • Rheem: Lower upfront costs may not translate into significant savings if you have to pay for repairs.
  • Second Place: Trane

Installation Is Key

While Trane is widely acknowledged to be one of the best brands and manufacturers, it is the installer who completes the product. It’s as if your family automobile depended on the local car dealer to add the axle, drive train and wheels to make your made-in-Detroit car work. The local, trustworthy HVAC installer actually completes assembly by tying the AC unit into your house.

Since the manufacturer is delivering an unfinished unit, you need to select your HVAC installer and technician just as carefully as you select your manufacturer. This is why you will not find the superior Trane brand available from some contractors, such as:

  • Plumbers who also dabble in HVAC
  • Carpenters who “can handle” central AC installation
  • Electricians who “sometimes work” on AC

Trane and a few other brands limit access to their high-quality units to HVAC contractors with experience and known track records of reliable, professional installation. Trane trusts their best units to their best HVAC installers. If you search big box home improvement stores for Trane units, you will not find them.

Let Our Experts Help You Pick the Right Unit

You should partner with your local, reliable HVAC dealer to discuss which brand’s combination of energy efficiency, high SEER rating, reliability and ease of service will be most appropriate for your home. Contact Day & Night Air to learn more about how Trane, the brand, and manufacturer we recommend, is right for you.

Top AC Brands Day & Night Air