If you need to heat and cool your home for year-round comfort, you have options. From air conditioners to the best heat pumps and even mini-split systems, you can find high-efficiency units to fit your needs.
This article will examine the Armstrong brand central air conditioners. We will look at their models as a whole, helping you decide on the right size, tonnage, and efficiency. Further, we will compare the best Armstrong AC models so you can find the ideal match for your home.
Introducing Armstrong Air Conditioners
Armstrong began in Columbus, Ohio, as a budget-friendly option of the Lennox brand. After several years under the parent company, Lennox sold the brand for a profit and then purchased the company back when it started getting a bad reputation.
Now, the Armstrong name is manufactured in a new, state-of-the-art facility in South Carolina that is owned and operated by Lennox. With the name, quality, and brand recognition restored, Armstrong is poised to regain the top spot in the budget-friendly market of home air conditioning.
You will find half a dozen models with high efficiency and various sizes. The prices of the units are lower than most of their competitors, and they have plenty of features to utilize. These models can save you money over your current system and come with a great warranty to back your purchase.
Pros & Cons of Armstrong AC Units
As with everything in life, there are good and bad points with Armstrong air conditioners. Here is what we do and do not like about the brand’s offerings.
What We Like
- Extended warranty (up to 10 years parts/lifetime heat exchanger)
- Made by Lennox
- Durable housings
- High efficient models
- Prices for almost every budget
What We Don’t Like
- More expensive installs than some other brands
- Not all models are Energy Star rated
- Model may not qualify for tax credits
- Lower end model can be quite loud
Cost Expectations & Comparisons
One of the biggest decision factors out there for AC units is their cost. This includes not only the price of the unit itself but the labor cost for installation and the running cost of the system per year.
For the following estimated costs, we look at all of the models offered by Armstrong. We calculated based on the average install of a 2.5 or 3-ton unit (where available) and the national average of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity.
Your costs will vary based on region, time of year of purchase, labor fees by contractor, and several other factors.
|Model||AC Unit (without Installation)||AC Unit (With Installation)||Estimated Running Cost (per year)||Government Tax Break|
If you want to know a more exact number for the yearly running costs of your chosen unit, there is a formula for that. While it won’t give you an exact number (too many unknown variables), it can get you close.
For the formula, you will need 4 known variables. The wattage of the system divided by 1000 will give you the kilowatts (kW) of the system. You also need to know how much you pay for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity.
Once you have those two numbers, you will need to multiply them by the number of hours per day (H) the system runs and the number of days in total (D) you want to know the cost for. The basic formula looks like: kW x $kWh x H x D = $Total cost.
For example, if we have a 3400 watt system (3.4kW) and use the national average of 13 cents per kWh ($0.13), we can then find our cost for any number of days. During the summer months, the average air conditioner runs for about 5 hours per day, and we can calculate for this time frame (90 days per season).
The formula, with the known variables and total cost, would then be: 3.4 x $0.13 x 5 x 90 = $198.90.
Armstrong AC Model Numbers Explained
Armstrong air conditioners use an 11 – 14 digit model number. This alpha-numeric number will tell you everything about the model in question. The numbers break down like this:
- 1st digit: Refrigerant type. “4” refers to R-410a.
- 2nd – 4th digits: Unit type. “SCU” refers to Split Condensing Unit.
- 5th and 6th digits: Nominal SEER rating. “20” refers to SEER 20.
- 7th and 8th digits: Model tier. LX for louvered unit with variable speed compressor. LS for louvered unit with 2-stage compressor. LE for louvered unit with enhanced compressor (single-stage) and LB for louvered unit with basic compressor (single-stage).
- 9th digit: Regional restriction. A “1” means standard model, no restrictions.
- 10th and 11th digit: Tonnage of the model (24 = 2-ton, 36 = 3ton, etc.).
- 12th digit: phasing of the unit. “P” refers to single-phase, 60Hz unit.
- 13th and 14th digits: minor and major revision codes (company use only for troubleshooting or parts identification).
|Model||Tonnage||Seer Rating (Max)||Noise Levels||BTU’s||Compressor|
|4SCU20LX||2,3,4,5||20||52 – 56dBA||24000 – 60000||Variable Speed|
|4SCU16LS||2,3,4,5||16||68 – 74dBA||24000 – 60000||Two-Stage|
|4SCU16LE||1.5 – 5||16||74 – 78dBA||18000 – 60000||Single-Stage|
|4SCU14LB||1.5 – 5||14||72 – 78dBA||18000 – 60000||Single-Stage|
|4SCU13LE||1.5 – 5||14||72 – 78dBA||18000 – 60000||Single-Stage|
|4SCU13LB||1.5 – 5||14||74 – 80dBA||18000 – 60000||Single-Stage|
What To Look For When Purchasing an Armstrong AC
Energy Efficiency/Seer Rating
Throughout the Armstrong AC reviews, you will see the terms Energy Efficiency and SEER rating. But what exactly does that mean?
Energy Efficiency is the term used to describe technologies that lower emissions, costs, and indoor air pollution in our homes and businesses. It is also a measurement tool to show you how efficient an air conditioner can be.
The most recognized rating is known as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. This is a numerical representation of how efficient your system is. It uses the wattage intake of the entire system and compares it rationally to the BTU output capabilities of that model. Higher SEER numbers mean a more efficient machine.
However, just because your model has a high SEER rating doesn’t mean it is the most efficient model for your home. Several factors go into selecting the right size and SEER rating for your needs. For more information, we have an extensive SEER informational article that tells you all about the rating system and how to select the right size for your home.
The compressor is the heart of the entire system. It is responsible for moving the refrigerant from the condensing unit to the evaporator and back again. Its main purpose is to compress the refrigerant into a high-pressure liquid so that it can expand into a gas that pulls the heat from the air.
New technologies offer us a lot of compressor options. The basic model is the least efficient but most affordable. These only have a single speed and run whenever the system is on. A two-stage compressor has two speeds (high and low) and will run depending on the needs of the system.
There are also multiple-speed compressors available that have between 3 and 7 speeds to be even more efficient, but at a higher cost. Finally, you will find variable speed compressors. These are the most efficient as they never truly shut off. This allows them to run at much lower speeds and requires less energy to get started.
Armstrong offers a single model with a variable speed compressor, two models with a two-stage compressor, and four models with a single stage compressor. Regardless of your budget or needs, there is an option for you.
Condenser Fan Options
Like the compressor, the condensing unit fan needs to match the speed and efficiency of the model. The fan is responsible for keeping the coils and compressor cool during operation. It pulls air in from the sides of the unit, removing heat from the refrigerant coils.
It also removes the heat produced by the compressor to keep everything in operational range.
If you have a multi-speed compressor, you also need a multi-speed fan. The two work together to maintain working temperature and efficiently cool the refrigerant on an as-needed basis.
You can learn all about the condenser and fan options in our thorough guide to condensers. Then, armed with your new knowledge, you can make a more informed buying decision for your new air conditioner model.
The compressor and condensing unit work to move the refrigerant through the system to cool your home. But what happens in the winter when you need additional heat? All Armstrong air conditioners are split systems, meaning you can choose the right internal air handler unit for your home.
Most of the air handler options are electric heat. These will use electrical coils to heat up, allowing the evaporator unit to blow the collected air over the coils, heating the air, and then passing it on through the vents into your home.
However, you can also go with gas furnaces, heat pump systems, or oil furnaces. The most efficient are gas furnaces since natural gas and propane are generally cheaper than electricity. If you don’t have a natural gas line running to your home, though, oil or electric are your only options.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). Attenuated decibels (dBA) are a measurement of the noise produced by a machine at specific distances from your ears. The higher the dB level, the louder the machine is while in operation.
On average, air conditioners are fairly loud compared to other appliances in the home. The majority of the noise, though, comes from the outside unit, which makes the noise levels less for you inside. Some brands add noise reduction methods to the condensing units, such as insulation, padding, or even noise-reducing fan hoods.
Armstrong doesn’t offer these additions (with the exception of the 4SCU20LX model) and are among the loudest condensers in the industry because of it. However, they are also among the most affordable because of the lack of these types of extra features.
On average, the Armstrong models will range between 60 and 80dB. This is the noise level at 2 to 4 meters and is the same as a hairdryer on high at 4 feet or high volume city traffic at 20 feet. To compare, Trane and Carrier units average 50 to 60dB, and some brands are even quieter.
The Importance of Warranty Coverage
One of the most often overlooked aspects of buying a new air conditioner is the warranty coverage. This is something you need to look into and understand thoroughly before you make your purchase, though.
Armstrong is about average when it comes to their warranty, and they match most other brands in this category. All Armstrong air conditioners, furnaces and heaters come with a 5-year parts warranty and 20-year heat exchanger warranty. If you register your purchase online within 60 days, though, the warranty is extended to 10-years parts and a lifetime heat exchanger.
To qualify, the system must be purchased from a reputable dealer or vendor and be professionally installed. You must also have professional annual inspections along with timely repairs to maintain the warranty.
Goodman air conditioners offer one of the best warranties in the field, with 10 to 20 year coverage on parts and lifetime compressor warranties. However, a 10-year part warranty is average for most brands, including Armstrong, and should be plenty to keep your mind at ease.
Finding A Licensed HVAC Contractor
One of the most challenging aspects of buying a new air conditioning unit is choosing the right contractor for the installation. All air conditioners need to be installed by a licensed professional to maintain warranty coverage and get the most efficiency from the unit.
To find the best contractors, you may need some help. We use Networx to locate the best of the best and ensure a great installation every time. Networx will give you up to 4 results of local contractors that have been professionally vetted.
Each result will be local, licensed, and have great reviews, value, and efficient time schedules. With the company, you will get the best results with all the aspects you need for a proper, quick, and affordable installation. Most will also offer a labor warranty which will work with your Armstrong air conditioner should anything go wrong in the future.
Tax Rebates for HVAC
Started in 2018, the federal tax credit is an incentive program to get homeowners to purchase high efficiency units. Qualification is relatively easy, and once qualified, you can receive a $300 tax credit just for buying and installing your new system.
To qualify, you must:
- Be the homeowner and live in the residence. Rental units and new construction do not qualify.
- The model must be Energy Star certified and professionally installed.
- For split systems, the model must be a minimum of 16 SEER and 13 EER total.
- For package systems, the minimums are 14 SEER and 12 EER total.
- You must purchase and install your system on or before December 31, 2021.
Once you have the system installed and meet all qualifications, you only need to fill out and file tax form 5695 with your annual income tax.
Armstrong Brand Unique Features
Armstrong does offer several unique features (some are model specific). The following sections explain these features and why they are important to you.
Comfort Sync Thermostat
Comfort Sync is a proprietary system used by Armstrong that connects your air handler, thermostat, and condenser unit together. Using the mobile app, you can take complete control of your home’s heating and cooling from anywhere.
The sophisticated A3 thermostat is the base of the system and must be paired with a Comfort Sync system. This includes the Pro Series models and air handlers. This system will split your home into multiple zones and ensure the most efficient heating and cooling for occupied zones as needed.
The Armstrong MHT Technology is another proprietary system that is found on all models. This is a heat transfer system that features rifled tubing coils and lanced fins. The tubing produces a more even and efficient refrigerant flow, while the fins disperse heat and a higher rate making the entire system more energy efficient.
When you match your system with the proper condenser unit and air handler, you will receive Microban protection. This is a treatment applied to the drain pans that destabilizes the cells of microorganisms. Working like an anti-microbial wash, the drain pans prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and odor-causing microbes.
Heavy-Duty Compressor Blanket
Available on the 4SCU20LX model, you can opt for a heavy-duty compressor blanket. This blanket covers the compressor to help disperse heat and greatly reduce the noise output.
With a quieter and cooler compressor, you can enjoy less disruption and more efficiency whenever the system is running.
Care and Maintenance of Armstrong Air Conditioners
Armstrong air conditioners are fairly low maintenance and easy to clean. It is recommended by the brand that you have the system professionally inspected once a year to maintain operation, efficiency, and warranty coverage. That inspection should include:
Armstrong Compared With Other Popular AC Brands
As we have seen, Armstrong is an efficient brand backed by one of the best HVAC companies in the business (Lennox). But how do they compare to other brands in the industry? We compare Armstrong to GrandAire, Carrier, and Payne to find out.
When it comes to budget-friendly air conditioner brands, there are several to choose from. Armstrong is one of them. GrandAire air conditioners are also considered an entry-level or budget-friendly brand.
The two brands are pretty equal on all fronts, and it can be a tough decision if you have narrowed your decision to these two options. The biggest differences will be in model selection and pricing.
GrandAire has fewer models (4) than Armstrong (6), and Armstrong has better efficiency. Unlike Armstrong, GrandAire deals mainly in heat pumps and mini-split systems, so their ACs aren’t as efficient or feature-rich. You won’t find a variable speed compressor, for example.
Armstrong also has a lower price point per unit, and while installation is a little more expensive than GrandAire, you still come out ahead, depending on the model you choose. Where GrandAire wins is in noise levels and tonnage options, as all of theirs range between 1.5 and 5 tons.
Carrier is a premium brand with premium pricing and premium features. All told, a Carrier air conditioning unit is much more durable and reliable than an Armstrong. However, you are going to pay more for those models.
The first thing to notice is that Carrier offers many more models. At any time, you can find between 18 and 24 different types of air conditioners from the company. Armstrong only offers 6 models to choose from.
Aside from that, you also get premium features that are found on more units with Carrier, compared to the one premium model of Armstrong. The most significant difference, though, is the price. Even the cheapest Carrier model is more expensive than most of the Armstrong offerings.
Like Armstrong, the warranties start at 5-years for parts and labor, but with registration, the warranty is extended to 10 years. The difference here is that Carrier gives you 90 days to register, where Armstrong only offers 60 days.
When it comes to saving money, Payne may be one of the lowest-priced air conditioner manufacturers out there. Like Armstrong, Payne AC units come in 6 models, ranging from 11 to 17 SEER.
Payne doesn’t have a variable speed compressor model but does offer a two-stage compressor on its top-end unit. The warranties are the same, along with the 10-year extended warranty for registering your purchase.
The biggest difference here is the available SEER ratings and cost. Armstrong has the more efficient units, and both will work well to heat or cool your home. However, Payne ACs are much cheaper across the board and can save you several hundred dollars upfront.
When it comes to new air conditioners, you have a lot of choices. From premium models that have a lot of features to entry-level units with bare-bones systems. Armstrong air conditioners are about in the middle of the field with enough options to make a solid purchase and not so many features that the price gets out of hand.
Armstrong AC units are best for those looking to upgrade an older system with a new, high efficient model that doesn’t want to break the bank. The installation will be the most considerable cost, though. You can minimize that cost by utilizing the Networx form above to help you find the best contractor in your area.
Our Rating: (4 / 5)
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