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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Central ACs: Stay Cool In Summer

Central AC systems can be complicated and expensive. The best central air conditioner should be long-lasting, cool your home efficiently & provide heat in winter.

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Central ACs: Stay Cool In Summer

Central AC systems can be complicated and expensive. The best central air conditioner should be long-lasting, cool your home efficiently & provide heat in winter.

by Joshm

Home is where you can put your feet up and enjoy a game on your TV, no matter the weather outside. The idea of walking into a cool home after a long day’s work, especially during the summer heat; is heavenly, to say the least. To cool down your home effectively, you are going to need a good air conditioner, be it central, split, window, or portable.

According to Energy.gov, roughly 67% of houses in the U.S have air conditioners installed. This number is bound to increase as governments pressurize HVAC manufacturers to focus on decreased energy consumption and lower prices. This, plus the tax relief given to those who purchase high-efficiency HVAC units has also contributed to the increase in demand of air conditioning units not only in the US, but all over the world!

There are numerous central air conditioner brands in the market, each looking to outdo the competition in its own way. This array of options can be confusing for customers, leading to the question; which brand of central air conditioners is the best?

Our team of professional contractors say that the decisive factor for any central air conditioner is the installation procedure, but that is not to say that the brand doesn’t have any bearing on your comfort level. Durability, efficiency, silent operation and cooling capacity, all are highly dependent on the brand you choose.

We have carefully analyzed the top brands available in the market to walk you through the inner workings of a central air conditioner, the best central air conditioner brands on the market, the best size for your needs, and how to undertake the proper installation of a central air conditioner.

Let’s Get Technical!

Before we deep-dive into which brand is the best, let’s get the technicalities out of the way.

How Do Central Air Conditioners Work?

A central air conditioner has intake vents that suck hot air from its surroundings to cool it down, which it then channels through its vents back into your house or store. The steps involved are:

  • The hot air is sucked in from your home with the help of air channels, i.e., air vents.
  • When the compressor is running, it applies positive pressure on the refrigerant gas (Freon) and passes it throughout the refrigerant coil.
  • Heat is transferred from the hot air to the coils. This takes place when the hot air is blown across these coils with the help of the condenser fans.
  • The cooled air is then blown back into the vents and into your home.
  • This process continues until the desired temperature is achieved, after which the compressor either turns off or slows down, depending on the type.
energysaver2017_HomeCooling101

Depending on how well the vent system is laid in your house, you can experience the unit’s comfort in any part of the house. It is always a good idea to keep the vent’s mouth at a height to ensure proper ventilation of hot air.

Central Air conditioner explained

Need a Heater Combo?

The systems mentioned above can act in a reverse fashion as well. This is mostly thanks to the dual functionality of the compressors, i.e., their ability to apply positive, as well as a negative pressure on the Freon gas.

When Freon expands, the gas gets heated. Thus the energy transfer in the coils is reversed – from the coil into the cold air.

Normally, an air conditioner’s energy efficiency is measured in terms of SEER – the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This measure was developed by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, to help consumers and manufacturers stay on par with each other in terms of a unit’s efficiency. The rating is basically a relation between the BTUs consumed by the unit and energy it consumes when running.

If we remove the S from the beginning, it gives us the unit’s EER, the measure of the unit’s year-round efficiency. This includes the cooling as well as heating efficiency of a central air conditioner.

Cost Expectations: Complete Price Guide Breakdown

There are numerous costs associated with purchasing even the smallest air conditioners. These include:

Purchasing the Unit

This is the first investment you would have to make when choosing to own an air conditioner. There are some inexpensive options here as well such as Rheem, offering a 13 SEER unit for only $990.

If you go for premium units, Goodman might be the best choice, since it offers great reliability, good features and a good SEER at an affordable price. The most expensive brand in the market is Carrier (internal link), with its premium unit costing a whopping $3,985 only for the unit!

The prices may increase or decrease; depending on the size you choose (tonnage).

Installation & Maintenance

Installation of a central air conditioner can be cumbersome, to say the least. While installing it yourself might be an option for some, it is not advised because of the numerous intricacies involved in the process. The slightest mistake can cost you thousands in professional repair!

The installation costs are dependent upon the contractor you choose, the size of your unit, and the complexity of the job. Generally, installation can add $1000, up to $4000, to the cost of your unit!

The most costly brand in terms of installation costs is American Standard and Amana, with their premium units costing more than $6000 (for 2.5 ton AC)! This cost might go even higher if your vent system is complicated.

Lennox’s premium unit costs more than $7000 with installation, but the installation costs in only $3000, thus it is not categorized as cost-intensive.

That said the total cost of these premium units can decrease significantly if you choose to buy units with a 16 SEER and above, thanks to the tax rebate allowed by the government on high-efficiency equipment.

Additionally, even the best systems require regular maintenance, besides cleaning the filter or hosing down the outdoor unit. Proper maintenance and servicing of your unit will require you to invite a contractor, costing you in terms of labor and repair costs (if needed).

Hiring a trained professional from Modernize.com can make a huge difference in terms of cost and quality.

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Estimated Running Costs

If you are more concerned about the running costs than with purchase costs, you need to keep an eye on your unit’s SEER. Brands offer a wide range of SEER within its units, each appealing to a different range of audience. Higher SEER ratings can lead to higher purchase costs, but also an equally lower running cost, thus saving on utility bills and paying for themselves in the long run.

This is a prime consideration for those who live in hotter areas since the units need to keep running more frequently. Keep in mind that a 5-ton air conditioner will consume more energy than a 3 or 2-ton air conditioner.

Lennox currently holds the mantle for having the best central air conditioner in terms of SEER in the market. Its premium unit is extremely expensive, yet it has a SEER rating of 26. Goodman holds a medium stance in this regard with a SEER of 18 while being wallet-friendly as well.

12 Central Air Conditioner Brands Reviewed

1. Goodman Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Easy To Follow
SEER Rating 13-18
Maintenance May Prove Costly
Price (With Installation) $3100 – $4,100
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 50dB to 61 dB

According to our professionals’ detailed analysis into the different brands of air conditioners, Goodman stands out in terms of its overall operation, cost-efficiency, durability, reliability, relatively lower purchase costs, and relatively good user experience.

Although there are other brands that offer lower purchase costs or higher SEER (and thus efficiency), they can’t compete with the overall utility Goodman offers its customers. The brand’s promise of durability and reliability is rivaled only by its efficient customer service and effective warranty periods, offering a lifetime limited warranty on parts as well as its compressor – something only Amana can compete with.

Keep in mind, though that Amana’s units are extremely heavy on the wallet, besides its relatively lower compressor reliability.

Goodman boasts its premium unit, the GSXC18 – with SEER 18 – because of its low cost, premium features (such as the ComfortBridge™ technology), and quiet operation. Following is a table meant to highlight the different features Goodman air conditioners include:

Although not the quietest central air conditioner brand in the market, Goodman central ACs are sure to give competitors a run for their money. Its GSX13 operates at a mere 50 dB during normal operation, while the GSXC18 boasts a low 37dBs under optimal conditions!

The most energy efficient model Goodman can offer customers is its GSXC18, running at almost $525 per annum (based on the national average for a 2.5-ton unit). There are more efficient units available in the market as well, but competing with the low cost and good features Goodman offers can prove difficult for said competitors.

If you are someone who wants the best value for their money quickly, going for Goodman’s medium-sized units might give you what you are looking for. The GSXC16 and the GSX16 have low purchase costs, good features, and offer a good return for money in the long run. This, added with the unit’s eligibility for tax rebates makes it a good option if you want an immediate return on your investment.

However, for the best value for money, Goodman recommends going for the GSXC18. The unit can pay you back in just a few years thanks to its low running costs and smart cooling technologies.

As far as the installation is concerned, professional installations find the instructions very understandable – but it can be too hard a task to DIY. Maintenance does not include labour costs, and poor installation has led to several complains for leaky vents, compressor breakdowns and excessive noise. Which translates to an expensive bill for the customers.

What We Like

Goodman central air conditioners are good all-rounders. All low cost, they offer great value in terms of efficiency and durability.

What We Don’t Like

Although the units are reliable when installed correctly, most units are wholesaled to local distributors, allowing untrained installers to enter the market. This leads to poor installation and frequent breakdowns since the units’ functionality suffers immensely due to the slightest installation mistakes.

2. Lennox Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Complex – even for professional installers.
SEER Rating 13-26
Maintenance Relatively Costly
Price (With Installation) $3,090 – $7,190
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 59dB to 76dB

Lennox stands tall as the second-best central air conditioner brand in our books thanks to its extremely high SEER ratings and thus, much higher efficiency than any brand in the market.

This is thanks to its premium unit, the XC25, with a whopping 26 SEER to boast! Most consumers, be it businesses or homeowners, opt for Lennox if low running costs is a priority.

However, Lennox central air conditioners aren’t as wallet-friendly as other brands in the market, take Goodman for example.

Lennox central ACs are relatively noisy in terms of overall brand quietness. With an average noise level of 70.9dB, Lennox is far behind most competitors, despite higher costs. The quietest unit the brand has to offer is the XC25, operating at a low as 41dB under optimal conditions.

The most energy efficient Lennox model is its XC25, running at a mere $441per annum. No other brand can compare to Lennox in terms of high efficiency; giving the company a considerable market share in hotter areas.

Lennox has put all its efforts into its top-tier models, the XC25, XC21, and the SL18XC1. While others are a good choice as well, if you want good value for money spent, the lesser premium units might not be the best choice since other HVAC manufacturers offer the same, if not better, quality units at relatively lower costs.

The maintenance factor for Lennox can prove to be relatively on the heftier side, as generic parts don’t work. Additionally, several competitors offer better warranty periods than Lennox.

For the best value for money, Lennox recommends it’s XC25, promising that the unit can pay you back in just a year or two!

What We Like

Lennox central air conditioners are the perfect cost-saving companion, especially its XC25. That, with the added benefit of the unit being lightweight and sleek, make it a good choice for many.

What We Don’t Like

The brand’s units are pricey, compared to some competitors. However, the value it provides, in turn, is worth the price.

3. Carrier Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Easy and quick.
SEER Rating 13-20.5
Maintenance Inexpensive
Price (With Installation) $3,050 – $6,115
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 49dB to 72dB

Among the major central air conditioner brands, Carrier holds the mantle for being the quietest central air conditioner unit in the market. This is thanks to the top-notch insulation used in Carrier’s units and the durable chassis surrounding the compressor.

Carrier’s premium unit, the Carrier 24VNA0 is the HVAC manufacturer’s pride, boasting high SEER (20.5), quiet operation and excellent smart technology support. However, though it sells more, it is not the quietest unit. That throne goes to the 24ANB1. Carrier central air conditioners are comparatively heavy on the wallet.

Carrier takes the cake in terms of silent operation, be it under optimal, normal, or stressful conditions. Carrier’s 24ANB1 works at 49dB normally, going as low as 29dB at its best! This is by far the lowest any central air conditioner can go, reaching the quietness level of split units.

Carrier enjoys a wide range of units with different SEER ratings, tonnage and prices, however, its most efficient unit is the 24VNA0. Its SEER 20.5 rating and quiet operation give Carrier an edge over most HVAC brands.

As far as maintenance is concerned, Carrier air conditioners support generic parts which drive down the costs. However, note that several competitors offer better warranty periods than Carrier making it easier to maintain.

Although not as potent as other brands, Carrier still offers a lot to its customers, with its high SEER units with relatively lower prices. Its quiet operation makes it the perfect choice for most libraries, homes, and hospitals alike.

What We Like

Carrier central air conditioners are quiet compared to other brands, and are serviceable in most states without any hassle.

What We Don’t Like

The brand isn’t as reliable as others, nor does it offer as lengthy warranty periods as those of others.

4. American Standard Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Expensive
SEER Rating 13-22
Maintenance Cost Effective
Price (With Installation) $3,850 – $6,400
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 55dB to 75dB

American Standard is another great overall brand with good features all around – be it durability, efficiency, or reliability. That said, all these features come at extremely high installation costs. The prime reason for American Standard’s high number of sales is the brand’s high generic part acceptability, significantly reducing its maintenance costs.

American Standard central air conditioners are loud. The American Standard Silver 16 Low Profile is the manufacturer’s quietest unit with a sound profile of 55dB under optimal conditions, 75dB under normal conditions and going up to 85dB under stress! This is one of the major drawbacks American Standard suffers from since the silent operation is the prime decision-making factor for many, especially business holders.

American standard enjoys a wide distribution of SEER ratings and price ranges for its units, so as to reach a wider audience. That said, its most efficient unit is the Platinum 20 with a SEER rating of 22, allowing the brand to leave many others behind.

The installation for American Standard air conditioners is both: tough and expensive, which makes it a job only for skilled professionals while also being costly. However, it makes up for it with a cost effective maintenance expenditure as it supports generic parts.

American Standard’s air conditioners are well known for their small size, and ability to perform and survive under harsh weathers. This makes them extremely useful for mobile homes.

What We Like

American Standard central air conditioners are small and sleek, thus being a good fit for all mobile homes. The brand’s maintenance costs are also low due to the units’ acceptance of generic parts.

What We Don’t Like

The units are extremely loud, despite the high costs it features for installation.

5. Amana Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Easy but takes time
SEER Rating 14-25
Maintenance Relatively cost effective
Price (With Installation) $3,510 – $6,250
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 59dB to 71dB

Amana comes next in line for being the most energy efficient brand in the market. Boasting its 25 SEER, Amana’s AVXC20 is its flagship unit. It offers great durability, efficiency, reliability, and overall good customer experience, however, Amana lacks in terms of cost.

Its units are notoriously expensive. However, that high price tag reflects the units’ good build quality and unique features perfectly. Customers who can pay for Amana’s units are usually rewarded for their investment.

Amana central air conditioners are neither good nor bad in terms of their noise performance. The Amana ASXC16 is the HVAC manufacturer’s most silent unit, going as low as 45 dB under optimum conditions while staying at only 55dB under normal conditions.

Amana’s flagship product, the ASXC20 is second only to Lennox in terms of its SEER ratings and thus, running costs (a mere $359 per annum). This makes the unit a good choice for those who aren’t shy of spending more money up front to enjoy higher savings in the long run.

The installation procedure for Amana air conditioners is easy, but they take time. As far as maintenance is concerned, Amana air conditioners don’t work with generic parts but they make up for it with a helpful staff and competitive warranties on their products.

Most people are searching for the best central air conditioner generally have only one complaint about Amana – high initial cost. That said, customers are content with the brand, enjoying the utility and value for money its units provide.

What We Like

Amana’s central air conditioners have it all – sleek design, efficiency, durability, etc., thus being a good fit for all.

What We Don’t Like

The units are extremely expensive, on the purchase and maintenance front.

6. Trane Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Easy
SEER Rating 14.5 – 22
Maintenance Easy but slow
Price (With Installation) $3,850 – $5,600
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 55dB to 75dB

Trane is yet another cost-effective solution for those looking for high SEER units. The fact that generic parts can be fitted makes the brand a good choice for many.

Trane has a unit for all, i.e., the XV20i for those concerned with a high SEER, the XR13 for those who want a cost-effective cooling solution, XR16 Low Profile for a noiseless solution and so on, but that is exactly where the brand falters as well. There is no one-size-fits-all policy for Trane’s units as is the case with Goodman.

Trane central air conditioners are average in terms of their noise performance, except for the Trane XV20i and XV18. These two top of the line units have good quality insulation around their compressors. This leads to good noise performance, with a sound profile of 55dB under normal conditions, 40-45dB under optimum conditions – going up to 60-62dB under stress.

Trane has a wide range of energy efficient models to offer, with different SEER and price ranges. However, we do not recommend going for Trane’s units if you are looking for units with SEER 15 or below. This is because there are other cost-effective and reliable units in the market that you can look at.

While the installation is easy, Trane’s warranty claim process can prove to be cumbersome for the consumers – ending up costing them.

Although expensive, Trane leaves no stone unturned in trying to give customers value for the money they spend in terms of low running costs and reliability.

What We Like

Trane central air conditioners are good all-rounders, thus being a good fit for all homes. The brand’s maintenance costs are also low due to the units’ acceptance of generic parts, with good SEER ratings to boast.

What We Don’t Like

The units are loud. Customers have also complained about the customer service representatives, stating that they were not as user-friendly as those of competitors, especially taking into consideration the small fortune the unit’s purchase and installation demands.

7. Daikin Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Difficult for amateurs
SEER Rating 14-24.5
Maintenance Costly
Price (With Installation) $3,965 – $6,125
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 67dB to 72dB

Daikin – a Japanese HVAC manufacturer – is a great value-for-money brand that features good overall features including durability, efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. However, all these features are accompanied by a major flaw – poor customer service due to the brand’s international status, which results in presenting a language barrier. Daikin central air conditioners also face a problem when heating, as per customer reviews.

Daikin central air conditioners are loud because of poor compressor sound insulation. Normal operation for Daikin’s units ranges from 67dB to 72dBs, thus being louder than most HVACs in the market. The Daikin DX18C is the manufacturer’s quietest unit with a sound range of 61dB up to 80dB under stress!

Daikin is one of the more efficient brands in the market, coming second only to Lennox. Daikin shares the same highest SEER rating as Amana. However it has a much bigger market in Asia and Europe, compared to the United States.

The installation process for Daikin’s air conditioners can prove to be too hard a task for amateurs, but people who enjoy DIY projects will enjoy the challenge. For professionals it offers no difficulty in installation due to the durable chassis. However, the maintenance routine for Daikin is costly and can prove to be troublesome.

Daikin is one of the more expensive brands in the market. However, the brand tackles this critique with its extremely durable build and equally low running costs. We have found this claim to be true, and so have the customers as there are little to no complaints about the units breaking down when installed correctly. Daikin central air conditioners provide users with good value for money while ensuring maximum comfort.

What We Like

Daikin central air conditioners are sleek, easy to install, cost-effective, and extremely reliable.

What We Don’t Like

The units are expensive, denying most customers on the basis of budget. The units are also louder than its competitors, and have lengthy and sometimes confusing warranty-claim procedures.

8. Coleman Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Relatively Easy
SEER Rating 13-20
Maintenance Costly
Price (With Installation) $2,200– $6,400
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 55dB to 70dB

According to our analysis, Coleman central air conditioners are much like Daikin, offering a great return on investment. Coleman and Daikin are direct competitors because they compete for the most durable brand without worrying about the high costs of their units.

Thus, Coleman, too, has an exceptionally durable chassis and compressor. Moreover, Coleman also features a low SEER and thus has less expensive units available for the wider market.

However, in some cases, customers have complained about Coleman AC units performing well only in the summer. In the winters, complaints have been registered about units leaking refrigerant gas due to the excessive expansion of its refrigerant coils.

Coleman air conditioners are average in terms of their noise performance, ranging in normal operation from 55dB up to 70dB. Under optimal conditions, its LX CC7 is its quietest unit, working at 42dB.

Coleman features a wide range of SEER among its 3 series and 12 units, offering an option for all. The HVAC manufacturer’s most efficient unit is the Echelon AC21, featuring 20 SEER. This is relatively low and much costlier than its competitors.

The installation procedure for Coleman’s air conditioners can prove to be tricky for DIY enthusiasts but professionals will face no such hurdles due to the hard-wearing chassis of the product. Maintenance, however, proves to be costly and can end up troubling consumers.

Coleman’s central air conditioners are well known for their good features, including reliability, efficiency, sleek design, and more. This makes them a good choice for many who wish to get a good value for their money. However, we can’t claim that the brands offers the best value for money because of its unreliable evaporator coils, and extremely slow heating capabilities.

What We Like

Coleman central air conditioners are well designed, thus very small and sleek. They are a good fit for all home sizes, be it large, small, or even mobile homes. The brand offers many great features, focusing on core factors such as cooling capacity, reliability, and cost efficiency, making it a good choice for many.

What We Don’t Like

The units have a troublesome maintenance procedure, leading to many customers complaining and ranting online.

9. Rheem Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Quick and easy
SEER Rating 13-20
Maintenance Costly
Price (With Installation) $3,100 – $3,900
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 55dB to 72dB

Rheem stands tall as the best mobile central air conditioner brand in our books thanks to its sleek design and relatively quieter operation. It’s premium unit is the Rheem Prestige RA20, featuring a 20 SEER.

Although it might seem normal, or even low when compared to other HVAC manufacturers, such as Lennox for example; Rheem’s 20 SEER unit costs only about $3,900 (2.5-ton unit)! This makes Rheem a very wallet-friendly choice when considered in relation to prices put forth by its competitors.

However, this low cost comes at a price – high maintenance. Rheem’s units are known to break down under immense workloads.

The functioning offered by Rheem central ACs is relatively average in terms of the brand’s products’ overall quietness. The quietest unit Rheem has to offer is its most premium unit, the Prestige RA20, which operates at 55dB under normal conditions, 60dB under stress, and can go as low as 41dB in optimal conditions!

Rheem has good, energy efficient models coming out of its production line, as well as those with relatively lower SEER. However, affording a 20 SEER unit is much easier with Rheem than any other brand due to its low cost. Its RA20 runs at only USD 441 per annum, which is remarkable for a $3,900 unit (with installation). Rheem has scored a 7.9% market share because of its low purchase costs and equally low running costs.

While the installation procedure is easy, Rheem’s maintenance can prove to be costly and it may require frequent repairs. Rheem isn’t compatible with generic spare parts and to make matters worse, the customer service is also known to disappoint.

Although Rheem offers all its units at low costs, as mentioned above, these lowered costs come at a price. Customers who have invested in Rheem often have to spend more on maintenance and replacement parts. Professional installers usually end up suggesting customers to go for other HVAC brand’s parts to avoid breakdowns during hotter days.

Rheem, therefore, fails to provide the value for money, no matter how low the purchase cost is.

What We Like

Rheem central air conditioners are extremely cost-effective in terms of purchase costs and running costs. They also offer relatively good noise performance, along with sleek designs, making them good choices for mobile homes.

What We Don’t Like

The units aren’t as durable or reliable as others in the market and are prone to breaking down in the middle of hot days.

10. York Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Very Complex
SEER Rating 13-18
Maintenance Cost Effective
Price (With Installation) $3,150 – $4,580
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 58dB to 71dB

York central air conditioners aren’t particularly heavy or light on the wallet, staying somewhere in between in terms of their purchase costs. These costs reflect the brand’s units’ durability, warranty periods, sleek design, and customer support.

York central ACs are robust and durable thanks to a number of guardrails protecting the coil and the unit’s compressor from debris. The insulated bodies also help reduce as much sound as possible. The bodies have a powdered finish that is able to withstand weather changes, come cold or hot season. If installed properly, these units can last a long time.

The key phrase here being ‘if installed correctly.’

York central air conditioners are average in terms of noise, featuring an average of 65dB. The York Affinity CZH is the manufacturer’s flagship, as well as the quietest unit. It has a sound profile ranging from 48dB under optimal conditions, all the way up to 61dB under stress. This has led the HVAC manufacturer to face criticism as other manufacturers’ flagship units perform extremely well in terms of noise.

The installation of a York air conditioner is crucial to its reliability as a unit – which is why it’s very complex and an expensive endeavour. The maintenance, contrastingly, offers a cost- effective solution as it supports generic spare parts.

Again, York takes a moderate approach in terms of its energy efficiency. Its best-rated unit is its flagship unit among its Affinity series – the Affinity CZH. With SEER 18, it offers nothing that competitors can’t, that too at lower costs.

What We Like

York Central air conditioners offer a moderate approach in every aspect if installed correctly. The brand’s units are small, thus don’t need much room to be installed in your house or office.

What We Don’t Like

The units’ performance is a bit too contingent on installation procedures – something that has been the bane of York’s effectiveness since the start.

11. Ruud Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Easy
SEER Rating 15.5-20.5
Maintenance Cost Effective
Price (With Installation) $3,100 – $3,900
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 52dB to 63dB

Ruud’s central air conditioners are available in various sizes and designs, allowing the brand to be available to a much wider audience. The units are easy on the wallet in terms of purchase, running, and maintenance costs – though their installation is not as easy as that of competitors.

The low price reflects on the shorter warranty periods and low durability for the unit’s evaporator coil. This has been the major reason for most of the critical remarks about the brand. However, its only competitor in terms of price ranges is Rheem. Its premium unit, the Ruud Ultra UA20 is available for roughly $3,900 – much lower than what most HVAC manufacturers offer.

Ruud central air conditioners are average in terms of performance noise, thanks to their adequately insulated bodies. The quietest unit Ruud has is its flagship unit, the Ultra UA20, operating at 52dB under normal conditions, 60dB under pressure, and can go as low as 39dB under optimal conditions. However, customers often complain that the slightest fluctuation in temperature induces the unit to operate as if under stress.

Ruud’s units are energy efficient while providing consumers the luxury of being cost-effective. Affording a 20 SEER isn’t difficult thanks to Ruud’s ultra UA20, available only at $3,900. This unit runs only at USD 431 per annum thanks to the technologies incorporated into the unit’s compressor, which ensure uniform cooling throughout the house.

In addition to its easy installation, because of its support for generic parts, the maintenance routine of a Ruud’s air conditioner is quite easy on the wallet.

Despite Ruud’s low purchase and running costs, maintenance remains an issue with the brand’s units. Customers have often complained about the refrigerant gas leaking in hotter days, leading to inconvenience, and customers badmouthing the brand online. However, choosing to install generic parts can help in this regard, as they don’t cost as much, nor does it involve so much hassle as dealing with Ruud’s customer representatives presents.

What We Like

Ruud central air conditioners are cost-effective in terms of purchase and running. The unit also accepts generic parts, making it easier to run and maintain.

What We Don’t Like

The units aren’t as durable or reliable as others in the market. The customer representatives aren’t as helpful either.

12. Bryant Central Air Conditioners

Specification Summary

Installation Easy and straight-forward
SEER Rating 13-20.5
Maintenance Doesn’t support generic parts
Price (With Installation) $3,355 – $5,600
Noise Levels (Normal Operation) 56dB to 76dB

Bryant is the go-to choice for 4.5% of the market, and this is mostly due to the unit’s reliability. These units are good cooling and heating companions for all. However, customers often complain about the high costs and low warranty periods.

Bryant central air conditioners are very noisy during operation. Even the quietest unit, Bryant’s 189BNV, has a loud sound profile with 49dB as its lowest sound level, 56dB under normal conditions going up to 80dB under stress!

Bryant has 17 different air conditioners spread across 3 distinct series. Among the 17 units, Bryant has aimed for a much wider audience than any other HVAC manufacturer. Its most efficient unit is the Bryant 180C with a 20.5 SEER rating, with average running cost of $400 per annum.

What We Like

Bryant central air conditioners are sleek and durable. The brand also offers a variety of products to choose from.

What We Don’t Like

The units are noisy and have comparatively shorter warranty periods.

Considerations Before Buying Any AC Unit

Size (Tonnage)

The cooling capacity of each unit is directly dependent on the tonnage of the air conditioner unit, be it central, split, window, or portable. When looking to buy an AC unit, you should keep in mind the size of your room or house. Additionally, the price range also increases as you increase the unit’s size. Following is a table showing the different sizes of central AC, and what size rooms they are best for.

AC Unit Size Room/Home Size
1.5 ton 600-1000 square feet
2 ton 1001-1300 square feet
2.5 ton 1301-1600 square feet
3 ton 1601-1900 square feet
3.5 ton 1901-2200 square feet
4 ton 2201-2600 square feet
5 ton 2601-3200 square feet

Coverage Area

Before you head out to buy your AC, you must ensure that you carefully look into the room size. Purchasing a small unit means that you will not get adequate heat or cold air, and a huge one on the other hand also means you will have wasted energy and have issues like temperature fluctuations and failure due to short-cycling.

Therefore, rather than guessing, make sure you seek out the services of an HVAC technician so that they can perform a Manual-J Load Calculation test to properly size your room and the ductless system required for that space.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating)

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or a unit’s SEER, is a rating given to all HVAC equipment, i.e., air conditioners, heaters, and refrigerators based on their efficiency. Simply put, it is the cooling output during a typical cooling-season, divided by the electrical input during the unit’s functioning period.

A higher SEER rating translates to a higher efficiency unit. The rating is basically the ratio between the British thermal units (BTU) used when cooling, and the energy the unit consumes in watt-hours.

The concept of SEER was introduced by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute in 2008.

Lennox central air conditioners lead the SEER race with its best unit with a 26 SEER.

seer rating chart

Size (Tonnes)

When it comes to choosing the right size of the central AC, consider factors how high your ceilings are and the type and thickness of your insulation. So, how can one calculate the size of the AC that they need for their home? Well, there are two quick and easy ways to do so, without getting too technical.

The first option is to use the ‘old school method’ which will give you a rough estimate of the size of unit that you need based on this calculation: (House Square Footage x 30 / 12,000) – 1.0 = Required Tonnage. Alternatively, there are a number of automated online programs that will help you calculate precise AC size (doing all of the work for you).

Duct Seals & Air Flow

The ducts are the passage for cold (or warm) air between your house and the central air conditioner. Most new homes are constructed with a network of ducts preinstalled in the house, meaning you won’t have to worry about budgeting for duct installation. However, if not, duct seals and air flow will make up a major portion of any central air conditioner’s installation costs.

Even if they are already installed, you may need to get them checked to make sure they are in perfect order. The slightest damage to the vents or the ducts can lead to a significant reduction in the cooling ability of your unit and in turn, its efficiency. Vents could, in fact, be leaking cold air into the attic or the basement!

Cost of Unit

Central air conditioners are an investment – most cost between $1,000 and $3,000.

So, if you need one that works reliably and is powerful enough to handle you temperature issues, you will need to budget accordingly.

You also need to consider the installation, on-going energy costs, and maintenance fee which may be high depending on the type of central AC that you install.

Noise Levels (dB)

All machinery makes noise, and to reduce the sound of moving parts within an air conditioner, manufacturers use insulation around the unit’s compressor. This insulation includes rubber, thermopole sheets, and thermosetting plastics. The typical source of noise is the compressor’s vibrations.

The average noise level for all central air conditioners is 48 – 56 dB, with the quietest one being 29dB (Carrier). For better understanding, 25 dB equates to the sound of whispering, or softly rustling leaves. Some units can go as loud as 85 – 91 dB under stress. The 90dB sound is that of a motorcycle passing 25 feet from you.

Goodman central air conditioners are a good overall choice for relatively silent cooling at an affordable cost; however, if cost is not an issue, there is no brand better than Carrier in terms of silent operation.

Thermostat Options

Most air conditioners can also heat your house thanks to the compressors ability to act as a makeshift heat pump in the winter season.

The units’ compressor can act in reverse by applying negative pressure on the Freon refrigerant gas within the coils (normally, positive pressure is applied). This expands the gas to make it hot, and in turn, heat up the coils as well. When the condenser fan blows cold air through those hot coils, the cold air transfers the heat into the air, and the warm air is blown into your house

Maintenance, Repairs & Customer Service

It is recommended that you get your central air conditioner inspected and serviced once every year – at least. Not only is that a good practice but remember that if you fail to get your unit inspected or have a problem that proper maintenance could have avoided, you may end up annulling your unit’s warranty!

42% of homeowners opt for professionals to maintain their ACs regularly, out of which, 40% have reported an extended lifespan for their air conditioners.

A central air-conditioning system uses ducts to distribute cooled air throughout the house. It consists of Freon gas that circulates between an indoor coil and a matching outdoor condenser with a compressor.

Types Of Air Conditioners Compared

Central Air Conditioning Systems

A central air-conditioning system uses ducts to distribute cooled air throughout the house. It consists of a refrigerant that circulates between an indoor coil and a matching outdoor condenser with a compressor.

It consists of an evaporator, condenser, and compressor. The refrigerant works to cool the air, (as well as dehumidifying it in the process), then a blower circulates the air throughout the house using ducts. The thermostat maintains the temperature according to the settings you select.

The central air system serves as a great choice since it is inexpensive, virtually invisible, improves the home value and requires annual maintenance rather than monthly. It does have a few drawbacks which include having a complicated installation process making it difficult for DIY home-owners to do their own installation, most brands are not energy-efficient, and it requires lots of ductwork.

Ductless Mini Split Systems

Split ductless systems have an outdoor condenser and compressor, and one to four or more indoor blower units, called air handlers that are usually mounted high on the wall and distributes air. The indoor and outdoor units are connected by a thin conduit that houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, and a condensate drain.

The conduit runs through about a 3-inch hole found behind each air handler which then cools your room in by setting the temperatures using a remote control. They can be a more expensive alternative to window air conditioners especially because they require professional installation and maintenance. It is, however, a more recommended choice since it is the easiest to install, most energy-efficient, compact and flexible and the most incredible part is that it does not require any ductwork.

Portable AC

A portable air conditioner is a self-contained system that is easily moved, used for cooling humidified rooms. It comes with a convenient installation kit that provides you with quick assembly, and most of them come with wheels making them maneuverable room one room to another.

Portable air conditioners operate through drawing indoor air and ousting it via a single duct. It, however, does cool and heat up your home in accordance with your preferences. It also dehumidifies your room thus making it convenient and of course, adding a snug feel to your room. They also vary in noise levels so be sure to look for a quiet model.

Portable ACs feature a convenient installation kit, and you can store it when not in use. They are also lightweight, cheap to maintain and are the best suited for small rooms. They, however, have some drawbacks like they have low power levels, are noisy, and they tend to be more expensive than the central air conditioner systems.

Window Units

According to Energy Star, a window unit is a cooling device that one installs directly to their window, or through-the-wall depending on the brand and type of AC model.

It is the most affordable and the easiest to install as some models are very small in size. You may need to hire a contractor to install it due to its cumbersome nature, but you can always do your DIY installation only by ensuring that you follow the laid down instructions.

It might block natural light and your scenic views, but when you consider how inexpensive, easy to maintain, does not take up floor space and versatile it is, you might consider getting one for yourself. These types of ACs vary in efficiency so beware and choose an energy saving option. Some brands can be loud and noisy so finding a window AC with a low dBa level is often something people consider.

Self Installation

Its installation is even easier and can be done by following the installation process carefully:

  1. Make sure all you turn off the electricity circuit beforehand
  2. Set a concrete pad outside to support the air conditioner, or install rooftop supports for a packaged system installation
  3. Connect both the indoor and outdoor units carefully by thoroughly checking out all the tubing and ducts are placed correctly,
  4. Carefully connect the thermostat
  5. Use a vacuum to get rid of the unwanted contaminants from the refrigerant lines
  6. Charge the new central air conditioner with refrigerant
  7. After ensuring that all these processes are carefully followed, you can now switch on the AC and run it efficiently

If you don’t have experience in air conditioner installation, instead seek out the services of a certified HVAC contractor.

Choosing the Right Contractor

Proper installation can add 10 or more years of life to your air conditioning unit. When looking for professional installers, you should consider how trustworthy they are and more importantly, how trained and experienced they are.

There are numerous HVAC contractors that can install your central air conditioner for you quickly and in the proper manner while following all of your state’s legalities.

Modernize uses a comprehensive database of expert contractors, listing those near you based on their success and customer ratings so that you get the best possible match for all your HVAC installation needs.

Simply follow the instructions below to receive quotes from quality local contractors and get the best price for your central air conditioner installation.

Need a Quote from a Quality Local Contractor?

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Common Problems With These Air Conditioner Units

You wake up one morning drenched in a layer of sweat, and you opt to immediately peel the covers off, but you still don’t find any relief, and to make matters worse the AC is rattling and sounding somewhat ill, but you are not sure what is happening.

These are some of the typical AC issues and easy solutions to help diagnose and solve them:

  • Dirty filters: A clogged filter curbs airflow through the system thus reducing its efficiency and impeding its ability to efficiently cool your air. If you have not cleaned the filters on your central AC unit, you need to ensure that you either seek help from the contractor or replace the filler with a new one. Central AC unit filters require monthly replacement especially if your system is continuously running or if you have pets.
  • Blocked registers: If you have a forced-air heating and cooling system, make sure that you vacuum the records often to get rid of any dust buildup. You should also ensure that the furniture and any other objects are not blocking the airflow.
  • Thermostat is on the incorrect setting: If you own a programmable thermostat, ensure that you programme it so that your home is at a comfortable temperature when present and a bit higher when out. You also need to keep in mind that for every degree you raise the heat, you will save at least 3% on your air-conditioning costs.
  • Going green, having plants, is crowding the compressor: The outdoor compressor of the central air conditioning system requires adequate airflow to work sustainably, so you need to ensure that there is at least two to three feet of space between the unit and any plant. You should also ensure that there are five feet of clearance between the top of the unit and any trees above.
  • Perhaps you forgot to have an annual check-up: An inspection by an HVAC technician can spot a serious problem before it gets worse leaving you hot and bothered at the peak of summer. So be sure to have him/her assess your AC year or biannually.

Maintaining Your AC Unit

One of the most recommended ways to ensure that you properly maintain your air conditioner is to make sure it is clean. That merely means you need to change the filters regularly and that no debris amasses around the outdoor unit. Here is some guidance from our experts:

  • When not sure, consult the services of a pro: To be sure and exercise safety, make sure that you have a licensed professional clean and flush the coils, the drain pan, and drainage system. He/she might also need to vacuum the blower compartments and check the refrigerant charge and mechanical components.
  • Make sure that you seal and insulate the ductwork: Up to 40% of cooling energy can be lost. This is often due to leaks or when ducts that are not insulated pass via uncooled spaces such as the basement and the attics.
  • Ensure that you conduct seasonal checks: Make sure that you have the debris cleared and that the vegetation is at least two feet away from the outdoor unit. Also, ensure that the indoor grills and filters are cleaned monthly.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat: You can lessen your cooling costs by up to 30% by programming the thermostat. It can raise the temperature when you are at work and lower it when you return home. Also consider using a ceiling, table, or floors fan in occupied rooms so that you can set the thermostat to a higher temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does A Central Air Conditioner Last?

A central air conditioner typically lasts from 12 to 15 years. Its lifespan can be reduced if its capacity is not appropriately matched to the cooling load of in your home. Many larger air conditioners “short-cycle,” thereby turning on and off rapidly, imposing excessive wear and tear on the compressor.

When Is The Best Time To Buy A Central Air Conditioner? (Not Necessarily Winter)

According to most online sites and research, the most popular time of year to buy an air conditioner is in the winter. Unfortunately, according to most HVAC experts, the best time to purchase a central AC is the off-season (spring and fall). Contractors often have more available time and may be more affordable, and brands run specials to promote their products.

How Many Watts Does A Central AC Use?

Trying to understand how many watts a central air conditioner uses is not entirely straightforward. The precise and accurate answer will depend on elements like the model, mass, and age of the system, the setup of your home and the season. In summer, a central AC uses 3500 Watts per hour.

Do Central Air Conditioners Need To Be Recharged?

Under normal circumstances, central ACs do not require any recharging. However, in the case of a leak, or if the vents are blowing room temperature air, then you may need to recharge it.

How Do You Recharge A Home Central Air System?

There are a number of steps you need to take to ensure that your system is completely recharged and these include:

  1. Inspecting the unit.
  2. Plugging in the service valve: it is located in the Freon kit: the large connector valve found amongst the kit’s other contents.
  3. Plugging in the tap valve: this is the small valve connector in the Freon kit.
  4. Adding Freon: all you have to do is to attach the Freon container to the two valves that you have just fixed. Then follow the instructions set in your Freon kit to secure the container between the two valves.
  5. Charge the Freon: You do this by turning on the unit and turning it up to the highest setting which will force Freon into your unit, effectively recharging your air conditioner in the process.

It is always advisable to contact a reputable aircon technician if you are unclear about how to proceed.

What Is An AC Capacitor?

It is an essential part of a central AC. It’s a small cylindrical container inside your air conditioner whose primary function is to store and supply energy. When your air conditioner starts up, it needs more power than your home electrical system can produce—and that’s where the capacitor comes in.

How Do You Clean Central Air Coils?

You first need to access the coils by shutting off the power to the AC.

  1. Trim foliage so that it isn’t closer than 2 feet (0.6 meters) to the AC system.
  2. Remove the air conditioner’s cover.
  3. When the cover is off, pull the cover and fan from the system (where applicable). Some central air conditioning systems have a grill with a fan attached to it mounted on the top. So unscrew them and then pull out the grill from the top of the unit. The fan is usually attached, so be sure to support it as you take off the assembly. Don’t let it hang by its electrical connections.
  4. Clear out the drain line and remove any large debris from inside the unit with your hands.
  5. Check out for any signs of oil spillage.
  6. If your unit is outside, be sure to spray the coil with water.
  7. Apply a foaming coil cleaner and let them soak in there for around five to ten minutes.
  8. Using a fin comb, clean and unbend the coil fins, and then ensure that you use a hosepipe to rinse cleaner off the outdoor units.
  9. Once you are done with all that, reassemble the unit and turn the power back on for the air conditioning unit.

Why Is There Ice On My Central Ac Unit?

There are two main reasons why this occurs, and one of them is that there is reduced airflow to the inside unit thus causing the refrigerant coil to freeze up. The second reason is that you have a leak, meaning your unit is low on refrigerant. When this occurs, the pressure drops causing the evaporator coil to get abnormally cold. So when returning air hits the coil, humidity/moisture from the air beads ups on the coil and it quickly freezes.

Can I Add Freon To My Central Air Conditioner?

Yes, you can by attaching the Freon container to the service and tap valves, then following the instructions set in your Freon kit to secure the container between the two valves.

What Should You Do If Your Central Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals?

There are three reasons why your CAC would smell like chemicals and these include:

  • A refrigerant leak
  • Mold on your evaporator coils
  • Open containers of chemicals near the indoor air handler

In such cases, you need to seek the services of a professional so he can deal with the issue expertly.

What Should You Do If Your Central Ac Making Loud Humming Noises?

Humming sounds are usually related to the steady drive of the outside fan blade of your central AC and the motor. However, in most cases, this humming or buzzing sound indicates a mechanical or electrical issue. So, whenever you are faced with such a problem be sure to:

Check the Condenser fan motor: It could be seized (unable to spin) but power is still going to it, creating resistance that produces a loud and noticeable hum.

Check the Contactor relay switch: in the outdoor unit, the air conditioning contractor serves to turn on the outside unit when the temperatures rise to the level where cooling is needed. This contractor can fail mechanically or electrically and will produce an electrical murmuring sound at failure.

Conclusion

After analyzing all the brands of central air conditioners, our professionals have found Goodman Central Air Conditioners to be the best all-rounder unit. Goodman offers great efficiency, durability, warranty periods, silent operation, and easy maintenance at low prices. Despite its relatively low SEER, these units more than makeup for this due to the fact that they are reliable and can stay strong longer than other HVAC units.

However, that is not to say that other brands are completely useless. If you are looking for something in particular and the price is not an issue, other brands might be your cup of tea. For example, if you value efficiency over all else, you can go for Lennox. If silence is what you desire, Carrier would suit you best.

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