Payne Air Conditioner Review: AC Price Guide & Comparisons

If you need a new air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump, you are in the right place. For those of you on a tighter budget or just looking for a simple air conditioner solution, Payne is a brand you need to get to know.

Payne works under the United Technologies group, alongside names you probably have heard of, such as Carrier, Bryant, and even Tempstar. Payne is the value brand and offers you a simple home climate control system at huge savings.

This article will examine Payne air conditioners and products so you can see what they offer, where they are lacking, and if choosing Payne is right for you.

Payne air conditioning is a company that works out of the US. Alongside Bryant and Carrier plants, Payne is made in the same factories and stored in the same facilities. The similarities pretty much end there, though.

As a value brand, Payne doesn’t have internal parts that are identical to Carrier. While some things like fan motors and heat pump fans will have compatible part numbers, the actual quality of the Payne products is a little lower.

If you are looking for a budget-friendly alternative that does have Carrier parts inside, you can consider Tempstar. While they are a little higher priced than Payne, you do get slightly better quality.

However, if you simply need an air conditioning unit that works, doesn’t have a lot of special features, and is relatively low maintenance, the Payne is a company worth looking into further.

Payne Air Conditioner Reviews

Cost Expectations & Price Comparisons

When it comes to selection, Payne doesn’t overwhelm you. They offer 6 different models, each with slight differences. Most all of their selection is available in 2 to 5 tons, with a few ranging from 1 to 5 tons. For general reference, you can check the differences between a 2-ton and a 3-ton AC for example.

The biggest differences you will find (aside from price) is the type of compressor used (single or dual-stage) and the SEER value. Our costs and estimates in the chart below are based on a 2.5 ton model to average out the SEER values. See further below for more information on these options.

Costs are estimated based on national averages for installation and electricity rates. The unit cost is based on averages from various dealers around the country. Your individual prices will vary.

Model Price* (w/out Installation) Price*(w/ Installation) stimated Running Cost** Government Tax Break
PA16NW $1400 $3800 $360 $300
PA16NA $1200 $3280 $372 $300
PA17NA $1225 $3400 $355 $300
PA14NC $900 $2900 $410 None
PA14NC $1050 $3100 $390 None
PA13NA $780 $2800 $455 None

*Prices are estimates for the following: 2.5-ton condenser, 1300-1400 cfm air handler plus a programmable thermostat.
**Running costs based on 21 cents/kWh and 2000 hours of cooling per year. Based on 2.5 ton AC unit.
Note – Other exterior factors can also influence the price; Based on national average

The running costs of an air conditioner will have several factors. While the formula for estimating your costs is simple enough, filling in the variables is a different story.

First, you need to know how much you are paying for electricity. This is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and can be found on your electric bill statement, online with your electric company, or by calling them directly.

You then need to know how many watts the air conditioner uses. In general, you will find that an average unit will use 3500 watts. However, your model may differ. If the watts are not clearly labeled, you can figure it out by multiplying the amps and volts together.

Next, you need to determine how many hours you are running the unit per day, how many days per week, and weeks per month. Of course, this number will vary based on time of year, ambient temperature, and humidity levels.

Once you have all of that, you can use the formula to find out your running costs. For example, with a national average of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, average wattage of 3500, and running the unit 4 hours per day (remember this is “running time,” not just time going by with the thermostat turned on), we can figure running costs.

First, convert the wattage to kilowatts by dividing by 1000 (1 watt = 1000 kW). 3500 divided by 1000 is 3.5. Then we plug everything into the formula. So, (3.5kw x 4 hours runtime) x 0.13 (cost of electricity) x 90 (average summer days of use) = $163.80 to run this “average” unit four hours a day for 3 months.

The Importance Of A Quality HVAC Contractor

Having a high quality contractor to perform the installation and answer all your questions is more crucial than you may think.

Not only are they needed for an AC install, but they are also the critical standard that the government is basing the rebate extension on. One of the biggest reasons for high energy costs is an improperly installed system.

If your system is set up, adjusted, and installed correctly, you will have fewer breakdowns, fewer issues, and better efficiency. We use Networx (via the form below) to locate fully trained, licensed, and responsible HVAC contractors, and now you can, too!

This company will find the ideal candidates for your needs based on licenses, customer reviews, performance, and professionalism. Not to mention you will only see results in your local area.

Payne AC Model Numbers Explained

When looking at the part numbers and model IDs, it can get confusing. Let’s break it down so you can understand what it is you are looking at.

Each model consists of 6 alpha-numeric IDs. The serial numbers will offer even more information and can be up to 16 digits long. However, for the most part, you only need to worry about the first 6.

The PA and the first 2 numbers are the series identifiers. Basically, it tells you it is a Payne (P) model air conditioning unit (A). The number represents the SEER group it is in, using the highest possible SEER rating.

The 5th letter tells you the power requirements. In this case, the N means 208/230 volts, 60 amp, single phase. Finally, the last note will tell you the grill type. A is standard, D is dense, W is wire, and C is coated wire. The final letter generally doesn’t mean much in terms of looks or performance, though.

What does matter is the numbers on the serial plate. These will specify the individual unit capabilities, including the actual tonnage, SEER rating, noise level, BTUs, and type of compressor.

Model Ton Seer* Noise Levels** BTU’s Compressor
PA17NA 2 – 5 13 – 17 73dB 24000 – 52000 Dual Stage
PA16NW 1.5 – 5 12.2 – 17 73dB 18000 – 52000 Single Stage
PA16NA 1.5 – 5 12 – 17 76dB 18000 – 52000 Single Stage
PA15NC 1.5 – 5 12.2 – 14 75dB 18000 – 52000 Single Stage
PA14NC 1.5 – 5 11 – 14 74dB 18000 – 52000 Single Stage
PA13NA 1.5 – 5 11 – 13 74dB 18000 – 52000 Single Stage

*up to
**based on normal operation

Payne AC Buying Guide (Important Factors)

Energy Efficiency/Seer Rating

The SEER rating is clearly posted on the side of all major appliances and electronics, usually on a giant yellow sticker. What is a SEER rating, though? Quite simply, it is the energy efficiency ratio between the wattage draw compared to the BTU output. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient it is.

When it comes down to air conditioners, anything above 12 is considered good. When you reach the 14 to 16 range, you are great, and 18 – 19 is excellent. When you reach 20+, you are in for some incredible savings.

Payne systems range between 11 and 17 SEER. The smaller units (2.5 to 3.5 tons) have the highest rating, and the PA17NA model is the best, with a 17 high and 13 low.

You should note, though, that some regions of the south and southwest have SEER restrictions. The system must meet minimum standards before it can be installed. Because of this, the PA13NA may not be eligible for install in these regions.

Related ArticleHow To Convert Kilowatt To BTU

Compressor Options

The compressors are essentially the heart of an AC system., They are responsible for compressing and heating the refrigeration to send it through to the evaporator. The compressor is also the part of the system that requires the most electricity to start and run.

Many brands have started to use and revolutionize the compressor market with inverter technology and multiple speed systems. Payne, as a budget or value option, does not offer much in the way of high-performance compressors. Almost every unit they sell comes with a single-stage compressor.

The PA17NA is the only model they offer with a much more efficient dual-stage compressor. While it isn’t the best on the market, it is efficient enough to last a long time running at optimal performance.

Condenser Fan Options

Condenser fans have a huge responsibility to remove the heat from the refrigerant as it enters the condenser and pull the heat away from the compressor to keep it cool and functional.

Variable speed fans are becoming more and more commonplace, but again, as a value brand, you won’t find these on any Payne model. Single-speed fans are used exclusively in all Payne systems.

Heating Options

Central air systems are also combined with heating elements to be all-inclusive. The air handler can be used with electrical heating elements, gas nozzles, or even ceramic plates. Payne manufacturers electric heaters for the central air handlers.

However, they also offer heat pumps and mini split systems as well as produce budget-friendly gas furnaces. However, if you are purchasing a central air conditioner, the electric heating elements and air handler will be your best option for performance and installation costs.

Noise Levels

Noise is measured in decibels (dB) and is a rating given to a particular sound based on its volume compared to total silence. The numbers aren’t sequenced, though; they are stepped. A decibel rating of 10 means the sound is 10 times greater than total silence, but a rating of 20 means the sound is 100 times greater, not 20.

Obviously, the lower the rating, the quieter the machine is. In the case of Payne air conditioners, they have an average decibel rating between 73 and 76dB. This is quite loud, and it 100 times louder than a hairdryer at 5-feet away (65dB).

Luckily, 90% of that noise is outside at the condensing unit, so it shouldn’t bother your day to day activities, though depending on installation location and any sound dampening insulation you may or may not have, you might be able to hear the system running through the closest wall.

Warranty & Why It Is Important

Warranties are designed to protect your investment. They are critical for air conditioners considering their unit and installation costs.

Payne offers a standard 5-year warranty (to the original purchaser only). This covers the entire unit, though, including compressor, condenser, and evaporator units. If you register your purchase and installation within 90 days, they will double the warranty period to 10 years.

While 10-years is a bit low for air conditioning units, the budget and value range of machines often sees less, making the warranty actually reasonably great for the price it covers.

A common question is if homeowner’s insurance cover an HVAC unit.

Tax Benefits Explored

In late 2018 the federal government began offering tax rebate incentives to help people afford and install energy efficient systems in their homes. This includes air conditioners, heat pumps, boilers, furnaces, and water heaters. Recently, the program was extended to include all of 2021.

It is also going through the process of being extended up to and through 2026 and double the rebate amounts. However, part of that regulation will include stricter standards, such as professional installation.

Currently, to qualify for the tax rebate, the system must be new and installed in an existing home that you live in. New construction and rental properties do not qualify. The AC must also have a SEER rating of 16 or greater and be professionally installed.

Payne has three models that do qualify; PA16NW, PA16NA, and PA17NA; as long as you purchase the model that is at least 16 SEER in each group. You can fill out tax form 5695 once the system is purchased and installed to qualify for the tax break.

The Pros & Cons Of Payne AC Units

As with any major appliance or component you purchase, there will be good sides and bad sides. Let’s take a look at the things we like about Payne and the things we don’t like so much.

What We Like
  • Highly affordable, including install costs
  • Low maintenance, easy to clean condensing units
  • Compatible with all major smart thermostats
  • Other value-option products available
  • Compressors are durable and rugged
  • Can be used with vertical and horizontal flow duct systems
What We Didn’t like
  • Among the lowest SEER ratings of major brands
  • Only offers single-speed fans and compressors (one exception).
  • May be louder than most other brands
  • Can be difficult to find replacement parts
  • Unregistered warranty is pretty low

Related ArticleHow To Clean A Central AC

Comparing Payne With Other Central AC Brands

We know by now that Payne is a value brand product. It offers reliable service and decent performance at a highly reasonable cost. How does the brand stack up against some of the other names in the industry? Let’s take a look.

Vs Carrier

Carrier is the oldest name in the game. They wouldn’t still be around (even as the inventor of the system) if they didn’t perform. Carrier offers high quality, cutting-edge technology, and a higher price.

While Carrier systems are made in the same locations as Payne ACs, there is a big difference in quality and craftsmanship. Carrier uses the latest parts and technologies to offer variable speed compressors, multi-speed fans, and long-lasting well-warrantied parts.

Where Payne shines is being compatible with Carrier replacement parts and while Payne may be harder to find and work on, their initial cost and 10-year lifespan are enough to sway the more budget-conscious consumers.

Related ArticleCarrier Air Conditioner Reviews

Vs Goodman

If you ever look at condensing units as you drive through residential neighborhoods, there is a good chance you will see mostly Goodman air conditioner systems. Favored by HVAC technicians for their ease of installation and by homeowners for their reliable service, Goodman is a name that carries weight.

Their systems can easily last 20 years, which is twice as long as Payne. They are also less expensive than most Carrier systems and come with similar warranties. Payne once again will shine in the unit cost category, but Goodman will win in almost everything else.

However, when you look at the condenser units, Goodman models aren’t the easiest to clean, which may be a boost to the Payne fans who like lower maintenance on their annual cleaning routines.

Related ArticleGoodman Air Conditioner Reviews

Vs York

York is about equal in terms of all categories when compared to Payne air conditioners. They have similar SEER ratings, similar installation costs, and will offer you about the same time of service.

York is considered a wholesale unit, meaning they don’t market directly to homeowners. Instead, they offer sales in bulk to resellers and wholesalers who work with contractors to make a profit.

York has a few more models than Payne, and they cost a little more. However, that cost comes with a durable condensing unit that is designed for all seasons, all conditions and can physically take a beating.

If you want a tougher condenser, choose a York. If you want to save a little money and like an easier-to-clean unit, choose Payne.

Related ArticleYork Air Conditioner Reviews

Why Choose Payne Air Conditioners


Shopping for a new air conditioner can be a challenge. This is especially true if you weren’t happy with your last model and are looking for a new brand. Payne is catching eyes with their low cost air conditioners and easy installs.

They also offer a few models that qualify for government tax rebates too. However, their performance and reliability are about average. You won’t have a Payne system running strong for 20+ years like some other models, but you will save a lot of money for at least a decade with a Payne air conditioner.

Our Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)