We’re often asked by readers, what are the best central air conditioner brands? HVAC brands are not all equal in quality and reliability. This guide to the 2017-2018 best central AC brands discusses what makes the best brands better than the competition. Here are the top five AC brands this year. We conclude this top 2017-2018 central air conditioners article with a discussion of the importance of proper installation.
- Characteristics of the Best 2017-2018 Central AC Brands
- 2017/2018 Best Central AC Brands
- How Good is Your Installer?
Characteristics of the Best 2017-2018 Central AC Brands
Here are the traits you should look for as you consider your central air conditioner brands:
- Quality Components: As a consumer, you understand that every product you consider comes in different quality options – basic, better and best. It’s true with lawnmowers and furniture, and it is true with central air conditioners.
- Superior Durability: Well-known independent testing group Consumer Reports found that the average central air conditioner repair was more than $200 per event. Good AC units break down less over the 14-20 years most last, so that’s fewer $200+ repair bills.
- Outstanding Warranties: The best 2017-2018 central AC brands all have general parts warranties of at least 10 years. Some offer extra advantages that put them among the best warranties in the industry.
- Good Performance: We’re throwing a curveball here, but data and logic are with us on this, so hear us out: Single-stage ACs offer cooling that’s either on or off. Two-stage ACs have low-speed and full-speed. They run on low most of the time because it cools more evenly, more quietly and dehumidifies better than full speed. Modulating central ACs have a spectrum of speeds from about 40 percent to 100 percent of capacity. They speed up and down to match the precise need for cooling in your home. Obviously, this produces the best climate control. But here’s the downside; Modulating ACs cost about 30 percent more than two-stage models, and when they break down, repair costs are much higher, especially when a modulating compressor fails. Most modulating units have been in use for less than five years, so nobody is sure of their long-term durability. What does that mean? We prefer high-quality two-stage units over modulating ACs because we believe they deliver better value over the life of the unit – very good climate control, lower upfront cost and lower lifetime repair costs.
2017/2018 Best Central AC Brands
These are two-stage central air conditioners from the top series these brands produce. The brands all make other two-stage models, so keep both brand and series in mind. For example, the Carrier Infinity two-stage AC is superior in quality to the Carrier Performance two-stage models.
Time to list the 2017-2018 best central air conditioners. They should give you 17-20 years of dependable service when installed correctly and given regular maintenance.
1. Carrier Infinity 21 24ANB1 & Bryant Evolution 180B Central ACs
These identical units from United Technologies brands are the most efficient each makes. The 21 SEER rating is the highest on the market for two-stage central air conditioners. Here’s another bonus: Consumer Reports found that Carrier repairs were among the least expensive in the industry (no data on Bryant).
- Quality: High/low pressure switches, powder-coated cabinet, steel louvered coil guard, fully insulated with compressor sound blanket to keep noise at a very low 65dB, filter drier removes moisture and contaminants that shorten compressor life.
- Warranty: 10 years on all parts. The most significant complaint with Carrier and Bryant is that their warranties should be longer.
- Performance: Two-stage cooling with superior dehumidification, Carrier and Bryant’s best diagnostics, Wi-Fi controls available.
- More Information: If you’d like to do deep research on these brands, see our Buying Guides for Carrier and for Bryant that include all models, their features, efficiency and cost.
2. Daikin DX18TC, Amana ASXC18 & Goodman DSCX18 Central ACs
For years, Amana was a Goodman brand. Now, global HVAC giant Daikin has bought both brands to get a piece of the residential market. The company put Daikin badging on the equipment, so the three brands are identical.
- Quality: Scroll compressor and CoreSense diagnostics made by third-party manufacturer Copeland, one of the premier parts makers in the HVAC industry, heavy-gauge cabinets with baked enamel finish.
- Warranty: 12-year general parts warranty for Daikin, 10 years for Amana. Amana brand has a lifetime compressor warranty that provides for replacement of the condensing unit, not just the compressor. The replacement warranty for Daikin is 12 years. 12-year labor coverage is available free on some purchases, but can be purchased, if not. These are the best warranty terms available.
- Performance: Energy Star 19 SEER efficiency, two-stage cooling that optimizes humidity control, ComfortNet system coordination and diagnostics are considered among the finest available.
- More Information: Here’s the manufacturer’s page for Daikin DX18TC. You might also want to review our Amana AC Buying Guide and Goodman AC Buying Guide to compare this brand with others in this list.
3. Heil QuietComfort Deluxe 17 HCA7 Central AC
Heil is the best-known brand among the many made by parent-company International Comfort Products (a part of United Technologies, but different than Carrier/Bryant ACs). You’ll find the same AC from sister brands Arcoaire, Comfortmaker, Day & Night, KeepRite and Tempstar.
- Quality: High/low pressure switches extend compressor life, tight-wire grill protects the condensing coil, baked-on powder-coat with high-gloss finish
- Warranty: 10-year parts warranty includes 10-year replacement of the entire unit if the compressor or condensing coil fail. Because those are the two parts most likely to fail on any central AC, this offers excellent consumer protection.
- Performance: 19 SEER Energy Star efficiency from the two-stage compressor and sound-reducing, aerodynamic two-speed fan motor, Heil’s best Observer communicating control/thermostat with Wi-Fi.
- More Information: Take a look at the Heil QuietComfort Deluxe brochure.
4. Trane XL18i & American Standard Gold 17 Central ACs
Trane and American Standard brands are owned by Ingersoll-Rand and have identical HVAC equipment lineups. These units have been on the market for 5+ years, so their reliability is well documented.
- Quality: ClimaTuff/Duration two-stage compressors have an excellent track record of durability, aluminum spine fin coil disperse heat quickly and resists corrosion, coated cabinet, fasteners and base pan reduce corrosion.
- Warranty: American Standard backs the compressor for 12 years and the outdoor coil and all other parts for 10 years. The Trane warranty is 10 years on everything.
- Performance: Up to 18 SEER efficiency with two-stage cooling for quiet operation and better dehumidification with constant fan-on mode
- More Information: Our Trane Central AC Buying Guide provides comprehensive details on Trane AC features, specs and prices.
5. Lennox XC21 Central AC
Lennox is one of the last remaining top brands not bought up by someone else. We admire Lennox’s constant commitment to energy efficiency including the use of solar power to run HVAC equipment. The XC21 isn’t the most efficient model Lennox makes, but it’s the most reliable.
- Quality: Lennox makes its own parts used to build and repair these ACs. That means you’ll get original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts during every repair. The only concern about this is that Lennox AC repairs cost more than most brand repairs and there are occasional supply chain issues that delay repairs.
- Warranty: 10 years on everything, not one of the best warranties available.
- Performance: Two-stage 21 SEER efficiency is at the top of the charts. The iComfort Wi-Fi thermostat/control optimizes indoor comfort and energy-efficiency.
- More Information: See the Lennox product page or check out our Lennox AC Buying Guide with specs, efficiency and price for all Lennox air conditioners.
How Good is Your Installer?
These 2017/2018 best central AC brands are only as good as their installer. Consumers Report says these brands are equal in reliability but the quality of the installation has a major impact on durability.
Like most homeowners, we take a lot of time researching brands, but too often we leave installation up to the luck of the draw. Not hiring an installer with a track record for excellence can lead to:
- Efficiency levels lower than expected
- Early mechanical failure
An installer you can trust will be:
- Properly licensed and insured
- Factory trained or have a technician training certification
- Certified by the National Association of Technician Excellence
It’s a slow and tedious job to make a list of top contractors in your area and systematically contact them and look at reviews on Google, Yelp or the BBB. All those are important, and prescreening can be done for you. Our partner service provides you with 3 free quotes from some of the top AC installers where you live.
The bottom line is that you might be wasting your money to buy one of the 2017-2018 best central ACs only to have it fail due to improper installation. Have it installed by an experienced professional, and we can help you find that person.