What are the best central air conditioner brands to consider when replacing a system?
We should begin answering the question with another question – What makes an AC brand one of the best?
- Characteristics of the Best Central Air Conditioner Brands
- 2019 Best Central Air Conditioner Brands
- Best Central Air Conditioner Brands Reviews
- #1 Heil Central Air Conditioner
- #2 Goodman Central Air Conditioner
- #3 Daikin Central Air Conditioner
- #4 Maytag Central Air Conditioner
- #5 Bryant/Carrier Central Air Conditioner
- #6 American Standard/Trane Central Air Conditioner
- #7 Mitsubishi Air Conditioner
- #8 York Central Air Conditioner
- What About Lennox?
- What About Rheem and Ruud?
- What Difference Does Installation Make?
- Choosing a Qualified Air Conditioner Installer
Characteristics of the Best Central Air Conditioner Brands
Here are five traits to look for in central air conditioner brands:
1). Quality Components: As a consumer, you understand that every product you shop for is available in a range of options: Basic, better and best.
This is true with automobiles, appliances and furniture. It is true with central air conditioners.
But this might surprise you – Many major brands use internal components made by the same part suppliers like Emerson, Carlyle and Copeland. The issue of internal components is discussed in the top AC brands reviews below.
2). Durability: Well-known independent testing group Consumer Reports found that the average central air conditioner repair was more than $200 per event. Good air conditioners break down less over the 14-20 years most last, so that’s fewer $200+ repair bills.
3). Good Warranties: A warranty lets you know what the manufacturer thinks of its equipment. The best 2019 central AC brands have general parts warranties of at least 10 years. Some offer longer coverage or extra advantages that put them among the best warranties in the industry. These issues are also discussed in the brand reviews below.
4). Value: Did you know that most Carrier and Heil ACs are nearly identical? But Carrier air conditioners are priced significantly higher. So, which is a better value? Heil, of course. That’s what we mean by value, and it is discussed on a brand-by-brand basis in the top air conditioner brand reviews.
5). A Proven Installer: What does the AC mechanic have to do with the brands? Simply this: The quality of the installation is at least as important as the brand.
One owner of a large heating and air conditioning company said this based on his 20+ years of experience: “Premature failure of components is almost always the result of improper installation. There is a right way, and there is a wrong way.”
We revisit the topic of proper installation at the end with tips for finding a proven installer to ensure you get the best durability and efficiency from your new central air conditioner.
2019 Best Central Air Conditioner Brands
- American Standard/Trane
These 8 brands best combine the traits above. See their scores in each category and total scores in this table.
|Brand||Components||Durability||Warranty||Price/Value||Total Score||Max Efficiency|
|Heil||Excellent||18-22 years||Very Good||Excellent||11||19 SEER|
|Goodman||Very Good||15-20 years||Excellent||Excellent||10||19 SEER|
|Daikin||Excellent||18-22 years||Very Good||Very Good||10||23 SEER|
|Maytag||Excellent||18-22 years||Very Good||Very Good||10||20 SEER|
|Excellent||18-22 years||Good||Very Good||9||21 SEER|
|Excellent||18-22 years||Good||Very Good||9||22 SEER|
|Mitsubishi||Excellent||18-22 years||Good||Very Good||9||21 SEER|
|York||Very Good||15-20 years||Very Good||Very Good||8||20 SEER|
|Excellent & 18-22 years = 3 points|
Very Good & 15-20 years = 2 points
Good = 1 point
Best Central Air Conditioner Brands Reviews
Here is a closer look at each of the best AC brands.
#1 Heil Central Air Conditioner
Heil central air conditioners do well in all categories, so top our list of best AC brands. They are very similar to Carrier models, as we explain below, but cost less.
They are priced below Carrier and Bryant to attract budget-oriented consumers.
Components: Heil mostly uses universal parts including highly rated Copeland compressors. Components are top of the line, and if there is a need for repair, parts are readily available.
Warranty: The general parts warranty is 10 years, and that qualifies only as a Good rating.
What boosts the overall score to Very Good is the Heil unit replacement warranty. Called a No Hassle warranty, it provides for the replacement of the entire air conditioner if the compressor or coil fails.
The No Hassle warranty ranges from 1 year to 10 years on top models.
Model Options: Heil makes a complete line of central air conditioners from 14 to 19 SEER. Single-stage, two-stage and a five-stage model are offered.
Features range from quite basic in less efficient models to advanced options like communicating technology and WiFi connectivity in the top models.
Notes:Heil is a brand owned by International Comfort Products (ICP), which makes identical brands Day & Night, Tempstar, Arcoaire, Keeprite and Comfortmaker. The sister brands have the same score as Heil.
Additionally, ICP is owned by Carrier’s parent company, UTC. The components in ICP and Carrier/Bryant air conditioners are mostly the same. But Heil costs less and has better warranties, so ranks higher.
#2 Goodman Central Air Conditioner
Goodman was known for decades as cheap equipment with great warranties. The low cost and excellent warranty made the brand very popular. However, the brand had a reputation for mechanical failure. Those days are over.
In 2012, Daikin bought Goodman to get into the North American residential market. Quality has improved significantly. Warranties aren’t quite as good as they were, but they remain the best in the industry. Goodman is still among the most affordable air conditioner brands.
Components: Goodman also uses many universal parts like Copeland compressors. This includes the Ultratech, perhaps the most popular compressor in heating and air conditioning.
Goodman makes proprietary coils that are good but not great, so the total rating for components is only Very Good and durability might suffer.
Warranty: The compressors in many models have a lifetime warranty. This includes replacement of the entire AC in the first 10 years if the compressor fails. All other parts are covered for 10 years.
Model Options: Daikin streamlined Goodman’s lineup to 5 air conditioners from 14 to 19 SEER. Single-stage and two-stage models give you a performance choice.
Features include the new ComfortBridge communicating technology that can be installed in the split system’s furnace. It uses algorithms to optimize efficiency and performance. However, before you purchase a communicating technology option from any brand, see our review of it.
Notes: Daikin and Amana central air conditioners are identical to Goodman ACs, but the cost is slightly higher and the warranties aren’t quite as good.
Goodman remains the low-cost leader of the group, marketed to homeowners that want value and won’t pay higher prices regardless of the brand.
#3 Daikin Central Air Conditioner
Daikin is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of heating and cooling equipment. Rather than develop its own products for the North American market, Daikin acquired Goodman.
While keeping the Goodman brand, it also branded the same equipment as Daikin. The lines are identical except for Daikin’s best AC, the DX20VC.
Daikin also makes a complete line of ductless, mini split air conditioners and indoor units.
Components: Like Goodman, Daikin uses quality parts. The DX20VC is the only unique Daikin model. It employs a Daikin inverter-type compressor that modulates are variable speed. This is the technology used in mini split system air conditioners.
Warranty: The 12-year parts warranty is better than the industry average. But there isn’t any unit replacement warranty. The compressor warranty is just 12 years too.
Model Options: In standard split systems, 8 models from 14 to 23 SEER and single-stage to inverter-driven are available.
Notes: Daikin does not yet use ComfortBridge communicating technology. The older ComfortNet option is available.
#4 Maytag Central Air Conditioner
Maytag and its sister brands are among the most overlooked in the industry. They deliver an appealing blend of benefits.
Components: Maytag uses mostly high-quality universal components. You won’t have to wait on repair parts if needed.
Warranty: You’ll be covered for 12 years on all parts. If the compressor fails during those 12 years, Maytag will replace the whole AC.
Model Options: Seven models are enough to cover the ground from single-stage 14 SEER models to 20 SEER air conditioners with variable-capacity inverter cooling.
Notes: Maytag is owned by Nortek Global, a worldwide HVAC manufacturer. Nortek Global makes several other brands that are identical to Maytag: NuTone, Broan and Frigidaire. Nortek has retired Tappan and Westinghouse brands.
#5 Bryant/Carrier Central Air Conditioner
Carrier is the most recognizable name in air conditioning. The brand and Bryant are owned by United Technologies Corporation (UTC). Most Bryant AC models are identical to Carrier.
Cost is about the same too. That is why we list them together rather than separating them like Heil.
The concern about cost is that Carrier and Bryant have some of the highest price tags in the industry. The quality is excellent, so durability is very reliable. Plus, the brands require installers to certified. This means that proper installation is more likely.
Components: Bryant and Carrier air conditioners are built with the best parts available. Copeland compressors are used in most models. You pay a higher price, and you get a superior product.
Warranty: Carrier and Bryant offer a mediocre 10-year parts warranty. There are no AC replacement warranties. You can buy an extended warranty, but we do not recommend them for these reasons.
Model Options: Carrier was the first major brand to offer variable-speed air conditioners. That technology has been improved, so Carrier and Bryant variable-capacity models are among the most reliable.
The brands also offer one of the best selections of single-stage and two-stage central air conditioners.
Notes: ICP brands including Heil and Day & Night are very similar to Carrier and Bryant models and cost less. That potentially equals better value. We say “potentially” for this reason: Carrier requires that their products be installed by factory-trained and certified contractors. The ICP brands are less choosy about who installs their products.
The point is that you might get better installation with Carrier than with the other brands. Proper installation and the quality of the components are the two main factors in central air conditioner durability.
#6 American Standard/Trane Central Air Conditioner
If reliability is your top priority when buying a central air conditioner, then these are your brands. They are built with quality parts and are installed by factory-certified technicians.
The downside is higher cost and so-so warranties.
Components: These brands build their own compressors, called Climatuff, and their own “Spine Fin” coils. The coils are among the most unique in the industry. The pros and cons of Trane coils are discussed in our Trane AC Price and Buying Guide. They should be reviewed before buying a Trane or American Standard central AC.
Warranty: The brands offer a 12-year compressor warranty and 10-year general parts warranty. It’s slightly better than the industry average.
Model Options: There are 9 models from 14.5 to 22 SEER, single-stage through variable capacity. The brands make a compact model too, which fits nicely where space is limited.
Notes: Ingersoll-Rand owns the Carrier and Bryant brands. The brand models and costs are nearly identical.
#7 Mitsubishi Air Conditioner
Mitsubishi is a top-rated mini-split/ductless air conditioner manufacturer. The brand produces one of the largest selections of outdoor and indoor mini-split systems.
If your home doesn’t have ductwork or if you’re building a new home or addition, then a ductless system is worth considering.
Components: Because Mitsubishi manufactures its systems overseas, it is more difficult to research the origin of the parts. However, it is clear from reliability data that Mitsubishi uses high-quality, reliable components.
Warranty: 12 years on the compressor and 10 years on other parts is better than average for the mini-split market.
Model Options: Single zone and multi-zone systems with a wide range of indoor units are available.
Notes: Our Mitsubishi Buying Guide has comprehensive details about options and costs. Ductless systems eliminate the need of ductwork, which costs $1,500 to more than $4,000 depending on the size and shape of your home. That’s their advantage.
The disadvantage is that most ductless systems require two to eight indoor units, each with its own installation cost. Total cost for the system can be higher than for a ducted split HVAC system.
#8 York Central Air Conditioner
York and other Johnson Controls brands have had issues with quality and reliability. The problem has been with their micro-channel coil that was prone to leaking.
However, since upgrades were made in recent years, leaks have decreased and durability has improved.
Components: York uses mostly universal parts except for coils. Problem with leaking coils was the major reason to avoid York in the past.
Whether the upgrades have been effective won’t be known for a few years, but indications are that York has fixed leaking issues.
Warranty: The Affinity line, York’s best, offers a lifetime compressor warranty and 10 years on all other parts.
Model Options: York makes ACs in 13 SEER to 20 SEER efficiency. Single-stage, two-stage and variable-capacity air conditioners are offered.
Notes: York, Luxaire, Coleman and Champion are brands owned by Johnson Controls. Their models are identical to York’s.
What About Lennox?
Lennox is the elephant in the room because it’s a name everyone knows. But it doesn’t make the list.
Here is our explanation.
Lennox makes the most efficient central air conditioners available. We review them in our Lennox AC Price and Buying Guide.
The brand uses mostly Lennox proprietary parts. This is a disadvantage that keeps it off our list.
First, the durability of Lennox parts isn’t better than the durability of universal parts. Some HVAC professionals suggest Lennox parts are inferior.
Secondly, the parts can be hard to get. If your AC is down during a sweltering summer heat wave, do you want immediate repair (or a day wait at most), or are you willing to wait up to a week for repairs? Supply chain issues with Lennox have been improved, but there are still problems that might delay your repair.
What About Rheem and Ruud?
Rheem is a name most consumers know. Ruud isn’t as widely known. The Rheem and Ruud central air conditioner models are exactly the same.
It has been publicized that these brands have a 2% to 4% worse durability rating than average, which is small to begin with. The ratings are within the margin of error, so we are not convinced the brands are inferior. Ruud and Rheem air conditioners are built with many of the same components other top brands use including quality Copeland compressors. Coil design, the Achilles heel of many brands, has been improved.
Our recommendation is this: Don’t shy away from Rheem and Ruud without getting estimates from local dealers. If properly installed, Ruud and Rheem air conditioners should prove quite durable.
What Difference Does Installation Make?
These best central AC brands are only as good as their installer. Consumers Report says these brands are nearly equal in reliability but the quality of the installation has a major impact on durability, efficiency and performance.
Some HVAC contractors harp on the importance of quality installation and then make a claim like, “And we’re the only company in town that does it right.”
That’s a bit over the top, but you get it. “If you want it done right the first time, call us.” That’s more common.
If you read reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, the BBB, Angie’s List or many others, you know that there is a wide range of quality out there. Some companies get close to 5-star ratings while others barely make 3 stars.
HVAC and specifically air conditioner installation is no different.
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:
1). Properly licensed and insured
Factory trained or have a technician training certification
Certified by the National Association of Technician Excellence
2). Trained, Certified and Experienced
Some companies employ well-trained and experienced installers. Others make their living by offering low costs, but to offer those low-ball estimates, they use poorly qualified installers.
Choosing a Qualified Air Conditioner Installer
Here’s a 5-step plan to be sure your central air conditioner is installed by a technician that knows what they are doing.
1). Ask your contacts including friends and family for recommendations about heating and cooling companies.
2). Read reviews on Google, the BBB and other sites mentioned above.
3). Call 3-5 air conditioning companies. Set up appointments for agents to visit your home and give you estimates.
4). When you’ve met with at least 3 air conditioner installation companies, check their references and online reviews.
5). Choose the installer with a good blend of ratings and price. Make sure the crew that will install your central air conditioner has years of experience.
This plan usually takes 2-3 weeks.
A Faster Approach
If your AC isn’t working and you need immediate help, or you want to cut out the hassle, there’s a faster way to find a qualified installer.
Our Free Local Quote Tool is quick and convenient. It is free, and you have NO obligation to accept any estimates offered.
Fill out a short form about what work you want done. It takes a few minutes.
Then your information is sent to pre-screened air conditioner installers in your area. They will respond with estimates for air conditioners and installation costs.
You can discuss air conditioner brands, models and prices. They should help you decide on a model with the right size and efficiency for your needs.
See our Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide for much more information on choosing the right efficiency AC and the right size unit for your home and climate.