Trane is the top AC brand for 2023 followed by Lennox and Carrier close behind – this is according to data compiled from consumers and AC technicians that work on all the brands.
This page includes prices, ratings, warranties, pros and cons, and similarities and differences between the best central AC brands.
Read all the way to the bottom for our Summary of Who is the Best!
Trane vs Carrier vs Lennox Cost
Everyone is concerned about costs right now, and rightly so, since they are up 25% to 35% the last several years.
Well, these are premium brands with some of the highest costs in the industry.
But they also make entry-level and midrange central air conditioners too.
|Brand||Low Cost||Average Cost||High Cost|
See the cost analysis below for more detailed cost information.
What’s included in the cost?
- Outdoor Unit – The condensing unit, which contains the compressor and condensing coil plus a fan to help cool the coil
- Indoor Coil – Technically called the evaporator coil, and commonly called the cold coil. Coils come “unhoused” for installation inside a furnace or air handler. Or you can buy one housed in its own cabinet for installation above, below or beside the furnace, based on the specific configuration of your system.
- Refrigerant lines – This set of two lines cycles refrigerant between the coils, passing through the compressor.
- A refrigerant charge – Most ACs contain some refrigerant, but often not enough. When the refrigerant lineset is longer than standard, more refrigerant must be added to the system.
- Pad or Bracket – For a new AC or AC replacement when the old pad or bracket is in poor condition, a new one can be part of the package.
- Thermostat (optional) – While not always required, many homeowners use this opportunity to update their control, aka thermostat.
- Installation Labor – This includes removing the old unit, if there is one, installing the new air conditioner, hooking up wiring, running refrigerant lines, adjusting the indoor blower motor speed if needed, setting up remote WiFi monitoring and app for customers who desire it, etc. One Arizona AC company has a 30-point checklist of what they do during installation.
Another way to say that Trane, Lennox and Carrier make three tiers of central air conditioners is to say they make single stage (1 stage), two-stage (2 stage) and variable capacity (variable speed, modulating) air conditioners.
Here are the costs for each type of central air conditioner.
Cost factors are AC size and efficiency in addition to the stages of air conditioning.
Single Stage Central Air Conditioners
- Trane: $4,100 – $6,900. SEER range of 14.5 to 17
- Lennox: $4,200 – $7,200. SEER range of 13 to 17
- Carrier: $4,400 – $7,000. SEER range of 13 to 17
Buying tip: If you act in 2023, you might be able to get a better deal on a 13 SEER Carrier central air conditioner. Why? Because 13 SEER models are being phased out due to a rise in minimum efficiency required by the US EPA. Carrier still makes a 13 SEER model, but it won’t be legal to sell them in 2023 and beyond. So, they’ll be “on sale” at some point this year – in fact, our data shows they are already being sold at prices below what we’ve listed here.
New Minimum Standards will be 15 SEER in the South (Southeast to Southwest) and 14 SEER elsewhere.
Two Stage Air Conditioners
- Trane: $5,700 – $8,000. Two 18 SEER models.
- Lennox: $5,800 – $8,100. 16 and 21 SEER models.
- Carrier: $5,900 – $7,900. Several 17 SEER models.
Why are the prices so similar? Because these brands maintain a close eye on what their competitors are charging, and they keep costs competitive.
Variable Capacity Air Conditioners
- Trane: $11,200 – $14,000. 18 and 21 SEER options.
- Lennox: $11,400 – $14,000. 18, 20 and 28 SEER ACs.
- Carrier: $11,000 – $13,800. 19 and 26 SEER choices.
Efficiency Comparison – Lennox (#1), Carrier (#2) and Trane (#3)
That’s the rankings. Lennox makes the most efficient central air conditioners in the two-stage and variable capacity levels. Carrier’s most efficient model is higher than Trane’s, but Trane has slightly more efficient single stage and two stage ACs.
The most efficient central ACs from each brand easily make the 2023 Energy Star Most Efficient list.
All the brands have become more efficient in the last 5 years, but Trane lags behind in maximum efficiency. You can see the total SEER range above, but to consolidate it:
- Lennox: 13 to 28 SEER
- Carrier: 14 to 26 SEER
- Trane: 14.5 to 22 SEER
What is SEER? Why is it Important?
SEER is the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, a measurement of how efficiently the unit turns electricity into air conditioning.
The higher the SEER rating, the less energy the unit uses to cycle refrigerant through the system, capturing heat indoors and transferring it for dispersal through the radiator-style outdoor coil.
SEER is also related to performance – stages of air conditioning we’ve discussed: single stage, two stage and variable capacity. Higher SEER usually means more stages of cooling.
Is a high SEER central AC worth the extra money? It might be, but only in regions with severe heat that lasts from spring into fall. You’ll spend $5,000 to $7,500 more for a variable capacity AC compared to the same size single stage AC. The cost difference between single stage and two stage is around $2,000-$3,500, and you’ll go up another $3,000 to $4,000 potentially on the next jump from two stage to variable capacity.
In hot climates, you can regain the extra cost of a variable capacity or 2 stage unit in 4 to 10 years. In a moderate climate, the recovery period could be 12-15 years. You can use our seer savings calculator to calculate if the higher seer can pay back in your area.
Lennox, for example, says its most efficient unit, the 28 SEER SL28XCV, saves the “average” homeowner $3,060 in 15 years through lower energy costs when replacing a 10 SEER AC. But we know that unit costs at least $5,000 to $7,000 more than a single stage AC.
So, is it worth it?
If green cooling and optimal indoor climate control are top priorities for you, perhaps it is. From a cost perspective, it isn’t.
Tip from a Arizona Contractor:
There is more to energy-efficient air conditioning than the SEER rating of the model you choose. Rich Morgan of MTM in Arizona suggests money spent on a super-efficient AC for a home with energy-efficiency problems could be better spent elsewhere.
Morgan says, “If the home isn’t insulated well, has an unacceptable amount of infiltration/exfiltration (air leaks), or is under negative pressure (sucking outside air in) because of ventilation deficiencies; trying to fight those deficiencies with a [super-efficient] AC will not work”.
It’s not just the home’s envelope that works against efficiency. Morgan also suggests that, “Air ducts that have too many branches, excessively long runs, are not the proper size, etc., have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of the equipment. Equally as impactful, leaky air ducts or ducts with high static pressure (restricted airflow), will work against the new air conditioner.”
Other Things Trane, Lennox and Carrier Have in Common
We’ve said they each make three levels of AC.
- Use R410A refrigerant (now the industry standard)
- Have optional WiFi on most or all models when a smart thermostat is installed
- Offer premium installation through certified installers who have gone through advanced training and met experience and quality requirements
Quality – Who Makes the Best Central Air Conditioners?
#1 Trane is the highest rated brand for quality, from entry level to midrange to premium central air conditioners.
#2 Carrier is next – and Carrier offers its best warranty on its least expensive units too, so it is willing to stand behind its equipment.
#3 Lennox drops off in quality. Its top line, the Lennox Signature Series, is excellent. The middle group of Elite Series ACs varies from very good units with 10-year warranties to so-so models with 5-year warranties. Be sure to check warranty length when discussing Lennox models with a salesperson or browsing the Lennox website. Lennox’s entry level Merit Series isn’t as good. The units have 5-year warranties.
Here is a closer look at warranties from these major HVAC brands.
#1 Carrier and Trane are tied for first spot
#3 Lennox, because its entry level warranties are poor, is last.
|Carrier||All*||10 years||10 years||None|
|Trane||XV, XL||12 years||10 years||None|
|XR||10 years||10 years||None|
|Lennox||Signature||10 years||10 years||None|
|Elite||10 years||5 years||None|
|Merit||5 years||5 years||None|
*Carrier coastal models like the Infinity 17 Coastal have a 10-year general parts warranty but are covered for just 5 years against corrosion due to a coastal environment.
Updates to Warranty Chart
Carrier now offers a 10-year Replacement Warranty on Infinity 26, its top AC. If the compressor fails in the first 10 years, Carrier will replace the entire outdoor unit, not just the failed part. This is something that other brands like Heil, Day & Night and Amana have offered for years. Carrier is the first of the “superbrands” to offer unit replacement.
Lennox – Lennox literature can be unclear about warranty length for registered equipment. All brands require the purchaser to register their warranty online or by mail in either 60 days or 90 days depending on the brand. If you don’t register it, the warranty is automatically shorter. Only California residents are exempt by state law from the risk of having the warranty length cut for failure to register.
Often the installer will register the warranty for you or give you clear instructions on how to easily get it done.
Ok, Lennox makes claims, for example, on its Merit Series that it is backed with a 5-year warranty on all parts (compressor, etc.), but that it “might be eligible for an extended 10-year warranty with registration.” It is unclear whether you will get the 10-year coverage automatically for registering or whether there are other stipulations such as extra cost. The bottom line is – get clear warranty information on any unit you’re considering before you purchase it.
Repairs – Cost and Speed
Whether the warranty is still in effect or not, you might want to repair it rather than replace the entire unit. So, how easily can you get repair parts for these brands? And how costly are the repairs?
Carrier parts are readily available and affordable. Pros report few problems, if any, finding OEM and universal parts for Carrier AC repairs.
If you’re concerned about delays or cost if a repair need happens, choose a Carrier or other Carrier brands like Bryant, Payne, Heil, Tempstar or Day & Night. Yes, Carrier makes all those brands and more.
Trane equipment also uses some universal repair parts that make repairs quick and reasonably affordable. The brand has a few more “Trane-only” parts, and their availability varies by region of the country. In short, there’s a slightly higher chance with Trane that your repair technician won’t have the part on the truck, and it will take a day or two to get it. But remember that Trane ACs break down less than any other brand according to reliable repair data.
Lennox uses mostly Lennox-only parts. And the brand has been trying to solve supply chain issues since 2015. It hasn’t totally succeeded. Here’s a short exchange on a professional board between two technicians:
Tech 1: “As you all know covid has ruined supply chain especially our industry. We are having major issues getting Lennox parts.”
Tech 2: “Lennox typically su*** for parts in good times. Never mind with covid.”
HVAC contractor Timothy Kautz of ASM in California agrees that Lennox is a costlier brand. Kautz writes, “Lennox is More Expensive than Trane – Despite having a horrible logistics chain, Lennox is also more expensive than their competitors for comparable level equipment.”
That sums up what many pros are saying across North America. And Lennox proprietary parts are more expensive than universal parts used in most other brands.
Smart Features – Thermostat, WiFi and Voice
Everyone likes smart convenience features that allow you to control your thermostat from your phone or by using Alexa or other smart speaker. Here are options for these brands.
Carrier has invested heavily in smart technology including thermostat. The company even bought a minority share in ecobee and offers the ecobee 3 lite in a couple of unique “Carrier-only” versions. Their ecobee thermostats, “Works seamlessly with third-party smart home platforms such as Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT.
Carrier Infinity thermostats are WiFi connected and work with Alexa.
In our opinion, Carrier’s smart thermostats offer the best quality and user experience, though Lennox is just a short step behind.
Lennox’s best smart controller, the iComfort Series thermostat, is available in four versions including the WiFi Touchscreen thermostat with daily forecasts shown on the screen. Touch the screen for the 5-day forecast for your location. And choose a favorite photo as your screensaver.
All are WiFi thermostats that work with the Control4 home system plus Google Assistant, iComfort, Apple HomeKit and Alexa/Echo.
Here’s one cool feature: “HD Video Screen Savers automatically change to reflect current outdoor weather conditions. Available with iComfort S30 and E30 thermostats.”
Trane makes 4 smart thermostats, but we only recommend the ComfortLink II XL850. The others don’t get super-good user ratings, and our analysis agrees.
It works with Nexia Smart Home Automation, Google Home and Alexa devices, and can be controlled from anywhere using Android or iOS devices.
We would rank Trane third place of the three in smart thermostats. If you buy a Trane system, consider using a third party control like ecobee or nest or lux.
What about Humidity Control
There is one area in which Trane has a better feature: Summertime humidity control.
Trane ComfortLink thermostats have a humidity setting. The thermostat allows you to adjust the indoor humidity without changing the temperature. Drier air feels cooler and more comfortable. This is a climate control and energy efficiency feature.
Compressors – Quality and Performance
The compressor in the indoor unit is the heart of the system as it cycles refrigerant in a loop indoors to outdoors and back again.
All three brands use a mix of proprietary compressors and those made by third-party parts companies, namely Copeland.
Copeland scroll compressors are considered the finest available and are the compressor of choice for many brands including Rheem, Ruud and Amana/Goodman.
There are more differences in the variable capacity compressors. All made their own versions, and none are considered better than the others. They are all rated very good to excellent.
Carrier has used variable capacity compressors the longest of any major AC brand.
The technology is proven, and that’s why we rank Carrier #1 for variable capacity ACs.
It currently offers two units with variable capacity.
- Infinity 26 – Model 24VNA6: This unit’s compressor adjusts in 1% increments between 25% and 100% of capacity. SEER is 26.
- Infinity 19VS – Model 24VNA9: Called variable, the compressor in this AC is 5 stages from 25% to 100%.
Note: Carrier, in some literature, lists the Infinity 24 25VNA4, which is an earlier generation of the 24VNA6 with 24 SEER efficiency. Stocks of it might still be available in your area, if you’re interested. The Carrier AC unit brochure has useful comparison information.
Trane uses its proprietary Climatuff variable capacity compressor in these units. It is considered one of the best – and is made in partnership with Copeland exclusively for Trane.
Trane is a close second in variable capacity compressor technology.
- XV20i – This is a true variable compressor delivering 22 SEER efficiency. It adjusts in 1/10 of 1% increments from 25% to 100%, so as Trane says, it has 750 stages.
- XV18 – Same compressor as the XV20i with 750 stages. Efficiency is 18 SEER.
Lennox’s proprietary variable compressors are quite good, though we place them third in comparison. One problem is that there are frequent delays if a repair is needed – and they are very expensive.
- Signature Series SL28XCV – This is the most efficient central air conditioner available today with 28 SEER.
- Elite XC20 – Quite efficient at 20 SEER tops. It uses the same compressor as the SL28XCV.
- Elite EL18XCV – Same compressor; 18 SEER maximum.
Here’s a diagram showing how a Lennox (or any brand) variable compressor runs more evenly, with fewer ups and downs. The result is balanced temperature and better removal of humidity.
Coils – Who Makes the Best and Why It Matters
If your AC is going to break down or need early repair, the chances are high that it will be because a coil tubing or connections corrodes and leaks refrigerant. This often signals the end of the AC, though coils can be replaced if under warranty.
The point is that a good coil is very important for the durability of an air conditioning system.
How bad can it be? Lennox is one manufacturer that settled a class action lawsuit over bad coils. However, that was in 2015 prior to Lennox switching to their new coil design, which is much improved and does not have chronic leak issues.
York, Maytag and other common brands have suffered poor ratings over bad coils.
The two major types are all-aluminum, which means it has aluminum or aluminum alloy tubing and fins, and coils with copper tubing and aluminum fins.
Note the patina, which is OK, but also the start of corrosion on the coil with copper tubing on the right. There is no corrosion on the all-aluminum coil on the left after several years of use.
For more details: you can read our previous guide: Copper VS Aluminum Coils
The new Lennox Quantum coil uses a proprietary aluminum alloy that is far superior to the copper material previously used. Aluminum is non-corrosive
Signature Series and Elite Series ACs contain the Quantum coil. Merit Series air conditioners do not. Only the Merit Series XC141 has the Quantum coil.
This is another reason we and other professionals are skeptical about the Merit Series and why Lennox only backs it with a 5-year warranty.
Steer clear of Lennox Merit Series ACs.
The Carrier Corporation switched to aluminum alloy coils about a decade ago in Infinity and Performance Series ACs. Dependability is excellent. It’s unclear at this writing what coils are used in the Comfort Series, but we could find nothing to suggest they are inferior coils.
#2 (Tied) Trane
Trane’s famous Spine Fin all-aluminum coil is proven to be more resistant to corrosion than those made with copper and other materials.
The all-aluminum Spine Fin coil uses aluminum tubing welded to aluminum fins. Trane brand American Standard puts it this way, “Spine Fin consists of thousands of tiny fins bonded to continuous aluminum refrigerant tubing. The tiny fins create a greater surface area, helping it to more efficiently transfer more heat from your home.”
But it’s not all rosy with the spine fin design.
Professional HVAC contractor Steven Lavimoniere says the spine fins are much harder to clean than standard fins, so maintenance takes longer and costs the customer more money. The problem is that the spines are so fragile, you can’t use a brush on them. They must be sprayed with cleaning solution, which must be allowed to sit on the spines for 10-20 minutes before being rinsed away.
Pro technician L Gentz added this comment, “While it may take longer to clean a Trane Spine fin coil, most reputable HVAC companies will not charge extra.”
So, if you have a Trane or American Standard, ask companies if they charge more for maintenance before you schedule them to come out.
FAQ – What causes coil corrosion? Outdoors, the cause is constant exposure to the weather and airborne pollutants. Indoors, the causes are pollutants that enter the home from outdoors and VOCs found in building materials, paint, cleaners, etc. In coils made with copper tubing and aluminum fins, the different metals touching one another can cause galvanic reaction, which leads to corrosion.
The Problem with All-aluminum Coils
They are difficult to repair.
Mike Williams, an applications engineer with LRC Coil, “notes that the inability to repair an aluminum tube condensing coil in the field can be a big problem. You could have a leak in an aluminum-tubed coil and the average contractor cannot repair it. They don’t have a welding rig, and welding aluminum, particularly thin aluminum, is tricky. You can hit a brazing torch to a copper tube and you can fix it.”
Generally, replacement is the only option. But corrosion and leaks are less common, so you might not face the issue for 12-15 years, if at all.
Ratings Summary – Who is Better: Trane, Carrier or Lennox?
Trane vs Lennox vs Carrier
|Warranties||Carrier & Trane||Lennox|
|Coils||Lennox||Carrier & Trane|
Giving 3 points for first place, 2 for second and 3 for third, the total scores are:
Carrier: 18, Trane: 14, Lennox: 12
How to Get the Best Trane, Carrier or Lennox Air Conditioner Prices
Firstly, when you looking for the best deals for your AC, keep in mind that installation quality is always the most important thing for residential HVAC project.
- So never sacrifice contractor quality for lower price.
- Secondly, remember to look up the latest tax credit and rebates.
- Thirdly, ask for at least 3 bids before you make the decision. You can click here to get 3 free estimates from your local contractors, and this estimate already takes rebates and tax credit into consideration and filter unqualified contractors automatically.
Lastly, once you chose the right contractor, remember to use the tactics from this guide: Homeowners Tactics When Negotiating with HVAC Dealer to get the final best price.