Trane vs Carrier vs Lennox Air Conditioner Review 2018

If you’re researching the purchase of a new central air conditioner, then Trane, Carrier and Lennox are names you know well. They dominate the market for two reasons. There’s no doubt their huge marketing budgets play a role in their large market shares. Perhaps that sounds cynical. We don’t mean to be, but we do see our role as making the “big picture” clear to our readers.

The second reason for these brands’ success is that their equipment lines rank in the top half of all brands in quality, reliability, efficiency and features.

With that basis for comparison stated, this guide digs into the differences between these brands, so you’ll have an objective set of criteria for choosing one of them.

What do the Pros Say? Some of the best insight about these brands comes from technicians that install and work on them every day. When we research Lennox vs. Trane vs. Carrier, we look for opinions from contractors that install at least two of the brands; three is better. Most HVAC technicians repair all three, so their insight is helpful too.

We bring you real quotes from real contractors throughout this guide, because what “those in the field” say carries a lot of weight.

What Trane, Carrier and Lennox ACs Have in Common

Before we delineate differences, it’s worth noting how much Lennox, Carrier and Trane have in common.

  • All sell air conditioners in tiers that could be considered “basic, better and best.”
  • Top models have WiFi-connected, touchscreen thermostats available.
  • Most have compressor sound-reduction insulation.
  • Mid-range and top models have down-slanted / louvered cabinet vents on most models to protect the coil from yard hazards like a stone thrown by a lawnmower.
  • They use R-410A refrigerant, which Carrier calls Puron.
  • AC cabinets are finished in powder-coat, baked-on enamel for better resistance to corrosion.

Trane vs Carrier vs Lennox AC Differences

In this Trane vs Carrier vs Lennox AC review, we will discuss these three brands from 8 different aspects: Features, Coils and Compressor, Variable Performance, Efficiency, Warranty, Future Repair and finally, Price.

1. AC Efficiency

3 AC Efficiency SEER Level

Lennox is the leader here, as we’ve mentioned. The brand invests heavily in the development of efficient equipment – ACs and heat pumps, furnaces and Lennox SunSource PVC solar panels to power systems. Trane follows. Carrier once offered the most efficient AC and heat pumps, but now is third in this list.

Here are the three most efficient models from each brand:

 Brands & ModelsEfficiency
High End ModelLennox XC2526 SEER
Trane XV20i22 SEER
Carrier Infinity 2121 SEER
Mid Range ModelLennox XC2020 SEER
Trane XV1818 SEER
Carrier Infinity 1717 SEER
Low End ModelLennox XC1416 SEER
Trane XR1416 SEER
Carrier 24ABC616 SEER

The table shows that Lennox offers the most options for super-high efficiency, and the gap is quite significant. When homeowners are choosing eco-friendly equipment that also significantly reduces energy use, Lennox is ahead of the pack. And it’s not just Carrier and Trane; Lennox leads all brands of standard split system central air conditioners. You would have to choose to mini-split or geothermal systems to get higher SEER ratings.

Tip from a 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.”

Our recommendation is to have the contractor you select run tests on your home to determine if the insulation should be upgraded, air leaks are present that must be stopped and whether the ductwork is properly sized and sealed. When those issues are repaired, then the air conditioning and heating bills for your home will be lower every month whether or not you upgrade the AC.
Of course, If you live in hottest places (AC running for 3000+ hrs/year) and still want to upgrade the AC efficiency for long-term savings, Lennox performs a little bit better.

2. Features

Trane, Lennox and Carrier all sell basic units, those in the middle with a few features and feature-rich central air conditioners at the top of the line. Here are the notable features for each:

FeaturesTraneCarrierLennox
Humidity ControlComfort-RInfinity TouchClimate IQ
Variable FanYesYesYes
Smart ThermostatComfortLink IIInfinity, CôriComfort S30
WiFiTop modelsAll modelsTop models
Compatible withNexiaAlexa,
Côr Smart Home
Alexa
CommunicatingTop modelsTop modelsTop models
  • Humidity control: Removing excess humidity in warm weather allows a home to be comfortable at a higher temperature.
  • Variable fan: A variable fan in the AC condensing unit speeds up and slows down to match the output of its variable capacity. The main advantage is quieter operation at low capacities.
  • Smart thermostat: These thermostats allow you to monitor and control your HVAC system using an Android or iOS device and the app.
  • Smart home compatibility: These thermostats also integrate with a range of home automation systems and devices. Nexia allows you to control all smart home equipment from a single app. Cor is Carrier/United Technology’s home automation system that controls HVAC of any brand, home security and home safety using a hub, app, Cor thermostat and a range of sensors. Alexa is the operating platform for Amazon’s Echo.
  • Communicating technology: Communicating technology allows system components to share information, rather than information flowing one way from the thermostat to the components to turn on, what stage to run on, and to turn off. If you want a communicating AC, the entire system must be matched, meaning the top of the line AC, furnace (or heat pump and air handler) and thermostat. This usually means the replacement of the entire heating and air conditioning system.Before you choose Trane, Lennox, Carrier or any other brand communicating equipment, see our guide to Communicating vs. Non-communicating technology for pros, cons and our recommendation.

Conclusion For Features Comparison:
As you can see in above table, there’s no big difference among the 3 brands. Carrier offers WIFI function for all models instead of top models. If you are a big fan of the smart home system, you need to confirm wether your current home automation system is compatible with this AC Brand. Amazon’s Echo can not work with Trane’s Nexia.

3. Coils 

aluminium coil vs copper coil for ac

An HVAC system has two coils. One is located outside in the condensing unit. The other is inside in or attached to the furnace or air handler cabinet. Both coils have fins on them like a radiator to maximize surface area and heat transfer.

 TraneCarrierLennox
High and Mid Range ModelsAluminumStarted to Use Aluminum Since 2014Started to Use
Aluminum Since 2014
Some Low End ModelsAluminumCopper Coil +
Aluminum Fins
Copper Coil + Aluminum Fins
Fins TypeSpine FinsNormal FinsNormal Fins

Materials: Coils are made from all copper, all aluminum or a combination of copper tubing for the refrigerant and aluminum fins for heat transfer. Here’s what the pros think:

In comparing the two, HVAC professional Gary Edelman says, “The jury is out on aluminum coils. I’ve had a few leaks over the last 8 years or so since I’ve been using them but not a lot. How they are going to hold up long term like 15 or 20 years we’ll just have to wait & see. The jury is not out on copper coils. They all seem to leak no matter what brand & I would not install a residential unit with a copper coil.”

Aluminum is resistant to corrosion. An HVAC tech forum participant adds, “Aluminum coils have oxidation protection that copper does not have. Heat transfer is lower, but they increase the surface area to compensate. I have been a fan of aluminum coils for 30 years, never had any spontaneous leaks. The big issue with aluminum coils is, IF a leak occurs, repairs are nigh impossible.”

For more details: you can read our previous guide: Copper VS Aluminum Coils

Lennox and Carrier Coils are offered in two styles: Traditional copper tubing joined to aluminum fins and the new all-aluminum coil. Lennox calls its aluminum “Quantum”, however, there are not obvious feedbacks proving it’s better than Trane and Carrier’s.

Trane coils are available in copper/aluminum and all-aluminum units. The all-aluminum coils are used in the highest-efficiency models. One unique feature of Trane coils is their “spine fin” technology. The coils are fitted with tiny spines like bristles, though made of aluminum, rather than fins that look like a radiator. There are pros and cons.

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.

Another opinion on the Trane spine fin coil is offered by an HVAC pro in the Caribbean. He says, “Overall the Trane held up well in the salty environment especially the fins since they used what I call the porcupine coil.”

Our Recommendation:
As we have said, there is value in working with a company that installs more than one of these brands. Ask them about their experience with coil materials and what they recommend (and why) for your heating and air conditioning project.

4. Compressors 

Some of the biggest differences between Trane, Carrier and Lennox are in the components they build their systems with. This overview includes the pros and cons of the equipment each brand uses.

The compressor is the heart of any central air conditioner. It circulates refrigerant between the indoor coil where heat is picked up to cool the house and the outdoor coil where it is released.

TypeTraneCarrierLennox
Single StageTrane's ExclusiveCopeland'sCopeland's
Two Stages2 Single-stage Compressors1 Compressor with 2 Stages1 Compressor with 2 Stages
Variable StagesRange: 30%-100%
Speed: 700
Range: 25%-100%
Speed: 5
Range: 35%-100%
Speed: 6
*Speeds reflect the incremental changes in capacity as the compressor adjusts to the AC demand.

Carrier and Lennox use Copeland scroll compressors in single-stage and two-stage central air conditioners. Trane uses their exclusive Climatuff compressors which are actually made by Trane and Copeland together. Both compressors do their job and have very low failure rates.

Some 2-stage Trane ACs like the XL20i have two single-stage compressors instead of a single compressor that can operate at low and high capacity. This is generally considered a good thing because single-stage compressors are considered the most reliable/least likely to break down.

Trane’s Rotolock Fitting is not improper for the coastal area
The Trane’s units include the Rotolock fitting that allows for faster replacement times. There have been concerns about the Rotolock fittings corroding. An unidentified tech on an HVAC forum said, “I service a lot of systems for a condo complex on the Caribbean Sea, some condensing units are as close as 30 ft from the beach. Here’s my problem, the rotolock nuts are rusting out within 2 ¼ years. I replaced a compressor and rotolock nuts last week on another system and it seems the rotolock nuts are a cheap stamped out nut, whereas the old nuts from older Trane systems seemed to be a cast steel and a heavier metal.”

For Variable Compressors, we will compare the 3 brands in the below section: Variable-Capacity Performance

5. Variable-Capacity Performance

Compressor: Variable VS Two Stage VS Single Stage

There are only slight differences in the performance of these brands. Each makes single-stage, two-stage and variable-capacity models. The variable-capacity air conditioners are also called variable-speed or modulating. The industry is starting to borrow the term “inverter technology” too from mini-split technology.

 TraneCarrierLennox
Made byTraneCopelandLG
Speed700565
Range30%-100%25%-100%
35%-100%
Increments0.1%18.75%1%

Variable-capacity units change capacity or speed in small increments to precisely meet the cooling demand in your home.

  • The Carrier Infinity 19VS has 5 speeds from 25% to 100%. The 25% is the lowest and quietest. The 5 speeds are the least and represents a jump of 18.75% per speed.
  • The lowest capacity of the Trane XV20i is 30%, and Trane says it modulates in .1% increments and has 700 speeds. This offers the most balanced air conditioning.
  • The Lennox XC25 ranges from 35% to 100% and has 65 speeds. That means in changes capacity in 1% increments. Lennox variable-capacity compressor is made by LG and uses inverter technology. This compressor has an excellent track record.

Is the difference noticeable? A unit running at 25% capacity is 5-7 decibels quieter than one running at 35%, so you might notice a slight difference if you were near the outside unit. It’s doubtful it would make a difference to noise heard indoors with the windows closed. The differences in cooling precision and balance will be noticed by the most sensitive to temperature changes, but the average homeowner will be as happy with the Carrier Infinity model as the Trane or Lennox ACs, in our opinion based on consumer research.

Tip from contractors:
Is a variable-capacity AC worth the extra money? Contractors are asked that frequently. Miguel Rodriquez of P & K Air says, “A variable-capacity air conditioner is only worth the extra money if it is properly sized. If it is too small for the job, it will run at high capacity most of the time, and you’ll lose the benefit of its lower speeds, quieter cooling with better dehumidification. Before you choose a variable AC, be sure it is the right size for your home or it will waste your money.”

6. Warranties

There are significant differences in warranty coverage that might affect your long-term repair costs for the AC you buy. This table is your quick summary of warranties for Trane, Lennox and Carrier.

BrandModelsCompressorPartsLabor
CarrierAll*10 years10 yearsNone
TraneXV, XL12 years10 yearsNone
XR10 years10 yearsNone
LennoxSignature10 years10 yearsNone
Elite10 years5 yearsNone
Merit5 years5 yearsNone

*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.

If you are buying top of the line equipment, then the Trane 12-year compressor warranty stands out. For mid-level and basic air conditioners, then Carrier and Trane have better warranties than Lennox. In part, Lennox reduces the warranty to lower its risk, so that it can offer lower prices on base models. However, slightly lower quality accounts for some of the rationale for a 5-year parts warranty.

Should you buy an extended warranty? Extended warranty coverage is available from all three brands. If you buy a Lennox Elite with a 5-year parts warranty, you can extend that to 10 years. Labor coverage can only be purchased for the first 5 years for any brand. The terms of the plan and the original cost of the equipment determine its cost, but expect to pay $300 to $2,000 for extended warranty coverage.

Warning: These are third-party warranties, not provided or serviced by Trane, Lennox or Carrier.

Our advice is “Buyer beware” when it comes to third-party extended warranties. They make money when they don’t pay warranty claims. Many of them unscrupulously look for loopholes for denying coverage. Some contractors push the warranties for profit.

Most contractors don’t like extended warranties. Travis Smith, owner of Sky Heating in Oregon warns, “We are a Trane dealer and Trane used to run their warranty in house but stopped around 2012. They now use a third party warranty that is da** near worthless.” Kevin of O’Neil Mechanical explains why this is the case, “The Trane/American Standard extended warranties are a pain to file claims and do not always pay what they should.”

It is written into some extended warranty plans that you MUST have a maintenance plan, so your AC or entire HVAC system is cleaned and tuned every 12-18 months. In principle, this is a good idea. Many small issues can be caught and remedied before becoming major problems. However, failure to have the maintenance plan in place voids many extended warranties. So, you’ll spend money on the extended warranty AND must pay an annual maintenance fee.

7. Future Repairs

Repair: Trane VS Lennox VS Carrier

Very few Trane, Lennox and Carrier central air conditioners go 15-20 years without needing repair, whether minor or major. There are potential issues worth considering. Here’s a summary for each brand:

Carrier: Parts are widely available and reasonably priced. Carrier is the best brand to own if repairs are needed.

Trane: In some areas, Trane parts cost more. The issue seems to be that some supply houses that sell wholesale to HVAC companies only stock Trane OEM parts rather than generic parts that cost less. In short, repairs on a Trane AC might cost more. This is more likely in small towns and rural communities than in large metro areas.

Lennox: For years, HVAC contractors and unhappy homeowners complained about Lennox repairs. Lennox primarily requires Lennox parts for repairs. Most generics won’t work. Secondly, the Lennox supply chain was notoriously slow, so a repair that could be done same-day/next-day on another brand sometimes took a week or two on a Lennox. Here are a few quotes from contractors to show you what we mean:

  • “Lennox – Good products but lots of OEM parts installed on their equipment. Their parts accessibility is extremely poor in our area.”
  • “The Lennox systems are difficult to get parts for.”
  • “Lennox is Cadillac of Residential A/C (supposedly) but just like a Cadillac parts are hard to get and expensive.”

Starting in early 2015, Lennox began overhauling its supply chain for the 110,000 parts in its inventory. In June 2015, Lennox claimed, “Immediate fill rate is up 15 percent to 93 percent and 98 percent of demand can be delivered by the next morning (up from 35 percent in 2008).”

Some HVAC contractors aren’t so sure. In May 2016, Timothy Kautz said on the ASM blog, “Lennox Parts are Hard to Find – Whereas their competitors, including Trane, provide extensive logistics chains, Lennox is completely proprietary and does not. In fact, their supply chain is downright horrible.”

Our advice is to choose, as we’ve said twice already, a dealer that sells at least two of the brands. If Lennox is one of them, ask them if Lennox parts are easy to get. Now that you know the background, you’ll be able to evaluate whether the person is being honest with you or trying “to sell you something.”

8. Price Comparison

Like any other product, these HVAC manufacturers price-check the competition and seek to be competitive on cost. Lennox, Carrier and Trane sell most units only through their authorized dealers. You can’t shop prices at online wholesalers, for example. You must get estimates from local dealers that sell you the package of equipment and installation.

How do Lennox, Carrier and Trane compare on cost? It depends on who you talk to.

HVAC contractor Timothy Kautz of ASM in California believes 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.” We have more later about the supply chain issue Lennox is fighting.

In our experience, Lennox has slightly to moderately higher prices than the others. Part of this is the superior efficiency that Lennox offers in each tier. It sells the most efficient models in the three performance tiers: Variable-capacity (XC25 is 26 SEER), two-stage (XC21 is 21 SEER, tied with the Carrier Infinity 21) and single-stage (SL 18XC1 is 18.5 SEER).

How much more expensive is Lennox than Trane and Carrier?

It depends on what models you’re comparing. Lennox’s top models will be 10-20% higher. In the low and middle tiers, prices are sometimes higher, but can be lower too. Some of the price differential is determined by who you are getting estimates from:

1). Large HVAC contractors buy more equipment from manufacturers/distributors, so often get a volume discount that they use to beat the competition on price. It’s possible that a contractor like Kautz doesn’t get better deals on Lennox because he doesn’t buy enough of them.

2). HVAC contractors willing to sell just one brand of equipment often get better wholesale costs than non-exclusive sellers.

Our recommendations for getting the best prices on good equipment and proper installation:

  • First, get estimates from several contractors in your area that sell the equipment you’re interested in buying. Let them know they are competing for the job, but are willing to pay for installation done properly.
  • Secondly, choose contractors for your estimates that sell at least two of the brands. This makes a difference.
  • The lowest bid is often achieved by cutting corners on the job – perhaps even installing cheaper equipment than was promised in the estimate.
  • On the other end, the highest bid is usually from a busy contractor that doesn’t care whether it gets your business – but if it does, it’s going to maximize its profit unfairly.
  • So, in most cases, the middle price is usually the fair one.

What About Online Reviews?

Just a quick note here. We’ve relied heavily on reviews from HVAC pros in this post, because they have breadth of experience. We don’t pay much attention to online reviews from customers because they don’t tell the whole story. Let us explain:

  • The reviews on the Trane/Lennox/Carrier site are usually left soon after installation, so they are unreliably HIGH. Does it make sense to make a purchase decision based on a slew of reviews like, “We had our Trane AC installed last month, and we love it! 5 stars, yippee!”
  • The reviews left on “independent” sites are left when something goes wrong, so they are unreliably LOW. On average, people complain about a failed product far more than praising a mechanically sound product. The happy homeowners from the manufacturer websites generally don’t seek out independent review sites to say they recommend the product. Ticked off homeowners do.
  • Another concern is that many of the online reviews outdated. They were reviewing equipment that isn’t being sold any longer.

The truth is somewhere in between. The three brands came out about even in Consumer Report’s AC survey.

Choosing a Contractor

HVAC contractors agree that proper installation of a central AC or the entire system is more important in its efficiency, performance and durability than if it is a Trane, Lennox or Carrier. The bad installation will ruin even the top of the line from these brands.

Here is just one study that backs up this claim. It was done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and reported by NIST too. It says:

“The NIST research report is the first to quantify efficiency losses due to common installation errors documented in field surveys. Our measurements indicate that improper installation could increase household energy use for heating and cooling on the order of 30 percent over what it should be,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and refrigeration equipment. Commonly reported installation errors—or faults—include leaky ducts, improper refrigerant charge, oversizing of systems, and restricted air flow.”

We’ll say it one more time. Only get written estimates from local HVAC contractors that sell at least two of the three bands, Trane, Carrier and Lennox. If they offer all three, that’s better yet. Ideally, they should get the same wholesale deals from all three. If they sell them all, but get one of the brands at a lower wholesale cost, they might “push” that brand. A few simple questions will clear that up.

Remember that the low-cost estimate might be risky if it means that corners are being cut. If it is more than 15% below the others for comparable equipment, that is a red flag. On the high end, any estimate more than 15% above the others is probably unfair too.

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