With a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of up to 19.5, the Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC (also sold as the Ruud Ultra UASL-JEC) is not the most efficient central air conditioner we've found. However, it does qualify for the Energy Star tax credit. It also offers good humidity control, fairly quiet operation and a 10-year conditional replacement guarantee. Sources also say that Rheem has a good reputation for reliability.
Efficient and fairly quiet. The Rheem Prestige Series, which includes the RASL-JEC, appears on a list of the most efficient central air conditioners to receive an Energy Star rating in 2013 -- but at first blush, it's not clear why. Its SEER reaches up to 19.5, which is high, but not as high as some models that don't make the list. However, based on the energy efficiency ratio (EER) this air conditioner looks a bit more impressive, with EERs ranging from 13.0 to 14.3.
High-SEER models that don't make the "most efficient" list typically don't disclose their EER, so their ratings may not be as impressive as the Rheem's. EnergyStar.gov estimates that, compared with an air conditioner that only meets minimum efficiency standards, a Rheem Prestige unit can save about 30 percent on a home cooling bill.
Another plus of the RASL-JEC is its good humidity control. Rheem says this model includes an "on-demand dehumidification feature," and it can also adjust airflow to control the humidity level automatically. Also, this unit is fairly quiet, with decibel ratings ranging from 67 to 74.
Price estimates vary widely. In general, makers of central air conditioners, including Rheem, don't make their prices public. However, we found estimated prices for the Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC at two different sites run by contractors. QualitySmith.com quotes a modest price of $1,800 for a 2-ton unit. However, WebHVAC.com gives much higher estimates, ranging from $2,879 to $3,959. The best way to get a precise estimate is to talk to a contractor. However, regardless of the cost, you can be confident that this unit will qualify for the $300 federal tax credit on new Energy Star-rated central air conditioners. Just make sure it's installed before the credit expires at the end of 2013. Also check with your local government and utility company to see if any additional rebates are available.
Good repair record. The editors of WebHVAC.com describe the Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC as "durable and very reliable." This opinion seems to be supported by a customer-satisfaction survey that asked more than 40,000 homeowners whether their central air conditioners needed any repairs over a five-year period. Only 12 percent of Rheem owners said yes, making it one of the more reliable brands.
However, we did find some complaints about durability in owner reviews at FurnaceCompare.com. Rheem comes in around the middle of the pack in terms of overall approval at this site, with 34 percent of users saying they would recommend it. We found reports from homeowners who say their Rheem air conditioners are still going strong after 20 years or more. Moreover, some reviewers suggest problems may be due to poor installation rather than a faulty product.
The Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC is backed up by a 10-year warranty on all parts, with labor and shipping costs not included. This is pretty standard, but Rheem also offers a conditional replacement guarantee. If the compressor fails at any point during the first 10 years, Rheem will replace the entire unit. That's a definite point in this air conditioner's favor.
The Rheem Prestige Series, which includes the RASL-JEC, makes the 2013 list of the most efficient central air conditioners rated by the Energy Star program. All products bearing the Energy Star label must meet Environmental Protection Agency energy efficiency standards while still delivering the features and performance that consumers demand, but the products on this list are more efficient. However, it's not completely clear why this air conditioner makes the list when its SEER of up to 19.5 is lower than the rating of some other models excluded from the list.
Review: Energy Star Most Efficient 2013 -- Central Air Conditioners and Air Source Heat Pumps, Editors of EnergyStar.gov, As of June 2013
WebHVAC.com is a site run by former HVAC contractors that "covers just about everything to do with HVAC equipment in your home, business, or environment." The site's editors award the Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC the seventh slot on their list of the 10 best central air conditioners, saying it offers "balanced temperatures and great humidity control." They also praise its durability and reliability, but they don't cite hands-on testing or consumer surveys as a basis for this endorsement.
Review: Top Rated Central Air Conditioners 2013, Editors of WebHVAC.com, As of June 2013
ConsumerReports.org does not test central air conditioners, but it does evaluate the reliability of different brands, including Rheem, based on a reader survey. In the latest survey, more than 40,000 readers who bought central air conditioning units between 2005 and mid-2011 reported whether they needed repairs. Of the 10 brands listed, most have repair frequencies between 11 and 13 percent. However, three brands perform significantly worse, with repair frequencies of 17 percent or higher.
Review: Central Air Conditioning Reliability, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2012
FurnaceCompare.com has the largest collection of owner reviews for central air conditioners on the web. The Rheem brand as a whole gets mixed feedback, with 34 percent recommending it. Most negative reviews focus on durability -- but so do some positive ones, with users saying their units are still going strong after 20 years or more.
Review: Consumer Reviews of Rheem Central Air Conditioners, Contributors to FurnaceCompare.com, As of June 2013
QualitySmith.com is a site that helps connect homeowners with reliable contractors. While the site does not review or evaluate air conditioners, it does provide information about pricing. However, the site's editors caution that the prices it lists do not come from the manufacturers; they're only estimates based on what contractors have recently reported paying. QualitySmith.com estimates the wholesale prices of the Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC (and its twin the RARL-JEC) at $1,800 for a 2-ton unit and $2,100 for a 3-ton unit. Prices for the larger 4- and 5-ton versions are not listed.
Review: Rheem Air Conditioner Prices: Costs, Pros, Cons, and More, Editors of QualitySmith.com, Not dated