What every best Central Air Conditioners has:
- High efficiency.
- Good value.
- A solid warranty.
Consumer Reports does not test central air conditioners, but it does evaluate the reliability of different brands, including American Standard, Bryant, Trane Lennox, Carrier and others. In the most recent survey, more than 14,000 readers who bought central air conditioning units between 2009 and 2016 reported on whether the units needed repairs by the fifth year of ownership. While you need to be a Consumer Reports member to see the full results, this free article notes that the survey found that "no brand stood out as being the most reliable," but does name some that rated as less reliable.
This report names the most efficient central air conditioners and air source heat pumps for 2018. The list includes conventional central air systems, heat pumps, and ductless mini-split system. This is a terrific resource if the lowest ongoing energy costs are your primary concern, but other aspects, such as reliability, maintenance and initial cost, are not considered.
WebHVAC.com is a site run by a group of former HVAC contractors that "covers just about everything to do with HVAC equipment in your home, business, or environment." Here, the editors name the five best central air conditioners priced under $2,000 for 2017 (the list had not yet been updated for 2018 at the time this report was created). Each short write up includes some brief information on the brand and model, including energy efficiency and warranty, but performance and reliability are not evaluated, and there's no mention of hands-on testing or user surveys.
Furnace Compare has the largest independent collection of owner reviews of central air conditioners that we spotted on the web. This list names the 10 best models for 2018 based on editors' impressions plus collected user feedback. Elsewhere on the site, other information, such as how to properly size your central air conditioner for your home, can be helpful, too.
Bill Brown, an Ohio-based HVAC contractor, explains that despite the number of brands of central air conditioners available, most are made by "about six" equipment manufacturers. He adds that at the top end, differences can be small and that the biggest factor in getting the best central air conditioner is choosing the best installer. He says that one reason that certain brands such as Lennox, Trane and Carrier rise to the top in perceived quality.
Smarter House is run by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency. Its website has a wealth of information relating to energy-efficient appliances and government tax incentive programs. This page provides advice on how to reduce your need for air conditioning, while page links lead to information on how to find a good contractor, choose a new air conditioning system and keep your air conditioner running efficiently. However, specific brands or models of central air conditioner are not evaluated or compared.
This busy online community of homeowners and HVAC professionals has lots of information about central air conditioning systems. Particularly helpful is an Ask Our Professionals (AOP) forum where homeowners can as questions about their HVAC equipment and receive answers only from recognized industry professionals that are members of the site, which helps cut down on the clutter and less helpful tangents that often crop up in similar communities.
A California HVAC contractor shares his take on the top central air conditioner brands, and offers some general tips. Brands are ranked based factors such as reliability, customer service, features and costs. Timothy Kautz clearly has some preferences between brands, but adds that the most systems are actually very comparable and that the biggest factor in satisfaction will come down to the contractor you hire to install it.
A husband and wife team of HVAC contractors share their expertise here regarding the best central air conditioner brands. Seven top brands, and two honorable mentions are named, but this list of top choices has not been updated in a couple of years. Elsewhere on the site you can find more in-depth reviews including more detailed pros and cons of many major brands.
This U.S. Department of Energy guide explains how central air conditioning works, how to select a new air conditioning system for your home and how to ensure proper installation. Links at the bottom lead to separate articles about maintaining your air conditioner and troubleshooting common problems. It's a very reasonable starting point for learning about technology and buying considerations, but it has no information about brands and no comparative guidance.
This guide from a California utility company advises consumers on how to choose the right central air conditioner and make sure it is properly installed. Topics include selecting a contractor, sizing your AC system to fit your home, energy efficiency ratings for air conditioners, and complying with state and local building codes. The guide does not discuss air conditioner brands or models.