Which brand of A/C is best? Check out our guide to the best HVAC brands!
It’s tough to say exactly which brand of air conditioner is best because there are several excellent brands and models on the market today, but fear not! Based on 2020 and 2021 reviews and consumer reports, we’ve assembled a helpful, at-a-glance guide to the best HVAC systems currently available for purchase. When you shop for a central air and heating unit, you’re making an investment that should last many years and contribute significantly to the value and comfort of your home. It’s important to consider various factors related to the purchase and weigh them according to their importance to you.
These factors include price, size, lifespan, warranty, efficiency, reliability and value because a cheaper unit may require more repairs over time. While our list is anything but comprehensive and shouldn’t be viewed as a ranking — we present the options in no particular order — we believe each of the brands profiled below offers a solid product (or series of products) worth your time and money. First, let’s go over a few of the factors for consideration before a purchase, then profile the best HVAC brands on the market as we see it. We’ll wrap up with a few more of those factors and our overall conclusions and recommendations for further reading on this complex subject, which can sometimes feel overwhelming. Happy reading, good luck on your search, and stay cool!
Size and efficiency
HVAC units are built and classified according to the size of the space they will heat or cool, not the size of the unit itself. It’s important to purchase the right-size unit for the home it will service. To measure efficiency, we predict the cost of operation, with higher ratings indicating a more efficient system with lower associated energy costs. These efficiency standards include:
- SEER: Measures efficiency as seasonal temperatures shift, with a rating from 13 to 26.
- EER: Measures electricity required to run at 95 degrees F outside while maintaining 80 degrees F inside.
- Energy Star: U.S. government-backed program that certifies appliances as efficient.
- HSPF: Measures heat output and energy consumption over regular heating seasons.
Of these efficiency standards, the one most widely used is the SEER measurement, so we’ll generally refer only to this measurement for our purposes.
Price and warranty
The cost of a new HVAC unit, including brand-certified but negotiable installation, typically costs between $3,500 and $7,500. Warranties vary but can save you considerable money over the system’s lifetime. The best warranties cover at least 10 years of service and parts, and sometimes they even transfer to a new homeowner, a helpful selling point if you move.
Life spans and features
A new HVAC unit should last between 12 and 15 years, though they can last significantly longer. Annual maintenance by a professional, combined with regular filter changes you can easily do yourself, can help extend an HVAC unit’s life span. Fancy features for additional comfort and convenience include built-in HEPA filters, quieting insulation, dehumidifiers, and separate cooling and heating zones with an included smart or programmable thermostat.
- History: Michigan manufacturer with affordable HVAC units made in the U.S. since 1934
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 14-25; 59-71 db; $3,900-$6,400 (installed)
- Warranty: One of the best in the business, plus limited lifetime compressor replacement
- Selection: Eight types available, including single- and variable-speed models
- Features: Quality, reliability, and ComfortBridge technology for increased efficiency
- Reputation: Great investment and coverage, except for parts; warranty not transferable
- History: In 1902, Willis Carrier invents the first modern A/C unit; in 1912, the Carrier brand was founded in Florida.
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 13-22; 49-72 db; $4,900-$7,300 (installed)
- Warranty: Comprehensive up to 10 years including parts; excellent customer service
- Selection: Wide selection of systems with both single- and two-stage models
- Features: Quietest on the market; skilled and certified installers; Copeland compressors
- Reputation: Reliable and affordable, with strict quality standards and few complaints
- History: Global company incorporated in Wisconsin in 1913 by James and Reuben Trane
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 14-22; 70 db; $3,300-$6,100 (installed)
- Warranty: Standard 10 years (plus parts and labor); 12-year compressor warranty
- Selection: Nine models, from compact to single-stage and variable capacity
- Features: TruComfort humidity reduction; superior, proprietary compressors and coils
- Reputation: Premium, top-quality, highly rated, sleek look, low cost of use, high price
- History: Previously known for its water-heater line, the brand expanded into HVAC in 1970.
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 13-23; 55-72 db; $3,200-$4,000 (installed)
- Warranty: Limited 10-year warranty on parts and compressors; requires timely registration
- Selection: Multistage and variable-speed units offered in three series
- Features: EcoNet enables programming and voice control via Amazon Alexa devices
- Reputation: Affordable, efficient and low-cost; durable if maintained; poor customer service
- History: Founded in the late 1800s, the company began with water heaters and was acquired by Rheem in 1960.
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 15-20.5; 54-76 db; $3,200-$3,900 (installed)
- Warranty: Fast response, but less comprehensive than more expensive brands
- Selection: Complete line of HVAC systems and heating and cooling products
- Features: Above-average SEER ratings and much lower purchase prices
- Reputation: Durable, reliable and affordable, with satisfied customers
- History: Founded in Iowa in 1895; now international and based in Texas
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 14-26; 41-76 db; $3,100-$7,400 (installed)
- Warranty: Five years on unit and parts; 10 years on select models
- Selection: 11 models with two-stage or variable-speed compressors
- Features: XC25 model features an industry-best 26 SEER rating with 41 db noise level
- Reputation: Reliable, extremely efficient and expensive, with a lesser warranty and unique parts
- History: Founded by Harold Goodman in 1954 in Houston, Texas
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 13-18; 72 db; $3,200-$4,300 (installed)
- Warranty: Five-year limited parts coverage; 10-year option available with conditions
- Selection: Full line of HVAC units, heat pumps, gas furnaces, packaged units and more
- Features: Smart-home device compatibility; designed, engineered and assembled in the U.S.
- Reputation: Lower price range, but still reliable and built with quality to add value
- History: Formed in 1929 as the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 13-22; 70 db; $3,500-$6,500 (installed)
- Warranty: Options from five, 10 and 20 years; base, limited and registered; transferable
- Selection: Full line of HVAC units and systems, including split systems and packages
- Features: Mobile app, air-quality controls, zoning and award-winning customer service
- Reputation: Expensive but high value, superior service, reliable and low maintenance costs
- History: Founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1929 by a former Sears supplier
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 14-19; 70 db; $3,600-$4,500 (installed)
- Warranty: 10 years, comprehensive, with a “No Hassle Replacement” limited warranty
- Selection: Wide selection of central HVAC and heat-pump systems, and gas and oil furnaces
- Features: Component info exchange for synchronization; rigid press joint heat exchange
- Reputation: Highly efficient, reliable and durable; low price point
- History: Founded by Charles Bryant in 1904, and acquired by Carrier in 1999
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 13-20.5; 51-70-plus db; $3,300-$5,500 (installed)
- Warranty: 10-year standard-parts limited warranty if registered within 90 days, plus labor options
- Selection: Wide-ranging, including HVAC units, heat pumps, gas furnaces and more
- Features: Smart and programmable thermostats, ductless and geothermal systems, and more
- Reputation: Fast, easy installation; durability; Carrier parts at a lower price
- History: Founded in York, Pennsylvania; acquired by Johnson Controls in 2005
- SEER rating, sound range and price: 13-20; 64 db; $3,100-$5,200 (installed)
- Warranty: Industry-leading, unrivaled standard warranty; lifetime compressor on some models
- Selection: Extensive line of heating and cooling systems, indoor air-quality devices and thermostats
- Features: Legacy of innovation; focus and investment on quality commercial lines
- Reputation: Low price, low maintenance, low noise factor, high quality
Reliability and value
As you can see, when it comes to making an important decision like what brand of HVAC system to purchase and install for your home, there are plenty of factors to consider, alongside many viable options and several good brands. Determining which brand of air conditioner is best is never as simple as it sounds. Choosing any of the brands we’ve profiled above should put you in an excellent position to have quality home heating and cooling for years to come.
Again, you’ll want to keep your eye on the long-term investment when you make your decision because an HVAC unit should last at least a decade. This realization puts reliability and value into sharper focus. If you constantly spend money on repairs and maintenance, soon that lower upfront sticker price (and maybe the cheaper installation by technicians who were not necessarily certified to install your particular brand) won’t seem like much of a discount. As with most purchases, there’s truth to that old saying about getting what you pay for. If you can afford it, sometimes spending more upfront makes better sense in the long term.
Luckily, if learning more about HVAC systems interests you, we have some excellent additional posts. One is the cost of a central air conditioner. If you’re handy with a wrench and want to look into DIY air conditioning repair, we have some suggestions for that too, including three ways to take care of your air conditioner. To learn more about the durability and longevity of your HVAC system versus others on the market, read about how long your air conditioner should last. If you’d like to dig into more details on warranty coverage for HVAC systems, read our post on whether home warranties cover AC systems.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.