One of the most common questions I get
as an HVAC contractor in Sacramento is, “Which AC systems are the best?” I see a ton
of articles online about this topic – many that someone who’s not even in the HVAC
industry wrote! Some compensated blog writer wrote it or gave you a list of top-rated
systems. Systems they’ve never even touched. These bloggers are telling people that
nationally recognized economy line systems are better than the systems
that are truly going to last you a long time.
THE BEST BRANDS: Short and sweet, three companies have the best
reputation over several decades of manufacturing, in no particular order, they are:
• Trane • Carrier
• Lennox Now, when I say Trane, I also mean American
And when I say Carrier, I also mean Bryant. Lennox is Lennox. But, American
Standard systems are made in the same factories, on the same production lines as Trane systems.
Bryant is made in the same factories, on the same assembly lines as Carrier. The difference? The
tag on the side of the unit. American Standard does have a different shell around the sides
of the outdoor AC unit, but that’s it. I know this because I toured the factory where they make
them. I’ve seen the process. (And it’s very cool!) So, the same high voltage contactor that’s in a
Carrier is in a Bryant air conditioner.
The same inducer motor on a Carrier is in a Bryant furnace.
But isn’t Carrier more expensive than Bryant? And isn’t Trane more expensive than American
Standard? Until now, I noticed that Bryant was a little cheaper, although they were engineered
exactly the same. But now, in 2021, I see a very marginal price difference—the same with American
Standard and Trane. Lennox systems are priced right along with these brands as well. So if you
get different prices from contractors giving you bids, it’s because of that contractor’s overhead
or desired profit margins. Not because one is more expensive than the other to the contractor.
Knowing this the list really looks like this, in no particular order:
• Trane (or American Standard) • Carrier (or Bryant)
• Lennox We sell Trane as our premium line and
Coleman or Payne as our economy line. But my goal here is to try to stay as neutral as
possible here so you don’t feel like I’m trying to sway you one way or the other.
You’ll hear me talk
about some brands being better than others, and I mean no offense to anyone or any manufacturer.
But you’ve got to take this sort of advice from someone who’s installed all
of them at one point or another and serviced the equipment out in the field.
Before I list the rest of the systems, I want to mention air conditioning systems come
fully assembled at the factory and are ready to work. However, it takes experienced technicians
to modify the unit per the manufacturer’s instructions to conform to your specific home’s
demands. The last steps of installing it “in the field” and adding whatever additional parts to
bring it up to proper building code in your area is up to the contractor you choose.
That’s an important point because buying a Trane, Carrier, or Lennox includes buying it from a
professional, detail-oriented, reliable contractor https://www.foxfamilyhvac.com/air-conditioner-replacement/
that you trust and are comfortable with bringing it to life.
If someone is going
to install it for you, but you can’t find them after the install because they sell
systems so cheap they’re out of business, or they simply won’t pick up the phone, that’s not
going to help you when you need some follow-up. You can buy any system, but if the blower
settings, gas pressures, static air pressures, high and low voltage wiring, fuse sizes, a
precision refrigerant charge, and airflow, water drainage, gas piping, intake air, exhaust
system, thermostats, and other safety codes aren’t set up correctly, you’ll find your new system
not lasting nearly as long as it could have. It can be the difference of your system
lasting ten years or lasting 20 years. Other brand names in the field would be
considered middle-of-the-road type systems. These names, in no particular order, include:
• Rheem (or sister brand Ruud) • Amana
• Day & Night • Heil
• Bosch Why are they mid-tier systems? As a technician, I
seem to repair these systems more than the premium names.
The repair parts are available just
like others, and the warranties are just as strong. That’s never been a problem for me. But,
it’s a fact that they break down at some of the most inopportune times. So just keep that in mind.
Even more brands perennially end up at the bottom of these lists. In no particular order they are:
• Goodman • Daikin
• Payne • Coleman
• Tempstar • RunTru
• York These have the most challenging time
breaking the stigma attached to them. They carry this stigma because they are the brands
installed on newly built homes in middle America. HVAC contractors will only win their bid to get
a large job like a new pre-planned community if they have the lowest bid. So, they have to use the
cheapest equipment they can get their hands on. You can find most of these cheaper systems
online. They sell to whoever will buy them. And, you’ll see the most cheapest contractors, home
flippers, and DIY’ers buying this equipment and trying to install them themselves. This comes back
around to it mattering WHO installs your equipment and not entirely about WHAT equipment you buy.
If the brand you were thinking of isn’t on this list, it could be that here we are
talking about your typical unitary or ducted split systems and package units.
Names like Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Gree, Midea, and others make ductless mini-split systems.
We’ll talk about those in another discussion. All of the mid-tier and higher brands typically
have three levels of systems they offer. • (Entry-level) A single-stage
heating and cooling option • (High quality) A two-stage option
• (Most efficient) A variable speed option The single-stage option has the
simplest form of technology, is the lowest in price but the lowest in
While they are UL Listed and safe to put in any home, lower-end models have more
vulnerabilities than higher-end equipment. I can’t really say whether a Trane, Carrier or
Lennox entry-level system is better than the other. The technology is the same. Heck, the
compressors, which are the heart of the air conditioner, are virtually the same. I can
say, for my home, I would feel a lot better installing one of these three instead of the
mid-tier or lower levels. It’s not because I’m an elitist or anything. The elite products are
the higher-end technology variable speed systems. Almost every part of these single-stage
systems can be repaired with universal parts. Meaning you don’t necessarily have to go
through the distributor to get the replacement part. Single-stage motors, compressors,
control boards, pressure switches, and gas valves are everywhere and readily available. Very
likely even on your technician’s van right now. Two-stage systems have better technology.
run more efficiently and control the temperature in your house without fluctuating as much. The
main feature of a two-stage system is that they all typically run at around 70% capacity in the
first stage and 100% capacity in the second stage. These systems will run the majority
of the time in the first stage, which is where you start seeing the money savings. Two-stage systems are great for two-story
homes that have two thermostats or zoning https://www.foxfamilyhvac.com/thats-not-how-zoning-works/.
These systems can be set up to run in the first stage when only one floor is calling
for air. The second stage will only come on when both zones are calling for air.
This is how I have it set up in my house. I’ll stay with my single stage theme
when I say I couldn’t pick which one is best out of the three premium names. Trane,
Carrier, and Lennox are battle-tested and have been for decades in this technology. I tell
people when it comes to a salesman saying, “oh, but our system is an 18 SEER, not 16 or 17
like the other brand.” I tell my customers not to get too caught up in SEER ratings and focus on
Any two-stage system is going to outperform a single-stage system. The minuscule
savings you’ll receive by going with an 18 SEER two-stage over a 17 SEER two-stage is trivial.
Two-stage motors and compressors will have to be ordered from the warehouse near your town
that distributes your brand of equipment. There aren’t a lot of universal parts available
for two-stage systems. Capacitors, contactors, and some other parts are universal. But with
higher-end equipment, you see safety components like special pressure switches to protect the
furnace or air conditioner from damaging itself. These parts have to come from the factory.
With Trane, Carrier, Lennox all the way “down to” Goodman and York, I’ve never really had a hard
time getting these replacement parts. At the most, we’ve had to wait for 5 to 10 business days for
the part to come directly from the manufacturer. There are always exceptions to this, but,
honestly, it would be the same for any brand. When you start dipping into the most efficient
tier of equipment, the variable speed systems, you’ll start seeing some noticeable differences.
As a Trane dealer, it’s hard for me to say this, sweet variable speed system.
have the first variable speed package unit Remember how two-stage systems have a 70% and
100% capacity? These are the most expensive units, with technology that is less bulletproof than
two-stage technology. But, if you’re a techy or just like the premium life, variable speed stands
out because of the comfort levels it can produce. Variable speed systems can adjust their capacity
levels from about 25% to 100% in less than 1% intervals at a time. They maintain even
lower temperature swings in the house. These systems can keep your home to within a
half degree of the temperature you want it. These are the quietest systems too. Because
they typically run at a slower speed, they require less energy and create
less noise with less vibration. are communicating systems, and ultra-quiet.
Lennox and Carrier variable speed systems work with the Amazon Alexa app. Trane doesn’t have that
feature as it only works with its Nexia platform. When it comes time to repair these variable
speed systems, only their proprietary parts will work. With such intricate technology comes
priciness and a higher learning curve for who can actually make the repair for you. Trane,
Lennox, Carrier, and other brands with variable speed lines will usually only make these parts
available to respected dealers of those brands. The skill it takes to handle
inverter-type systems is next level. When it comes to deciding which AC systems are
the best, you have three systems perennially at the top of the list.
Trane, Carrier, and
Lennox. While each of their single-stage and two-stage systems pretty much have the same
capabilities, efficiencies, and life spans, it’s the higher-tier variable speed systems
where you’ll start seeing the differences. Lennox has pulled away from the field by
offering 28 SEER variable speed systems. When you start looking for a vehicle, you
pretty much have a brand name in mind. You might get a higher or lower-end
model with fewer bells and whistles, but maybe you’ve always felt comfortable
driving a GMC truck over a Toyota truck. Let me know what you think about this in
the comments below? I see a ton of articles online about this topic – many that someone
who isn’t even in the HVAC industry wrote. Some paid blog writer wrote it.
You’ve got to
take it from someone who actually installs them and services the equipment out in the field.
If this is your first time watching our videos, please click subscribe down here on the
bottom right, and if you click that little bell next to it, you’ll be notified
of all our videos as they come out. Thanks so much for watching, and
we’ll see you on the next video..