The top performers in our review are the Dave Lennox Collection, the Gold Award winner; the Frigidaire IQ Drive, the Silver Award winner; and the American Standard Platinum ZV, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
If you are in the market for a central air conditioner, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Today's central air conditioning units are more effective, durable and environmentally friendly than ever before. The initial investment is admittedly steep, but if you like a cool and comfortable environment, a central air conditioner can help you enjoy your home even on record-busting hot summer days.
Another benefit of central air is that you don't need to tolerate the sometimes extreme differences in temperature you get with window air conditioning units in some rooms and virtually nothing in other living areas. If you and family members like varying degrees of coolness in different parts of your house, you might want to check our portable air conditioner site for efficient and affordable alternatives to a central unit
Many factors affect the efficiency of central air conditioners – the installation, existing ductwork, the size of your home and much more, but there are air conditioner units that are designed so smartly they do well in most settings.
The best central air conditioners help control humidity as well as heat, and they are much more environmentally friendly now than in the past. Read our central air conditioner reviews for details about each, and for more information, read our articles on central air units.
When looking for the best central air conditioners, we looked closely at energy efficiency since it affects your entire house, costs plenty initially and represents a substantial share of your energy bill each summer. Better energy efficiency means lower costs and a smaller carbon footprint.
Central air conditioning systems are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio, also known as SEER. The SEER number tells you how much energy is needed for cooling. We sought out units with the highest SEER numbers available. Many older models have a SEER rating of 5 or 6, but newer units now get into the 20s. In addition, we looked for Energy Star certification from the Department of Energy, a positive sign that can save you money over the life of your AC unit.
Many central air units now allow you to control your home's temperature remotely, which can also improve your unit's efficiency. Since you have the ability to adjust temperatures remotely, there is no harm done if you forget to turn off the air conditioning when you leave the house or if the weather suddenly turns colder.
If you live in a dry climate, you might want to consider swamp coolers, which cool air by adding moisture. This is the opposite of air conditioners, which cool air by removing moisture. Swamp coolers are generally less expensive, especially since they do not require installation of extra equipment. Most air conditioners require the installation of extra equipment or alter your current set-up.
However, there are a few drawbacks to swamp coolers. First, they are much less effective than central air conditioning when it comes to cooling your house, plus you need to check frequently to ensure the water supply is adequate. In addition, you also might not want a swamp cooler if someone in your family has asthma since these devices blow microbes from the outdoors into your home, which can be troublesome for asthma sufferers. Third, the added humidity can sometimes produce mold.
In addition to efficiency, we looked for HVAC systems that run quietly. Since these units are located outside your home, you want a product that will not bother you or your neighbors. AC units have a drastic range in noise levels, so look for one that makes sense for your surroundings. The quietest units in our lineup have a sound rating of less than 60 decibels, comparable to the sound of conversation in a restaurant.
We also sought out other features that help reduce noise, including well-designed fan blades, insulation for the compressor and pan base and variable speed settings for the fan.
Dimensions & Design
The best air conditioning systems are, by necessity, robust devices. Since they sit outside year-round, it is important to get one that can withstand all kinds of weather. The best AC units afford you easy access to the air filters, coils and other areas of the unit. We also looked for central air conditioners that are compact so they do not mar the attractiveness of your yard.
Warranties & Support
The best HVAC systems are made by reputable companies that back their products with good customer service. We liked manufacturers that provide clear and helpful information online as well as multiple ways to contact the company if problems arise. You also deserve a substantial warranty for the device's compressor and parts since you are paying for a major appliance that is intended to enhance the comfort and value of your home for years to come.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
We selected the best central air conditioner brands based on their energy efficiency, noise-control considerations, overall design and the warranties and manufacturer's support you can turn to if you encounter difficulties or need any help with this important home purchase.