The top ten central air conditioners on the market offer a range of efficiency ratings so that you can choose the model that is right for your climate and needs. In a hot and humid setting, a very high efficiency air conditioner will begin to pay for itself immediately through reduced electric bills. In a cooler climate, a less efficient model will be more cost-effective when the lower equipment price is considered. For vacation homes or those you plan to sell in the next few years, a quality, standard performance AC might make the most sense.
All of our choices for best central air conditioners are of the highest quality and they score very high in consumer and independent HVAC reviews. That is our primary criterion. We list them in order of efficiency to make it easier to find the one that suits your purposes. Here are the top ten central air conditioners in our overview.
1. Maytag M1200 Series 24.5 SEER Central Air Conditioner: 24.5 SEER. This is the most efficient model we’ve reviewed and we don’t know of a split system central air conditioner with a higher SEER rating. The key to its efficiency is the award-winning rotary compressor that offers 25% to 100% capacity, only delivering enough cooling to keep indoor temperatures comfortable with little fluctuation. There won’t be any cold spots or warm spots when this unit is installed. Maytag offers a 12-year warranty, better than most others.
2. American Standard Platinum ZM Allegiance 20 Central Air Conditioner: 20 SEER. This is the top of the line from one of the highest-rated manufacturers in the industry. This unit has 2 compressors and operates at half power most of the time. This enhances balanced cooling and improves removal of humidity from the air in your home. The Duration compressors are durable and proven. You can’t go wrong with Platinum Series model with the efficiency you need.
3. Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner: 20 SEER. Communicating technology protects the compressors and optimizes efficiency. This model is similar to the one above. It features 2 high-quality Climatuff compressors that offer gentler air conditioning but with enough power to quickly boost cooling and keep your home comfortable on the hottest days. It will cost a bit more but deliver much more.
4. Carrier Infinity Series Model 24ANA1 Central Air Conditioner: 21 SEER. Carrier’s best deserves a spot near the top. Staged cooling and high-quality component are the hallmark of this model.
5. Goodman 18 SEER R-410A Refrigerant – DSXC18 Central Air Conditioner: 18 SEER. This model uses the top-rated compressor in the industry, the Copeland UltraTech scroll compressor. It has the second-best warranty among the top ten air conditioners. If features a lifetime limited compressor warranty that provides for replacement of the condensing unit if it fails in the first 10 years.
6. Amana Model ASXC18 18 SEER Central Air Conditioner: 18 SEER. This AC is very similar to the Goodman listed above. It takes the warranty one step further. The compressor has a lifetime unit replacement warranty, giving you confidence from one of the industry’s top air conditioner brands.
7. Armstrong Model 418LE 18 SEER Central Air Conditioner: 18 SEER. Armstrong is a brand that sometimes gets overlooked but it scores well in air conditioner performance ratings. The Armstrong 418LE AC offers 2-stage cooling for maximized indoor comfort and should provide very good durability for many years.
8. Heil QuietComfort Model Number DX 1600 Central Air Conditioner: 16 SEER. This single-stage AC offers quality and affordability. That’s a combination that many homeowners are looking for. It will also reduce electric costs in most homes when it replaces an older central air conditioner.
9. American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 Central Air Conditioner: 16 SEER. The Platinum Series is one of the top lines in the industry, so placing two from the Series on our list of the top ten air conditioners should be no surprise. Two-stage cooling from a high-quality compressor is what you’ll get with this dynamic central air conditioner.
10. Ruud UAPM-JEZ Series Central Air Conditioner: 14.5 SEER. Ruud makes a range of central air conditioner models of the highest quality, giving you choices for good performance and durability no matter how efficient you need your AC to be. This unit is built to last and will provide 15-20 years of reliable service.
All of these central air conditioners use R-410A refrigerant, or a variant of it, that is less harmful to the environment. Most of these are also Energy Star products. If you choose a 2-stage air conditioner, you’ll get the best indoor performance if you match it with a variable-speed blower in the furnace or air handler. Whatever unit you choose, hire a qualified contractor to do the installation and you'll get the best performance and efficiency from it in the years ahead. If you don’t want to sort through all the options to find the best, this list of the top ten air conditioners available does it for you and is a good place to begin.