People choose super-efficient central air conditioners for one of two reasons or both:
- They live in a climate with hot or hot/humid weather from spring into fall, and cutting energy costs is a priority
- They are committed to using less energy and reducing carbon emissions
The most efficient central air conditioners of 2016 cost 20% to 100% more than less efficient units, depending on the SEER ratings of the air conditioners being compared.
In the warmest climates, the higher cost of an efficient AC is typically recovered in one to three years. For example, if you’ve got a 10 SEER unit (it would have to be 15+ years old) and replace it with a 20 SEER air conditioner, you’ll cut your cooling costs by 50%. Replacing a 13 SEER model with a 20 SEER air conditioner will reduce costs by 35%.
Note: SEER = Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, the rating of how efficient an air conditioner is over the course of an entire cooling season. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the unit is.
The 2016 Highest SEER Rated Central Air Conditioners
These units are the most efficient residential split system air conditioners currently available.
1. Dave Lennox XC25 Central Air Conditioner
This is a variable-capacity air conditioner which means it adjusts the rate at which the compressor circulates refrigerant. The lowest capacity is 40%; the highest is 100%. The adjustments are made in increments of less than 1% to create extremely precise cooling with little noticeable temperature fluctuation.
Variable-capacity ACs are also called modulating air conditioners, a different name for the technology. They run near their low capacity most of the time to create longer cycles that cool the air more gently and remove more humidity which makes your home feel more comfortable at higher temperatures.
The high SEER ratings for modulating air conditioners are the result of those longer cycles. A compressor cycling on and off frequently wastes a significant amount of energy and doesn’t create the same premium level of climate control.
- Dave Lennox XC25 SEER rating: Up to 26 SEER
2. Maytag PSA4BI iQ Drive Central Air Conditioner
This is a variable-capacity unit like the Lennox XC25. It’s protected by one of the better warranties in the industry – 12 years on all parts plus entire air conditioner replacement if the compressor fails in that period.
Maytag is a national brand. The same lineup is made by other Nortek Global brands that are national or regional including: Tappan, Westinghouse, Frigidaire, Broan and NuTone.
- Maytag PSA4BI SEER Rating: Up to 25.5 SEER
3. Daikin DX20VC & Amana AVXC20 Central Air Conditioners
Daikin recently bought Goodman which owned the Amana brand. These units are identical apart from the covers and badging, and they are variable-capacity air conditioners like the first two. The units are covered with 12-year parts and unit replacement warranties.
- Daikin DX20VC & Amana AX20VC SEER Rating: Up to 24.5 SEER
4. Trane XV20i & American Standard AccuComfort Platinum 20 Central Air Conditioners
Trane and American Standard are Ingersoll-Rand brands, and these units are identical beneath the covers. Like those on the list that are more efficient, these are variable-capacity air conditioners. The compressors modulate in 1/10th of 1% increments for extreme precision.
- Trane XV20i & American Standard Platinum 20 SEER rating: Up to 21 SEER
5. Armstrong Air 4SCU20LX and Air Ease 4SCU20LX Central Air Conditioners
These twin ACs are made by brands owned by Lennox. They feature modulating compressors like the Lennox XC25 and others. These units mark a significant step forward in efficiency for these brands.
- Armstrong Air & Air Ease 4SCU20LX SEER rating: Up to 20 SEER
6. Carrier Infinity 21 24ANBI & Bryant 180B Central Air Conditioners
These nearly-identical models from United Technology brands feature two-stage compressors. They run on low capacity, which is about 65% capacity, most of the time to create cooling cycles that are longer, more energy-efficient than single-stage cooling but not as efficient as variable-capacity cooling. These are the most efficient 2-stage ACs on the market.
- Carrier Infinity 21 & Bryant 180B SEER rating: Up to 21 SEER
7. Rheem Prestige RASL-JEC & Ruud Ultra UASL-JEC Central Air Conditioners
These are nearly identical air conditioners from two Paloma Brands companies. They are efficient two-stage ACs with the industry-leading Copeland scroll compressor.
- Rheem RASL-JEC & Ruud UASL-JEC SEER rating: Up to 19.5
8. Carrier Infinity 19VS 24VNA9 & Bryant Evolution 189BNV Central Air Conditioners
These are variable-capacity models. It’s odd for an HVAC company to have a two-stage model with higher SEER than a modulating model, but that’s the case with Carrier and Bryant.
- Carrier Infinity 19VS & Bryant 189BNV SEER rating: Up to 19 SEER
9. Heil QuietComfort Deluxe HCA9 Central Air Conditioner
Heil’s top model is a 19 SEER AC with two-stage performance. This unit by sister brands sold regionally include Comfortmaker, Arcoaire, Day & Night, Tempstar and Keep Right
10. 18 SEER Central Air Conditioners
There are quite a few two-stage central air conditioners with SEER ratings up to 18 SEER. A short list of the best models includes:
- York Affinity CZH, Luxaire Acclimate AL8B, Coleman Echelon AC8B & Champion AL8B (all Johnson Controls brands)
- Goodman DSXC18 & Amana ASXC18 (Daikin brands
Note on SEER ratings “up to”: Central air conditioners are made in sizes from either 1.5 ton or 2.0 ton capacity up to 5.0 ton capacity in increments of 0.5 or 1.0 tons. The sizes within any model will vary slightly in efficiency. When a unit is said to have a SEER rating up to 20, for example, it means that the most efficient size of that air conditioner achieves 20 SEER. The range in SEER ratings might vary by 1 SEER point or slightly more.
Proper Installation is Essential to High Efficiency
An air conditioner split system that isn’t installed properly won’t run as efficiently as it should, and it might be prone to mechanical failure. For this reason, some independent HVAC experts believe that installation is as import – if not MORE important – than the brand you buy.
Have a qualified contractor with good experience install your air conditioner, no matter what brand you purchase. The best way to find an experienced installer is to request estimates from several HVAC companies where you live. The simplest, most convenient way to get those estimates is to use our Free Estimates offer. Click the button, fill out the form, and you’ll receive written estimates from three of the top HVAC installers where you live. It’s free, and you’re not obligated to accept any of the estimates.