The best central air conditioners for 2019 make the list because of their proven performance and durability.
They aren’t necessarily the most efficient (see our Most Efficient ACs for 2019 Guide). That’s why we make a recommendation for the best climate and use for each model.
2019 Best Central Air Conditioners
- Trane XR16 Central Air Conditioner
- Armstrong Air 4SCU16LE Central Air Conditioner
- Day & Night N4A6 Performance 16 Central Air Conditioner
- Rheem Classic Series RA13 Central Air Conditioner
- Lennox Elite Series XC16 Central Air Conditioner
- Daikin DX18TC Central Air Conditioner
- Heil HCA7 QuietComfort Deluxe 17 Central Air Conditioner
- American Standard Gold 17 Central Air Conditioner
- Carrier 24VNAO Infinity 20 Central Air Conditioner
The list is divided into three categories: Single-stage, two-stage and variable-capacity central air conditioners.
Variable-capacity air conditioners are also called modulating or variable-speed models. We did not include any last year because they are newer AC types and there’s not a large amount of data available.
If you’re interested in variable-capacity central air conditioners, they dominate our 2019 Most Energy Efficient central AC list/guide.
Here’s a closer look at the best central air conditioners for 2019.
2019 Best Single Stage Air Conditioners
Single-stage models are more affordable than two-stage and variable-capacity ACs. Some are very efficient – even Energy Star qualified. They’re simpler design means they break less and don’t cost as much to repair when the compressor fails.
The downside is that single-stage air conditioners tend to produce slight temperature fluctuations. Many homeowners don’t notice them.
This is a high-efficiency, dependable Trane central AC. It’s been available for a decade or more, so the data is clear: you can rely on it for 15-20 years of service when properly maintained and occasionally repaired.
The Trane XR16 is also available in an American Standard version, though possibly at a higher cost. Trane and American Standard are Ingersoll-Rand brands.
- Efficiency: Up to 17 SEER, up to 14 EER, Energy Star
- Features: Single-stage compressor, Trane’s unique spine fin coil that transfers heat more quickly.
- Warranty: 10 years on compressor and parts
- Pros: The most energy efficient single-stage AC made by Trane. Louvered sides offer better protection of the coil.
- Cons: Might produce swings in temperature of 2-3 degrees. Doesn’t dehumidify as well as a two-stage unit. Trane is a premium brand and costs more than most others.
- Cost level: $$$
- Best suited to: Warm to hot climates, but not extremely humid climates. If you want high efficiency but prefer a lower cost than two-stage or variable-speed ACs, this is an ideal choice.
Armstrong Air 4SCU16LE
You might not hear a lot about Armstrong Air or its identical sister brand Air Ease, but HVAC technicians are impressed with the quality and reliability they offer.
The Armstrong Air 4SCU16LE is a 16 SEER, single-stage model with a specially designed fan shroud that directs air evenly over the coil for faster cooling.
- Efficiency: Up to 16 SEER and 13.5 EER, Energy Star
- Features: The fan shroud with advanced design, single-stage compressor and compressor blanket for noise suppression.
- Warranty: 10 years on all parts and the indoor coil.
- Pros: Excellent value – you get a solid performer with good efficiency at a reasonable cost.
- Cons: Despite the heavy sound blanket – a nice feature when your AC is near the deck or patio – this unit is still louder than some comparable models.
- Cost level: $$
- Best suited to: Warm climates with low to moderate humidity.
Day & Night N4A6 Performance 16
Day & Night is a favorite brand of ours because it offers the same quality as Carrier at a much lower cost.
That probably raises eyebrows, since Carrier is a premium brand. Carrier is a United Technology Corporation brand, as is Bryant. UTC also owns International Comfort Products, the maker of Day & Night, Heil, Comfortmaker and others.
In short, much of the same technology and parts used in Carrier products are also part of the ICP brands including the Day & Night ACs like the N4A6 Performance 16.
- Efficiency: Up to 17 SEER and 13 EER, Energy Star
- Features: Basic wire grill, single-stage compressor and fan motor.
- Warranty: 10 years on all parts.
- Pros: Excellent value – the combination of quality and lower cost.
- Cons: Possible temperature swings caused by the single-stage compressor.
- Cost level: $$
- Best suited to: Warm climates in the West and Southwest. Because of its lower cost, this unit is also often used in vacation homes, guest apartments and other part-time locations.
Rheem Classic Series RA13
Rheem is increasing the efficiency levels of all its central air conditioners, and this unit now offers 15.5 SEER. It’s a dependable and cost-effective single-stage Rheem AC.
Rheem and Ruud are identical brands owned by Pomona Industries. If you like this AC but don’t have a Rheem dealer in your area, the Rheem RA13 is available in a Ruud version.
- Efficiency: Up to 15.5 SEER and 13 EER, Energy Star
- Features: Single-stage cooling, available in 20+ models from 18,000 to 60,000 BTUs, composite base pan reduces vibration noise.
- Warranty: 10 years on all parts
- Pros: Affordable with good quality.
- Cons: Doesn’t remove as much humidity as two-stage ACs. Might cause slight temperature swings.
- Cost level: $$
- Best suited to: Moderate and cool climates. Also a good choice for part-time or supplemental cooling. For example, if you live in a hot climate, an AC with 17+ SEER is recommended for the main central AC. However, in those climates, the upstairs of a home sometimes remains warm. A unit like this one dedicated to the upper story is ideal.
2019 Best Two Stage Air Conditioners
Air conditioners with a two-stage compressor run at low speed or high speed depending on cooling demands. Low cooling, usually 65% to 70% of capacity, maintains even cooling once your home is at the desired temperature.
The high cooling stage, 100% of capacity, runs when you turn down the thermostat several degrees or when outside temperatures are very warm and rising.
Two-stage ACs cost more than single-stage models, but the advantage is better climate control – more even temperatures and better dehumidification.
Here are the four best two-stage central air conditioners for 2019.
Note: All the models in this list are certified Energy Star air conditioners.
Lennox Elite Series XC16
Lennox is the industry leader for energy efficiency. The Elite Series XC16 is a 17.2 SEER AC that reduces humidity levels to keep your home cool and dry, the two keys to indoor comfort.
- Efficiency: Up to 17.2 SEER and 13.5 EER
- Features: 2-stage scroll compressor made by Copeland, the industry leader in compressor technology, louvered sides protecting the coil.
- Warranty: 10 years on the compressor; 5 years on all other parts.
- Pros: Excellent climate control and good energy efficiency.
- Cons: The 5-year parts warranty is shorter than most. Lennox ACs and repair parts can be more expensive than those from other brands.
- Cost level: $$$$
- Best suited to: Warm to hot climates including those in the South and Southeast with high humidity.
Daikin bought Goodman and Amana brands in 2012 and first simply put a Daikin plate on Goodman equipment. The company has been improving the entire product lineup since then.
The Daikin D18TC is a highly efficient two-stage central air conditioner.h
- Efficiency: Up to 19 SEER and 14 EER, it is among the most efficient two-stage ACs available.
- Features: Copeland two-stage compressor, Copeland diagnostics, ECM high-efficiency fan motor.
- Warranty: 12 years on all parts.
- Pros: Excellent efficiency and dehumidification. Compatible with wireless/wi-fi thermostats. Excellent warranty.
- Cons: A little pricey, though it costs less than the Lennox Elite XC16 above.
- Cost level: $$$$
- Best suited to: Warm to hot climates including those with high humidity. Units at this price probably aren’t a cost-effective choice in cool climates where AC isn’t used daily.
Heil HCA7 QuietComfort Deluxe 17
Heil is an International Comfort Products (ICP) brand, so this unit is available as a Day & Night, Comfortmaker, Tempstar, Keeprite and others.
The Heil HCA7 includes an industry-best 10-year No Hassle replacement policy. If the condensing coil or compressor fail in the first decade, Heil will replace the entire outdoor unit.
- Efficiency: Up to 17 SEER and 13 EER
- Features: Two-speed fan runs on low when the compressor is on low to reduce noise output. Wi-fi enabled for remote monitoring and control.
- Warranty: 10 years on all parts plus the 10-year replacement warranty.
- Pros: Good efficiency and climate control. One of the best warranties in the industry.
- Cons: Wire jacket isn’t quite as protective as a louvered jacket.
- Cost level: $$$-$$$$
- Best suited to: Warm, humid climates, though not the hottest regions.
American Standard Gold 17
The Gold 17 AC was on the 2018 list too. It is hard-working and dependable and delivers good climate control too.
- Efficiency: Up to 18 SEER and 13.5 EER
- Features: Two-stage cooling, all-aluminum spine fin coil, single-speed fan motor.
- Warranty: 12 years on the compressor and 10 years on all other parts.
- Pros: Good warranty, proven reliability, good indoor temperature and humidity control.
- Cons: American Standard is considered a premium brand, so cost is higher than for many other two-stage central air conditioners.
- Cost level: $$$$
- Best suited to: Warm, humid climates.
2019 Best Variable-capacity Central Air Conditioners
As noted, there is a lack of dependability data on most variable-capacity central air conditioners. There’s only one we can heartily recommend this year.
Variable-capacity, or modulating, compressors change speeds in small increments from about 35% of capacity to 100%. The result is outstanding efficiency and premium climate control.
Carrier 24VNAO Infinity 20
Carrier was the first to produce split system central air conditioners with variable-capacity compressors. This Carrier technology, which it calls Greenspeed Intelligence, has been available in heat pumps for almost 10 years. Now it’s offered in a central AC.
This video is an introduction to the variable-capacity 24VNAO.
- Efficiency: Up to 20.5 SEER and 15.5 EER
- Features: Variable-capacity cooling, quiet operation.
- Warranty: 10 years on parts, a 3-year labor warranty – one of the few labor warranties in the industry.
- Pros: Excellent control of temperature and humidity, efficient cooling and lower energy use/bills, quiet operation.
- Cons: Costly equipment and repairs.
- Cost level: $$$$$
- Best suited to: Very warm and hot, humid climates, especially where the cooling season is very long. This is not a cost-effective AC for moderate and cool climates.
Choosing your Central AC
Climate is a major factor. The warmer and more humid your climate is, the better ROI you’ll get from a very efficient two-stage or modulating AC.
If you want green cooling, then consider the most efficient unit that’s in the budget.
Also, consider who will install your central AC. Not all installers are the same. Choose one with a proven track record of quality work and good customer service, a company that will stand behind the AC it installs.
If you’d like free, no-obligation estimates from pre-screened, experienced installers in your area, we can help. Use our Free Estimate service, and top AC installers will be in touch. They can answer your questions, give you AC options and help you select the right model for your home.