Pure efficiency, that’s what this post is about. Here are the highest SEER central air conditioners in three groups – variable capacity, two-stage (2-stage) and one-stage (1-stage or single-stage).
How Efficient Should My AC Be?
Which is right for you? The hotter your climate, and/or the more humid it is, the more efficient your AC should be in order to keep your energy costs low.
Also, if the cost/climate equation isn’t as important to you as premium indoor comfort, then go with a variable capacity air conditioner or 2-stage air conditioner based on your budget.
2020 Highest SEER ACs
The Highest SEER Rated Central Air Conditioners of 2020:
- Carrier Infinity 26 Greenspeed 24VNA6 – 26 SEER
- Bryant Evolution Extreme 186C – 26 SEER
- Lennox Signature Series XC25 – 26 SEER
- Daikin DX20VC – 24.5 SEER
- Trane XV20i TruComfort – 22 SEER
- York YXV 21 Variable Capacity – 21 SEER
- Lennox XC21 – 21 SEER
- Lennox SL18SC1 – 18.5 SEER
Highest SEER Rated Air Conditioners 2020
These air conditioners will keep your energy use lower than its ever been. We’ll talk about climate below, but you’re here to see the most efficient central air conditioners of 2020, so here they are.
Carrier Infinity 26 Greenspeed 24VNA6 Air Conditioner – 26 SEER
This variable capacity AC is new this year. However, in our opinion, Carrier is among the top handful of brands in terms of quality. Consumer Reports surveys of thousands of homeowners about AC reliability back that up.
This unit removes, according to Carrier, 4 times more humidity than a single-stage AC. We think that sounds about right. 3-4 times more. That makes it ideal for humid climates.
This unit gives you:
- 26 SEER efficiency
- Variable capacity cooling that keeps temperatures evenly balanced.
- Superior dehumidification produced by longer, slower cycles allowing more moisture to be condensed out of the air as it passes over the cold indoor coil.
- A 10-year parts warranty. That’s average for the industry. What’s new is that Carrier has added a 10-year unit replacement warranty. If the compressor or coil fails while under warranty, Carrier will give you a new condensing unit – the AC, in other words, not just the replacement part.
Bryant Evolution Extreme 186C Air Conditioner – 26 SEER
Did you know that Bryant and Carrier are identical brands? Carrier has owned the Bryant brand for decades.
In short, this unit is the same, all but the cabinet and logo badge, as the Carrier AC above.
Lennox Signature Series XC25 – 26 SEER
Lennox, top to bottom, has the most efficient lineup of air conditioners. Until the Carrier/Bryant models were introduced this year, this Lennox AC was the most efficient central air conditioner. In fact, it has topped our Most Efficient AC list going back to 2014.
Given this, it is odd that the Lennox models aren't on the list of Energy Star 2020 Most Efficient ACs. Perhaps Lennox did not submit the data? Who knows.
Now it is tied with the Carrier/Bryant model.
- 26 SEER Efficiency
- Variable capacity compressor performance for better temperature balance and dehumidification.
- Runs quieter than a 2-stage and 1-stage model because the compressor often runs at just 40-50%.
- 10-year parts warranty.
Daikin DX20VC Air Conditioner – 24.5 SEER
Not familiar with Daikin? It’s a global HVAC giant, but it has only had a foot in the North American residential HVAC market since 2012.
That’s the year that Daikin bought Goodman and the Goodman-owned Amana brand. At first, Daikin just slapped a Daikin badge on Goodman equipment. However, in recent years, Daikin has upped the quality (and the cost) of its equipment.
Daikin was an original developer of variable speed/variable capacity compressors. It's explained briefly in this video.
By the way, Goodman is the brand that first offered unit replacement warranties. Daikin kept the practice going. Today, many brands offer a replacement warranty of some length. These include Goodman, Amana, Daikin, Carrier, Bryant, Heil, Comfortmaker, Day & Night, Rheem, Ruud and others.
- 24.5 SEER Efficiency
- Variable capacity compressor – runs like your vehicle’s cruise control. The compressor speeds up or slows down in tiny increments to keep temperature evenly balanced.
- 12-year parts warranty that includes a 12-year replacement warranty on the compressor. If it fails in the first dozen years, Daikin will replace the whole unit, not just the compressor.
Trane XV20i TruComfort Air Conditioner – 22 SEER
Trane has never sought top spot on efficiency, but 22 SEER isn’t bad. This is a newer unit, and the reviews and ratings from independent homeowners to this point are excellent.
Trane ranks near the top in consumer satisfaction. It makes quality HVAC equipment built with proven parts like Copeland Scroll compressors.
- 22 SEER efficiency
- Variable capacity performance, like all those above.
- 10 year warranty on all parts – No unit replacement warranty.
American Standard AccuComfort Platinum 20 Air Conditioner – 22 SEER
Ingersoll-Rand is a huge corporation that owns Trane and American Standard. The American Standard Platinum 20 is identical to the Trane XV20i. Pricing is about the same too.
Why two identical brands?
Consolidation in the HVAC industry has gone on for decades. There are fewer independent brands with each merger. Brands buy other brands to own another “piece of the.”
Who is who? These brands are identical or nearly so, owned by the same parent company.
- Carrier and Bryant (Payne too, but Payne has a limited lineup of air conditioners)
- Heil, Day & Night, Arcoaire, Comfortmaker, Keeprite and Tempstar (International Comfort Products, which is owned by United Technologies Corporation. Until March 2020, UTC was also the parent company of Carrier)
- Trane and American Standard (Ingersoll-Rand)
- York, Luxaire, Coleman, Champion and Gibson (Johnson Controls)
- Maytag, Nu-Tone and Broan (Nortek/Nordyne)
- Rheem and Ruud (Pamona Industries)
- Lennox and Ducane (Lennox Int’l.)
- Armstrong Air, AirEase and Concord (Allied Air Enterprises, a Lennox company but with a different product lineup)
That’s about it.
York YXV 21 Variable Capacity Air Conditioner – 21 SEER
York and the other Johnson Controls brands have improved quality in recent years along with efficiency. It’s still rated in the middle, at best, and lower in many surveys such as Consumer Reports’ most recent survey of homeowners.
In short, there are better options. But this one is quite efficient, and that’s the point.
- 21 SEER
- Variable capacity
- Lifetime compressor warranty, 10-year parts warranty and 1-year labor warranty.
York is trying to overcome its poor reputation with the Lifetime warranty. However, did you know that if the compressor fails, the labor to replace it is only covered the first year? If it fails in year 2 and beyond, the homeowner pays the labor charge – at that will be $600+.
That’s true of all HVAC warranties – labor is covered for 0-3 years, depending on the brand and model. After that, the own pays. For example, York/Luxaire/Coleman offer Lifetime warranties on the compressor, but if the part fails when the unit is 10+ years old, you’d be better off, in our opinion, of putting the money you’d pay for labor to replace the compressor into a new unit (from another brand!)
Lennox XC21 Air Conditioner – 21 SEER
This unit made the list because of its high SEER rating but also because it is the highest SEER 2-stage air conditioner.
2-stage compressor that runs most of the time on the lower stage, which is 65% of capacity. This means quieter, longer cycles that do a better job removing humidity from the air.
10-year warranty on all parts.
Lennox SL18SC1 Air Conditioner – 18.5 SEER
This is the most efficient 1-stage air conditioner available today.
- 18.5 SEER
- Single-stage: It runs “full-blast” whenever on. The upside is a lower cost. The downside is that it is noisier than a unit running between 25% and 65% and that it doesn’t remove as much humidity.
- 10-year parts warranty.
We’d choose this unit in a dry, hot climate like the Plains and Southwest. It’s a great choice for those conditions.
More Resources on the Most Efficient Air Conditioners
We completed a similar guide called Most Energy Efficient Air Conditioners for 2020. It’s quite similar with some different information. We do both because some people search “highest SEER ACs” while others search “Most efficient ACs” for 2020.
We've also prepared a Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide. If you’d like more detail on how to choose the best unit for your home, the guide has comprehensive buying advice.