Every year we bring you the most efficient central ACs. This year’s list features a new model from Carrier.
For 2020, Carrier has raised its bar to 26 SEER. That achievement matches Lennox’s unit that has topped the list for the last five years.
This page of Web HVAC lists the 8 most efficient central air conditioners available today starting with the impressive, new Carrier Infinity 26.
In some cases, there’s an identical unit made by another brand. Where that’s true, we’ll point it out.
2020 Most Efficient Central Air Conditioners
- Carrier Infinity 26 Greenspeed 24VNA6 – 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
- Carrier Infinity 20 Greenspeed 24VNAO – 20.5 SEER
- Rheem Prestige Series RA20 – 20.5 SEER
- Armstrong Air 4SCU20LX – 20 SEER
Most Efficient Central AC Reviews 2020
Let’s take a brief look at the specs and details you’ll enjoy with these variable capacity
There are a few things that all these units have:
- Variable capacity compressors run at speeds between 25% and 100% or 40% and 100% depending on the brand. Premium indoor climate control is the result.
- Communicating technology allows the AC and air handler/furnace to communicate data to the thermostat. This optimizes performance, efficiency and comfort.
- WiFi capabilities. The top of the line thermostats for each brand give you the convenience of monitoring and controlling your HVAC equipment from any smart device with the app.
- Energy Rebates. Most energy companies continue to offer rebates for $300 to $600 on very efficient central air conditioners like these. Check either the product pages we’ve linked to below or talk to your installer or energy company.
Carrier Infinity 26 Greenspeed 24VNA6 Air Conditioner – 26 SEER
Carrier was the first brand to use variable capacity compressors in standard split systems, calling it Greenspeed technology for its ecofriendly efficiency. That first model is still one of the most efficient, and it’s on the list too.
The Infinity 26 is the first advance in efficiency from Carrier in more than five years.
Like most variable capacity units, it runs at the lowest possible speed needed to keep up with your home’s AC demand.
However, the slower the compressor operates, the more even temperatures will be. Plus, longer, slower cycles more effectively dehumidify the air. In muggy summer weather, drier air is more comfortable – it feels cooler.
Did you know? Willis Carrier, the father of modern air conditioning, built his first unit primarily to dry the indoor air in a Philadelphia printing shop. He called his invention the Apparatus for Treating Air.
Efficiency: 26 SEER
Pros: The compressor operates between 25% and 100% of capacity with tiny changes. The result is outstanding efficiency and climate control. Carrier gets high marks from consumers. Only Trane ranks higher in Consumer Reports’ most recent survey.
Cons: These units don’t come cheap. If you don’t live in a very warm climate, it is unlikely you’d make back the higher cost through lower energy costs. It might take 15+ years. In moderate climates, a 16 SEER unit is more cost-effective.
Warranty: 10 years on all parts. New for Carrier is the 10-year Unit Replacement warranty – if the compressor fails in the first decade, Carrier will replace the entire outdoor unit, the condensing unit.
Installed Cost: $5,300 – $11,200
Also Available As: Bryant Evolution Extreme 186C air conditioner.
Lennox Signature Series XC25 Air Conditioner – 26 SEER
Lennox generally makes the most efficient air conditioning and heating equipment among standard split system brands.
This unit has been on top for 5+ years. We expect an advance from Lennox soon.
Efficiency: 26 SEER
Pros: Very efficient; excellent indoor comfort. It adjusts in 1% increments. Trane claims its compressors adjust in 1/10% increments. We doubt anyone could notice a comfort difference. Quiet. Here’s a YouTube video on how this unit operates.
By the way, Lennox consumer ratings are up in recent years. It’s possible the company has solved quality and replacement parts supply chain issues that plagued it for many years.
Cons: High cost. Lennox equipment is expensive.
Warranty: 10 years on all parts. The warranty is average – nothing special. If you want a better warranty, try Daikin, Amana, Goodman, Carrier, Heil, Rheem…
Installed Cost: $5,500 – $11,500
Also Available As: N/A
Daikin DX20VC Central Air Conditioner – 24.5 SEER
Daikin is the parent company of Amana and Goodman since 2012. Quality and efficiency of those brands has improved under Daikin.
This company invented much of the variable capacity technology in use today, but did so for the ductless, mini split system market.
Efficiency: 24.5 SEER
Pros: Pretty much the same as the others – the Daikin DX20VC is super efficient, excellent moisture control for better indoor comfort. It’s quiet too.
Cons: Higher cost than 1-stage and 2-stage models. No surprise there.
Warranty: 12 years on all parts plus a 12-year unit replacement warranty on the compressor. If it fails in the first dozen years, Daikin will replace the whole unit, not just the compressor. You can read the details here.
Installed Cost: $5,200 – $10,900
Also Available As: Amana AVXC20
Trane XV20i TruComfort Air Conditioner – 22 SEER
Trane tops Consumer Reports’ list for central air conditioner reliability. Its 8/10 rating is better than the 7/10 enjoyed by its sister (and identical) brand American Standard plus Lennox/Ducane Armstrong and Carrier/Bryant.
Efficiency: 22 SEER
Pros: Very dependable brand. Efficient, quiet and probably does the best of all these units at lowering humidity in summer. Trane claims it is 4 decibels quieter than “competitor’s minimum.” But it doesn’t say who that refers to.
Cons: This is a new model with some new compressor technology, so it’s too early to tell if the compressor will have the same level of dependability other Trane ACs offer.
Warranty: 10 years on all parts.
Installed Cost: $5,000 – $11,000
Also Available As: American Standard AccuComfort Platinum 20.
York YXV 21 Variable Capacity Air Conditioner – 21 SEER
This is a newer model from York and offers excellent energy efficiency. However, York ranks last in consumer satisfaction and reliability.
The brand has made efforts to improve quality in the last few years, and the Consumer Reports ratings don’t reflect York’s new equipment.
York is trying to offset its reputation with improved warranties.
Efficiency: 21 SEER
Pros: Efficient. Excellent climate control features including ClimateSet – the installer can tweak settings to your climate such as maximizing dehumidification in humid climates.
Cons: Potential quality issues. The rating from CR is just 4/10.
Warranty: Lifetime compressor warranty, 10-year parts warranty and 1-year labor warranty.
Installed Cost: $4,800 – $10,650
Also Available As: Models from Luxaire and Coleman.
Carrier Infinity 20 Greenspeed 24VNAO Air Conditioner – 20.5 SEER
This model has a tremendous track record of reliability. It was the first variable speed unit among the major brands.
Pros: Proven dependability over 10 years on the market. It is a known commodity – and a good one.
Cons: Not quite as efficient as the top models, but an ideal choice in climates with hot summers.
Warranty: 10 years on everything.
Installed Cost: $4,750 – $10,500
Also Available As: Bryant Evolution Extreme 180C.
Rheem Prestige Series RA20 Air Conditioner – 20.5 SEER?
Rheem and Ruud have upped the quality and efficiency in the last few years.
Efficiency: 20.5 SEER
Pros: The compressor in the RA20 is the Copeland Scroll Variable Speed model. Copeland is the most reliable compressor in the residential HVAC industry.
Cons: Overall quality ratings for Rheem are just about average.
Warranty: 10 years on all parts including a 10-year complete unit replacement warranty on the compressor and coil.
Installed Cost: $4,650 – $10,400
Also Available As: Ruud Ultra
Armstrong Air 4SCU20LX Air Conditioner – 20 SEER
This is a 20 SEER unit, and the brand gets outstanding consumer satisfaction ratings in the latest survey from Consumer Reports. Only Trane rates higher.
Efficiency: 20 SEER
Pros: Excellent dependability and quality. The climate control features are very good too – temperature balance, moisture removal and quiet operation.
Cons: There might not be an Armstrong Air dealer in your area. See the dealer locator to find out.
Warranty: 10 years on all parts.
Installed Cost: $4,800 – $10,500
Also Available As: AireEase 4SCU20LX
2020 Most Efficient 2-Stage Air Conditioner
The Lennox XC21 has a SEER rating of 21. That’s very impressive, a good fit for any climate and quite a bit more affordable than the 26 SEER, variable capacity XC25. When asked which unit we recommend, it is the XC21 in almost all cases.
2020 Most Efficient 1-Stage AC
The Lennox SL18SC1 is the most efficient single stage air conditioner available. It has a rating of 18.5 SEER – remarkable for a single-stage model.
The only concern about a single-stage AC is that climate control isn’t maximized. They don’t remove as much humidity and might create temperature imbalance. Plus, running at full capacity all the time means they are louder.
We recommend this model for homeowners that:
- Want excellent efficiency
- Aren’t replacing their furnace
- Their furnace has a fixed speed blower
Two-stage and variable capacity air conditioners should be matched with a variable-speed blower for optimal efficiency and indoor comfort.
Have you Seen our 2020 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.