The central air conditioner ratings on WebHVAC help you identify the right solution for your home. That’s our goal – to give you accurate information you can use to find the central air conditioner that has the efficiency, functionality and quality you’re looking for. This central air conditioner ratings guide lets you know what we’re looking for in each category of our ratings system. If you simply want a look at our latest Central Air Conditioner Ratings please see the following list:
- January 2021 Top HVAC Stories
- November 2020 Top HVAC Stories
- October 2020 Top HVAC Stories
- September 2020 Top HVAC Stories
- August 2020 Top HVAC Stories
- July 2020 Top HVAC Stories
- June 2020 Top HVAC Stories
- Best Gas Furnaces Under 2000 in 2020
- Best Heat Pumps Under 2000 for 2020
- Best Central Air Conditioners Under 2000 for 2020
In this category, we evaluate the efficiency of the central air conditioner, or SEER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Efficiency measures how much cooling the AC provides per unit of electricity used. It’s a lot like gas mileage. All air conditioners must be at least 13 SEER and they get 1 star central air conditioner ratings. Those in the 14-15 SEER range are 2 stars, 16-17 SEER are 3 stars, 18-19 SEER are 4 stars, and 20 SEER and above are 5 stars. Each generation of central air conditioners is more efficient, so in a year or two we’ll probably need to shift the ratings on them.
If you are committed to green technology, then the most efficient unit that meets your budget is the right one for you. If you are looking at cost-effectiveness, it is important to keep your local climate in mind when considering efficiency and operating costs. For example, if you live in a cool climate, a 20 SEER AC will definitely lower your energy bills, but the savings per year, since you won’t run the AC heavily, will be relatively small. If it takes 5-7 years of lower bills to pay yourself back for the higher cost of the efficient AC, it might not be the right choice.
Generally speaking, the most economical choice in a warm climate is an 18+ SEER AC. In a moderate climate, 15 SEER to 17 SEER central air conditioners are best. In cooler climates, a 13-15 SEER AC will likely be the best long-term value when equipment cost and operating costs are balanced.
Central air conditioner ratings in this category focus on whether the AC is a single-stage unit or a multi-stage unit. Single-stage air conditioners are either on at 100% or they are off. Two-stage models run at 60% to 70% capacity most of the time in order to maintain consistent, even cooling. This also improves air filtration and removes more humidity. Some homeowners notice the comfort difference and are willing to pay for it. Others are content with basic operation and prefer the lower equipment cost.
Models like the Trane XL20i have 2 compressors for 50% / 100% capacity operation. There are a few models, like the Maytag M1200 24.5 SEER air conditioner that have a modulating compressor. It operates between 25% and 100% capacity, in 1% increments, to provide very precise cooling.
You’ll pay extra for staged cooling and for additional features like communicating technology, improved sound control, superior dehumidification and higher-quality parts. These are the primary aspects that affect the features central air conditioner ratings.
In terms of problem-free operation and longevity, some brands and models perform better than others. Our central air conditioner ratings in this category are based on the brand’s overall service record, consumer data when available, and the quality of the parts used. Our top brands in terms of reliability include Trane, American Standard, Amana, Carrier, Heil, Rheem, and Lennox, though there are other dependable brands as well. Good air conditioners are expected to last 15 years at least. Very good models can reach 20 years of service well well-maintained.
Most good air conditioners carry a 10-year parts and a 10-year compressor warranty. These get 3 stars. Those with better warranties get 4 or 5 star central air conditioner ratings. The best warranties come on models like the Amana ASXC18 central air conditioner with a lifetime compressor limited warranty that provides for the replacement of the condensing unit if the compressor fails the original owner.
We average the scores to get overall central air conditioner ratings. As you look at this rating, keep in mind that it accounts for efficiency and features. Don’t be put off by lower efficiency ratings if you live in a cooler climate and don’t want a high-efficiency AC. Don’t let lower feature ratings affect your choice if you are looking for a value-priced AC with basic operation.
Our purpose at WebHVAC is to provide you with the detailed information you need to be a wise consumer. When you get the details of the models you are considering, you’re much more likely to be satisfied with your choice now and in the long-run.