Best Central Air Conditioners – Reviews of Top Brands (2024)

Typical Cost To Install Central AC Average: $4,070 - $5,930
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Central air conditioners are the ultimate devices for keeping homes cool, fresh, and comfortable on those hot summer days. They’re a must-have for homeowners in warm regions.

But with so many central air conditioner brands and models to choose from, homeowners need to understand the key differences and best brands in order to make the right selection.

Average costs for the best quality central AC units can range from as low as $3,500 all the way up to $10,000. However, there are multiple factors that can impact the total cost, including the unit brand, size, SEER rating, and so on.

Despite being reasonably expensive to install, the best central ACs offer powerful cooling throughout the entire home. Plus, they can last up to 20 years or more, offering an impressive return on the initial investment.

How Much Are the Best Central Air Conditioners?

The total cost of a high-quality central AC unit will be between $3,500 and $10,000 for the typical home.

That includes around $1,500 to $3,000 in actual labor installation costs, combined with $2,000 to $7,000 for the unit itself.

Brand Unit Cost Installation Cost Average Total Cost
Lennox $2,500-$7,500 $500-$2,000 $3,000-$9,500
Carrier $2,400-$12,800 $600-$2,200 $3,000-$15,000
American Standard $2,650-$8,500 $600-$2,000 $3,250-$10,500
York $3,500-$7,000 $500-$2,000 $4,000-$9,000
Trane $2,900-$12,800 $600-$2,200 $3,500-$15,000
Amana $2,750-$7,500 $500-$2,000 $3,250-$9,500
Goodman $1,250-$7,500 $500-$2,000 $1,750-$9,500
Rheem $2,500-$4,750 $500-$2,000 $3,000-$6,750
Heil $3,400-$10,000 $600-$2,200 $4,000-$12,200
Bryant $2,400-$8,000 $600-$2,000 $3,000-$10,000

There are cheaper ACs out there to choose from, but those who want the best central units will need to pay a little more, on average.

However, the extra cost can be justified by the impressive cooling potential of these units and their strong build quality, which should help them last longer.

Top 10 Central Air Conditioner Brands

There are lots of different companies producing central AC units, but some are much higher-rated and more reliable than others.

The best brands often produce units with higher prices, longer lifespans, and better energy efficiency.

Below, you’ll find our recommendations for the top 10 most widely-recommended and trusted brands in the central AC market.

Did you know? According to the Department of Energy, 75% of all U.S. homes have AC units, using 6% of the nation’s entire electricity supply.


When it comes to the best central AC brands, Lennox often features around the top of the list. With average prices between $3,000 and $9,500, it’s neither the cheapest option nor is it the most expensive.

But where Lennox really excels is in its energy efficiency. It is one of the few brands to have produced central AC units that have SEER ratings of 26, which is the highest rating available right now.

Lennox has also implemented smart controls on many of its products, and also boasts some of the finest customer ratings of any HVAC brand.


– Exceptional levels of energy efficiency
– Great customer ratings
– Handy smart controls for ease-of-use


– Repairs can be quite pricey


Carrier is another leading brand in the AC space, with units ranging from as low as $3,000 all the way up to $15,000.

With such a wide range, this brand has something for everyone, including some of the highest-powered central AC systems on the market. It’s a good choice for larger homes, but Carrier also makes very quiet, reliable, and energy-efficient ACs.


– A wide selection of ACs
– Good for large homes and spaces
– Impressively quiet models


– Some units have very high price tags

American Standard

American Standard is a leading brand in heating and air conditioning, with more than a century of history in the industry. It sells AC units between $3,250 and $10,500, on average.

They tend to be very high-quality models, with decent levels of reliability, performance, and key features. The only downside is that American Standard ACs can sometimes be tricky to find and aren’t as widely accessible as other brands.


– A trusted brand with years of experience
– Excellent customer care
– Very reliable AC systems


– Can be tricky to find


York is another historic air conditioning brand with a long past. It offers a very varied selection of HVAC products, including some top-quality central AC systems with smart features and decent SEER ratings.

Average prices with this brand range from $4,000 to $9,000. So there is a slightly higher bar-of-entry in terms of budget, when compared to other brands.


– A wide selection of ACs to choose from
– Many models have high SEER scores


– Even low-level models have quite high prices


Those who choose a Trane AC can expect to spend between $3,500 and $15,000. This is without a doubt one of the most premium and expensive AC brands around, but it justifies those high-end price tags with its commitment to quality.

A Trane AC unit should last for decades, with super silent operations, high performance levels, and solid SEER ratings across the entire lineup.


– One of the best-rated brands by customers
– Super quiet AC systems
– High performance and long-lasting


-High prices


If you opt for an Amana central AC unit, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,250 all the way up to $9,500 for full installation. Amana is one of the oldest companies on the list, dating all the way back to 1934.

It offers some very efficient AC units, including some with highly impressive 24.5 SEER ratings. It also has some very quiet units, thanks to Amana’s smart sound blanket technology, which helps to reduce the noise output of its ACs.

Did you know? Amana is one of the only major AC brands to offer a lifetime warranty on its AC compressors. So, if your Amana compressor ever breaks down, you can get a full replacement at no charge.


– A historic and trusted company
– Great levels of energy efficiency
– Very quiet AC units


– Not the best levels of customer satisfaction
– Some units are quite weak


Goodman central AC systems can range from as low as $1,750 all the way up to $9,500. This brand offers a broad selection of ACs, ranging from pretty small and simple units to high-powered systems with very impressive SEER ratings and cooling capacities.

A lot of Goodman air conditioners also include advanced smart home controls, making them really straightforward to use.

Plus, this brand is known for its generous warranties, with lifetime replacements of compressors.


– A wide selection to pick from
– Generous warranty coverage
– Useful smart home controls


– Some units from this brand can be quite noisy
– Not as reliable as other manufacturers


With prices between $3,000 and $6,750, Rheem is one of the more budget-friendly entries on this list. Rheem products are also very accessible, sold in many major home improvement stores across the U.S.

Offering decent reliability ratings and smart home controls on certain units too, Rheem is a solid choice. But it does have some downsides, like lower SEER ratings compared to many other brands.


– Budget-friendly pricing
– Highly accessible and easy to find
– Smart controls on some systems


– SEER ratings aren’t always the best


Heil also deserves a spot on this list, thanks to the impressive build quality of its central AC units, which can cost between $4,000 and $12,000.

These systems are fully built to last, easily capable of running for 20 years with regular maintenance and care.

Heil also has excellent warranty policies, offering to replace any unit that breaks down within the first 10 years of use. This brand isn’t as well-known as others but is slowly gaining traction.


– Excellent warranty coverage
– Strong build quality and long lifespan


– Relatively high prices


Bryant is another top-quality brand for central AC units, with average prices ranging from $3,000 up to $10,000. This brand has a really big selection of AC systems to choose from, and many of its units have exceptionally high SEER ratings.

Bryant is also famed for its impressive levels of customer care, and a lot of its AC units are surprisingly quiet, while also boasting advanced features like Wi-Fi smart controls and more.


– A wide selection of units to choose from
– High levels of energy efficiency
– Advanced features and quiet operations


– Warranty options aren’t the best

Additional Cost Factors for Central AC Units

Clearly, costs for an AC unit will vary greatly, depending on the brand you choose. But that’s not all. There are many other factors that can have an impact on your total spending.

Factor 1 – Home Size

The size of your property will have a direct impact on the size and power of AC unit you have to buy. Naturally, big homes need much more cooling power (measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units), leading to higher expenses on air conditioning.

An AC’s cooling power is listed in BTUs or tons, at about 1 ton per 12,000 BTU. Those with smaller properties can save money and invest in a relatively small and simple unit instead. A 2,000-square-foot generally requires a 3-ton or 3.5-ton AC.

Factor 2 – Unit Type

Central AC units can come in two distinct types: split-systems or packaged units. A split-system has an outside heat exchange and compressor system, with an interior unit containing a blower and separate heat exchanger.

Packaged units have all of the key components in one box, which is typically situated outside the property, and are integrated into the home’s HVAC ducts. Packaged ACs will cost more to install.

Factor 3 – Compressor Type

There are also varying forms of compressors inside central ACs, like single-stage, two-stage, and variable compressors. Single-stage systems tend to be the cheapest, but are also least efficient.

Two-stage cost more and have additional efficiency. Finally, variable compressors are the most expensive but also the most efficient, with the lowest average running costs.

Did you know? A single-stage AC compressor only has one mode of operation. Two-stage compressors have two modes to deal with different temperatures. Variable compressors can adjust their speed settings accordingly to match the conditions of each day.

Factor 4 – Efficiency and SEER Rating

For AC units, efficiency is typically measured with the SEER rating. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, and a higher SEER score means that the unit is more efficient.

It also usually leads to a higher price tag. But, even though these units cost more to begin with, they can provide long-term savings on your energy bills.

Factor 5 – Location

Your home’s location can also have a direct impact on how much you’ll have to spend for your central AC. If we look at average costs from state to state, those in sunnier and warmer locations, like California, often have to spend more on their AC installations since the house requires a larger AC.

People living in remote areas may also have to pay extra, as workers will need to spend more time and fuel to reach their properties.

What to Look for When Buying a Central Air Conditioner

With so many models to pick between, buying a central AC unit isn’t a decision to take lightly. There are lots of different factors to think about, including:

Unit Size: Arguably the most important factor of all, central air size tells us how powerful and effective an AC is in terms of cooling down a home. It is measured in BTUs, and more BTUs means that a unit can cool down more air each hour. You have to match the BTU rating to the size of your property. Otherwise, the unit won’t have enough cooling power.

Price: Of course, price is another key factor for most homeowners to take into account. Given that the best central units can cost well in excess of $10,000, this can be a huge investment. You may have a strict budget in mind, or you might have more budgetary freedom. Either way, it’s important to find a unit that fits within your price range.

Features: It’s also worth taking a look at what kinds of features come along with each unit. Some are pretty basic and barebones, but others have interesting features to make them more usable and efficient. Features like humidity control, smart home controls, and so on.

Efficiency: Efficiency tells you how well your unit will make use of electrical energy to cool your home. And some units do a much better job of this than others. Each unit will typically have a SEER rating to denote how efficient it is. The higher the rating, the more efficient the unit will be.

Noise: It’s no secret that AC units can be pretty noisy. That can be bothersome when you’re trying to sleep, concentrate, or have conversations around the house. Fortunately, the best units are remarkably quiet. So, if too much noise bothers you, check out the decibel ratings for each system and try to find one that’s quiet while operating.

Warranty: Leading manufacturers will always offer warranties on new AC units. That will typically cover you for replacement parts for up to 10 years. Some warranties also include labor and repair costs, too, making them even better. Check out the warranty policy of the brand you decide to buy from.

Which Brand of Central AC Is the Best?

There’s no single brand that stands out as the very best, but there are several top-rated manufacturers to choose from. These are: Lennox, Carrier, American Standard, and Trane.

What Is the Highest SEER Rating Central Air Conditioner?

The highest SEER rating you can currently find on any central AC unit is 26.

Which Central Air Conditioner Has the Best Warranty?

The best warranty you can find for most central AC unit is a 10-year limited warranty, although certain brands, like Goodman and Amana, offer lifetime warranties for their compressors.

Are New Central Air Conditioners More Energy Efficient Than Older Models?

Yes, newer central AC units tend to be designed to higher standards of energy efficiency than old ones. That doesn’t mean that all new units will be more efficient by default, but most of them are.

Is It Better to Have an HVAC Professional Install My Central AC Unit?

Yes, it’s usually best to bring in a pro for AC installation. The process can be quite tricky and technical, requiring a high level of expertise.

What Is the Life Expectancy of a Good Quality Central AC Unit?

The best central AC units should last between 15 and 20 years with regular care and maintenance. They may even last longer than this, but are more likely to break down and need repairs as they get older.

What Is the Right Time to Buy a Central Air Conditioner?

Value-wise, the best time to buy and install a new central AC unit is in the fall or the spring.

That’s because the summer is the busiest time of year for HVAC professionals, and winter is also a tough time for them as they work on heating systems.

They’re less busy in spring and fall, leading to better rates and more options.

Invest in the Best Central AC

Nobody wants to sit around sweating in their own home. It should be a cool, comfortable, and fresh place to be. And the only way to get that guaranteed freshness is with a top tier central AC system from a leading brand.

As this guide shows, there are many of those brands to choose from. Each one has its clear pros and cons. Amana, for example, is famed for its lengthy warranties, while Lennox makes some of the most efficient ACs of all.

All of the brands listed above rank among the best in the business. But, in order to find the right AC for your home, it’s important to consider the listed pros, cons, price ranges, and think about your own needs.

Only then will you find the perfect system to meet your needs and match your budget.

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