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Best Central Air Conditioners: 2014

Updated: April 24, 2014

FurnaceCompare maintains records on nearly 500 series of central air conditioners. Which of these do homeowners and contractors rate most highly? And, of the most highly rated, which are available for sale in 2014?

The list below represents the top-rated air conditioners available in the US and Canada. These air conditioners vary in efficiency from 13 - 20 SEER. They also vary in features and price.

Rank Brand and Series Rating Efficiency (SEER) Sound Rating (decibels) Average Pricing
1. Goodman DSXC18 5 out of 5 up to 18 71 - 74 $2,109
The Goodman DSXC18 air conditioner features a two-stage Copeland scroll compressor and built-in diagnostics. The unit is compatible with Goodman’s ComfortNet Communications System, which allows contractors to accurately troubleshoot problems. The unit also is manufactured for quiet performance due to an efficient two-speed condenser fan motor, high-density foam sound blanket to muffle compressor noises and the wire fan discharge grille.
2. Amana ASX14 4.2 out of 5 up to 15 70 - 75 $1,442
The heavy-gauge steel cabinet of Amana's ASX14 air conditioner protects a Copeland high-efficiency scroll compressor and SmartCoil condensing coils made with corrugated aluminum fins and copper tubing. These units feature the Copeland ComfortAlert diagnostics system, which allows your contractor to easily detect the cause of system problems. In addition, the manufacturer promises quiet performance due to a specially-designed top and foam compressor muffler.
3. Trane XR15 4.1 out of 5 up to 17 75 $6,462 (installed)
Trane XR15 air conditioners are designed to balance energy efficiency with comfort. The units are made with the Climatuff compressor and proprietary aluminum Spine Fin outdoor coil. Many components feature additional protection against water damage, including the corrosion-resistant fasteners and non-corrosive base pan. Most models feature a sound insulator that muffles the compressor's noise.
4. Bryant Preferred 4.1 out of 5 up to 16.5 as low as 73 $2,164
Bryant's Preferred air conditioner is reportedly about as loud as the common dishwasher, at 73 decibels. Each galvanized steel unit features the DuraGuard protection, such as the louvered coil guard. The series uses a two-stage compressor, aluminum fin coil, copper tubing and corrosion-resistant interior parts.
5. Goodman GSX13 4 out of 5 13 72 - 77 $1,097
According to Goodman, the GSX13 air conditioner uses an energy-efficient compressor, and features an aluminum fin condenser coil, copper tubing and an internal filter drier, all within a heavy-gauge galvanized steel cabinet. The fan uses a three-bladed design that, when coupled with the louvered top, muffles the fan’s operation. The unit offers maintenance access on both the top and side, as well as easy access to internal controls through one panel.
6. Ruud Achiever 4 out of 5 up to 16.5 72 - 76 $10,349 (installed)
Ruud's Achiever series of single-stage air conditioners all utilize Copeland scroll compressors and PSC fan motors. These units offer a low 33-inch profile wrapped within a steel louvered cabinet. The unit is installed off the concrete pad for reduced noise, as low as 72 decibels. A single service panel offers easy access for maintenance, as does the removable top grille.
7. Trane XL20i 3.7 out of 5 up to 20 68 - 76 $9,140 (installed)
When matched with the appropriate indoor components, the Trane XL20i air conditioner begins operation warmer and with the fan running more slowly than other units, which reportedly improves the humidity control and helps regulate major temperature swings to keep the home more comfortable. The unit uses two Climatuff compressors, one of which is dedicated to hotter-than-average days, as well as a two-run Spine Fin coil and insulation to muffle the compressor noise.
8. Trane XB14 3.7 out of 5 up to 16.5 76 - 80 $7,244 (installed)
The Trane XB14 air conditioner is designed to provide optimal comfort and efficient operation and a cost-effective price point. These units include a Climatuff single-stage compressor and the company's standard aluminum Spine Fin coil. Louvered panels offer additional protection to a unit that includes numerous corrosion-resistant components.
9. Trane XR13 3.4 out of 5 up to 14.5 73 - 78 $5,375 (installed)
Capable of reaching up to 14.5 SEER with compatible units, Trane's XR13 can offer efficient operation with high cooling power. These air conditioners feature a single-stage Climatuff compressor, an aluminum Spine Fin coil and full louvered panels. Each model features the company’s DuraTuff basepan, specially designed to resist corrosion and prevent warping.
10. Trane XL15i 3 out of 5 up to 16.5 72 - 74 $6,939 (installed)
According to Trane, the XL15i is the quietest of all of its single-stage systems air conditioners. These units feature two Climatuff compressors, the larger of which kicks in when extra cooling power is needed. Additional components include a special mode for improved humidity control, a fully integrated fan and full-sided galvanized steel louvered panels paired with top shields for added protection.

Sound Ratings

The sound ratings are measured in decibels -- the lower the decibels, the quieter the air conditioner. The actual number of decibels produced by an air conditioner is a function of both its capacity (how many BTUs of cooling it generates) and the other components to which it is connected (such as a furnace or air handler used to distribute the cold air). In general, when you see a range, the lowest number of decibels is for the units with the smallest capacity that are paired with quiet components.

Average Pricing

There are two different types of prices shown in the "Average Pricing" column.

  • If you see a simple price, that is the average price that we found on the websites of internet retailers that sell that particular series of air conditioner.
  • If you see a price followed by the note (installed), this means that retailers are under agreement with the manufacturer not to publicly display the price of the units. In these cases, the price is an average of quotes given to different homeowners.

Note that prices -- even when they are published online -- can vary substantially based on the capacity of the unit in question: 24,000 BTU units are typically cheaper than 60,000 BTU units of the same brand and series.

The "installed" prices can vary even more dramatically. Not only do they cover a range of capacities, but prices also vary geographically and from installer to installer.

Methodology

Consumers and homeowners have submitted thousands of reviews to this site. In addition to reviewing a particular model of equipment, the reviewer also assigns a rating from 1 ("Very Unsatisfied") to 5 ("Very Satisfied"). The following list ranks the top 10 central air conditioner series from best to worst, based on the average of those consumer satisfaction ratings.

FurnaceCompare.com has collected reviews on more than 50 different brands and 350 different series of central air conditioners. However, we have only included a series on this list if we have at least 5 reviews of that series, and if the series has not been discontinued. If we only have a few reviews, there is a risk that a single homeowner will skew the average rating too far in one direction or another.

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