This guide offers a comprehensive overview of high efficiency air conditioners. We explain how their energy efficiency is measured, the benefits of energy-efficient units and their costs to help you find the most efficient air conditioner for your home.

How is central air conditioner efficiency measured?

British Thermal Units (BTUs) indicate the amount of heat that is measured for an air conditioner to remove from your home. All air conditioners include a specific energy efficiency rating indicating how many BTUs per hour it removes compared to the amount of wattage it’s using.

Central air conditioners also use a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating to determine the air conditioner’s efficiency. Air conditioners receive their SEER rating when you take the total amount of heat it removes during the annual cooling season and divide it by how much electricity it’s using.

An energy guide label is available to help consumers understand these ratings. If you see an Energy Star label, that means the air conditioner has a high SEER or EER rating. That Energy Star rating means the air conditioner is using less energy to operate and meets strict criteria the U.S. Department of Energy or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets.

High efficiency central air conditioners brands

Amana

  • AVXC20: With a rating of up to 24.5 SEER, this high-efficiency air conditioner series features eight models with an annual cost to run ranging between $91 and $243. This air conditioner pairs with an Amana gas furnace using ComfortBridge technology to help reduce energy usage further. Its quiet performance is as low as 57 decibels.
  • ASXC18: This air conditioner series features an efficiency rating of up to 19 SEER. It offers four models with sound ratings between 68 and 74 for quiet performance. The Comfort Speed technology available in these air conditioners means the compressor and condensing fan motor automatically adjusts according to cooling demands.

American Standard

  • Platinum 20: American Standard’s Platinum 20 air conditioner features a rating of up to 22 SEER. You’ll find five different models ranging between two and five tons. Thanks to its AccuComfort variable speed technology, this series helps keep your energy costs low while keeping you comfortable.
  • Platinum 18: The Platinum 18 series features a rating of up to 18 SEER cooling efficiency. This series features five models ranging from two to five tons and the quietest operation out of all of the company’s high efficiency air conditioners. Its sound ratings  range between 43 and 54 decibels. An AccuLink communicating control board helps maintain efficiency and comfort by controlling the system’s components and powering the compressor.

Bryant

  • Evolution 2-Stage Air Conditioner: Featuring a SEER rating of up to 19, this is one of  Bryant’s most efficient air conditioners. It features a two-stage compressor and a sound rating that’s as low as 66 decibels. You’ll also find WiFi remote access for programming and controlling from any location. The two-stage operation means you’ll experience enhanced summer dehumidification while operating at low stages for optimal comfort and savings.
  • Evolution Extreme Variable-Speed Air Conditioner: With a SEER rating of up to 20.5, this is one of Bryant’s top-of-the-line air conditioners. It includes a variable-speed motor and a sound rating as low as 58 decibels. Thanks to its Evolution Connex control, it offers the highest level of dehumidification for your home.

Carrier

  • Infinity 20 Air Conditioner: Selecting this high-efficiency air conditioner means you’ll find up to a 20.5 SEER rating and a sound rating as low as 58 decibels. The Infinity System Control offers variable speed operation that delivers the optimal amount of cooling intelligently.
  • Infinity 21 Central Air Conditioner: With up to 19 SEER cooling efficiency and a sound rating as low as 65 decibels, this air conditioner also features a two-stage compressor for quiet operation and an increase in comfort.

Lennox

  • XC25 Variable-Capacity Air Conditioner: Thanks to its SilentComfort technology, this air conditioner runs 50% quieter than competing Lennox models. You’ll also save hundreds of dollars on your energy bill annually thanks to its SEER rating of up to 26.0. Its Precise Comfort technology means adjustments to cooling output occurs in 1% increments, which accurately balances your energy use and comfort.
  • XC21 Multi-Stage Air Conditioner: The multi-stage operation on this air conditioner means you can fine-tune your cooling, energy use and humidity levels. Its 21.0 SEER rating means you’ll see lower energy bills while keeping your home comfortable. The SilentComfort technology helps this air conditioner operate up to 20% quieter compared to competing Lennox models.

Benefits of a high efficiency central air conditioner

If you’re operating an old central air conditioning system, it’s outdated technology will prevent it from running as efficiently as newer models. There are several benefits to installing a more efficient air conditioner, including accurate temperature control, savings on your energy bills and smart home features that can make your system more convenient to use. Plus, you’ll be using less energy to cool your home, which is good for the environment. 

High efficiency air conditioners costs

The price of the unit

Prices for a high efficiency air conditioner depends on the tonnage and CFM (Cooling Feet per Minute). Unit prices will range between $3,890.00 for a 2-ton unit with 800 CFM to $8,520.00 for a 5-ton unit featuring 2,000 CFM.*

The costs of installation

After including labor and equipment, the prices for installing a high-efficiency air conditioner ranges between $4,169.50 for a two-ton unit and $9,040.00 for a five-ton unit.*

The costs of operating a unit annually (fuel costs, annual maintenance)

On average, residential customers pay 13.31 cents per kWh for electricity in the United States. So, if you’re running a central air conditioning unit that uses 3,500 watts for eight hours daily, that converts to $3.70 for it to run each day. In one month, you’ll spend $110.88, and for one year you’ll spend around $1,330.56.

Savings from energy efficient units on bills

The Department of Energy uses an average of 10.9 cents per kWh as the average price for electricity when measuring efficiency. According to their estimates, high efficiency units can save you quite a bit. For example, the Amana AVXC20, with a capacity of 34,400 and a SEER rating of 21, costs $150 per year to run. That represents a 38% savings over units with the federal minimum SEER rating.

*James Thomson. 2019 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator. (Craftsman Book Company, 2018).

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