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9 Best Central Air Conditioner | Reviews + Guide

The Goodman GSX140361 air conditioner can be the best option for people looking for an efficient central air conditioning unit on a budget. However, you can also consider the Lennox SL28XVC for its high SEER rating or the Goodman 3 Ton GPC1436H41 air conditioner if you need to cool down a large space.

Best Central Air Conditioner

A central air conditioner can be the much-needed update to make your residential or commercial space all the more comfortable and convenient to be at. However, choosing the right one can foil your plan of getting one. 

That’s why I am here to help you by reviewing the top 9 options so that you can make a well-informed decision. From single-speed units to variable compressor units and the best HVAC systems- I have it all! So, grab a cup of coffee and dive in! 

9 Best Central Air Conditioners

1. Best Budget-Friendly Option - Goodman GSX140361 Air Conditioner

Goodman 3 Ton 14 SEER Air Conditioner GSX140361
  • This listing is for the Goodman GSX140361, which has been...

Goodman air conditioners are known to be some of the most budget-friendly central air conditioners on the market, and this unit is another example of that. With a SEER (Seasonal Energy-Efficiency Ratio) rating of 14, it’s equipped with 36,000 BTU of cooling power, meaning it can facilitate sufficient cooling for medium to small-sized spaces. And it’s powered by a high-quality single-stage compressor that’s equipped with an aluminum coil to prevent leaks and corrosion.

Being a single-stage central air conditioner, it will run at full power at all times, which may make it a little less desirable for people looking for something more energy-efficient. However, despite its “full power” operation, the 73 dB noise output comes across as reasonable.

Another thing I should mention about this unit is its compliance with True HEPA filters for clean air emission. Moreover, it has a factory-equipped filter drier for ease of maintenance. As for durability, the solid steel exterior promises to last for years to come, and the 10-year warranty on the installed parts provides extra peace of mind to users.

The compact design of this central air conditioning system makes it suitable for placement in small places and corners without taking up much space. But weighing just a little under 200 pounds, it may not be the most portable option out there.

SEER Rating: 14 | Speed: Non-variable | Total cooling capacity: 3-ton | Maximum sound output: 73 dB

2. Best High SEER Rating - Lennox

The Lennox SL28XVC is a highly energy-efficient system that can help save money on your utility bill, thanks to its 28 SEER rating. It’s part of the brand’s Ultimate Comfort System line, which is said to combine Lennox’s best features. Although it’s among the premium units out there, savings on power bills, in the long run, can well make up for the upfront cost.

The first thing to note about this air conditioning system is the variable-speed compressor that gives you optimum control over the thermostat. 

Moreover, it’s compatible with the brand’s ultra-smart thermostat to facilitate ease of operation from any corner of your home or office. Likewise, you can pair with other devices from the Comfort System line, such as the air purifier or air handler, to name a few.

Its sound output is even lower than that of the Goodman ac unit, measuring only a little over 50 dB. And the major reason behind its low sound output is the use of effective sound-dampening elements.  

Aside from that, the system is equipped to automatically detect changes in the air quality and pollen level so that there’s no compromise on cool air emission. The unit also has the brand’s signature aluminum alloy quantum coil, which can protect it from harsh weather conditions as well as the wear and tear of daily use.

SEER Rating: Up to 28 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 3-ton | Maximum sound output: 59 dB

3. Best Central Air Conditioner For Large Spaces - Goodman 3 Ton GPC1436H41 Air Conditioner

Goodman 3 Ton 14 Seer Package Air Conditioner GPC1436H41
  • High-efficiency compressor with internal relief valve
  • PSC blower motor

As I have mentioned before, Goodman is one of the best air conditioner brands for people on a budget. Hence, I had to include another model, this time a 3-ton model. With an adequate SEER rating of 14, this unit is equipped with a cooling power of 36,000 BTU, which can easily cool large rooms and spaces. Not only that, but it also uses a special R401 A refrigerant for optimal cooling. 

At the heart of this unit lies an energy-efficient compressor with internal valve relief, in addition to a PSC blower motor. So, despite lacking variable fan speeds, you can rely on it to get the job done without much fuss. Besides, the quiet horizontal discharge won’t strain your eardrums, making it a good option for workspaces as well.

However, I should mention that it’s not among the most compact central air conditioners. Hence, you will have to carve out sufficient space to install it, and it may not be your go-to unit if you’re specifically looking for a unit to fit smaller spaces.

Although it’s not an HVAC system, you don’t have to worry about its maintenance, especially during the winters when the unit won’t be in use. The brand also claims that you don’t need to cover it during the winter, which is one job less to do!

SEER Rating: 14 | Speed: Non-variable | Total cooling capacity: 3-ton | Maximum sound output: 78 dB

4. Best Central Air Conditioner With Adaptable Cooling - Infinity 26 Air Conditioner

Carrier is another popular name that cannot be ignored when talking about efficient central air conditioners. As such, my next pick is what the brand claims to be its “most advanced” model. With a high SEER rating of 26, this premium energy-star-rated energy-efficient unit aims to save hundreds of dollars on your electric bill. Moreover, the quiet operation keeps noise levels at a minimum.

Coming to the internal mechanism, this unit is powered by the brand’s Greenspeed Intelligence technology that combines adaptable speed with an infinity control system. Simply put, this mechanism enables the central AC unit to facilitate reinforced cooling with precise temperature control and fewer temperature fluctuations. Plus, it can remove more moisture from the indoor air compared to most standard central air conditioning units.

Unlike its predecessor, this unit has a variable-speed compressor, which adjusts the output according to the cooling needs of the space. It can gradually adjust the programmable thermostat with gradual increments between 25% and 100%, providing only the necessary cooling.

As a result, the AC can function for longer with unhindered stability and temperature control for years to come. Carrier also offers a 10-year limited warranty on the AC parts and a 10-year limited replacement warranty.

SEER Rating: Up to 26 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 2 to 5-ton | Maximum sound output: 51 dB

5. Best For Clean Indoor Air - Trane TruComfort variable-speed Air Conditioner

If you’re on the hunt for a variable-speed air conditioner that can help reduce energy consumption while ensuring clean indoor air, then this Trane model may be the one for you. Upon further testing, I found that this feature can be credited to the Trane CleanEffects component, which makes the unit capable of filtering dust and other contaminants from the air.

Apart from that, the TrueComfort variable-speed technology makes this central AC automatic in the sense that it can continuously adjust the operational speed. Hence, you can always get the cooling you need without experiencing sudden fluctuations, which also contributes to the overall power efficiency.

On that note, I should mention that Traven XV20i has a SEER rating of about 22, and the maximum sound output you can expect is about 75-decibel. So, it may not be the best option for your home office, toddler’s room, or any other space that needs to be quiet. 

Traven has been a reliable central air conditioner brand for decades, and as such, it does the needful to ensure optimum peace of mind for buyers. That’s why all the parts used in this unit have been tested to confirm long-lasting performance.

SEER Rating: Up to 21.5 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 4-ton | Maximum sound output: 75 dB

6. Best For Temperate Areas - Rheem

Another budget-friendly model that cropped up during my research was the Rheem RA20 variable-speed model. This 4-ton unit can be operated at up to 20.5 SEER rating for adequate energy-efficiency. Moreover, it’s equipped with multiple modern technologies that make operating it a breeze.

For one, the Copeland Scroll variable-speed compressor runs on a modulating technology to offer better temperature and humidity control indoors. In fact, its overdrive feature supports a cooling load of up to 107 degrees so that you can counter the heat in most situations. However, it may be worth noting that this AC may not be suitable if you’re seeking seamless cooling in very high temperatures.

Talking about the noise output, the composite base pan, in tandem with the optimized fan opening, helps dampen the sound. However, I found it to still be quite loud for my liking, and I think a lot of users will agree with me on that!

The exterior has a powder-coated finish, which makes sense, considering it’s an outdoor unit. And the condenser coil can be easily accessed for easy maintenance. Last but not least, the brand offers a primary warranty of 10 years.

SEER Rating: Up to 20.5 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 4-ton | Maximum sound output: 76 dB

7. Best HVAC Equipment - MrCool Universal Central Heat Pump Split System

This 4 to 5-ton universal central heat pump split AC is one of the most popular products from the brand, and as such, finds a mention on my list today. It’s essentially an HVAC system that can be easily installed in most places, especially with the services of a qualified HVAC contractor.

What makes this possible is its compatibility with the no-vac quick connect line setup, which can reduce the installation time and effort. In hindsight, it eliminates the need for cutting, brazing or charging. But you can also opt for the usual installation.  

Operation-wise, one of the first things I should mention is the variable-speed DC inverter (housed inside the compressor) that makes it versatile. This means that the unit can operate as a 4-ton or 5-ton AC, depending on the cooling needs of the space, to maximize efficiency. 

Not only that, but it can also perform under extreme temperatures, rendering optimal cooling and heating as required. Although the 18 SEER rating may not be as high as some of its peers, it’s decently satisfactory considering it’s an HVAC unit.

SEER Rating: 18 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 4 to 5-ton | Maximum sound output: 55 dB

8. Best For Quiet Operation - Amana Air Conditioner

Speaking of HVAC systems, there’s one more unit I didn’t want to miss out on. The Amana ASXC18 features a two-stage scroll compressor and has a SEER rating of 19. But its highlight is the ComfortBridge technology, which ensures consistent performance in all weather conditions. This technology could initially be found in only select thermostats, but the brand has now installed this technology in all its heating and cooling devices.

Performance-wise, the two-stage compressor and dual-speed condenser fan motor combine energy-efficiency with uniform cooling. That’s why many users prefer installing it in large spaces measuring up to 2,800 square ft. Moreover, remote management through Wi-Fi connectivity and the brand’s CoolCloud application adds to user convenience.

It may be helpful to know that despite having a tower AC-like appearance, it isn’t the most compact unit out there, especially in terms of width. However, the durable body with a heavy-gauge galvanized steel enclosure has a special sound-control top design that reduces its sound output significantly.

SEER Rating: 18 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 4 to 5-ton | Maximum sound output: 51 dB

9. Best Smart Thermostat - Daikin Whole House AC

Daikin is one of the most reliable HVAC brands, and its DX20VC central AC can be considered a testimony of this reputation. With a high SEER rating of 24.5, it has a variable-speed compressor with a high-efficiency fan motor, much like its predecessor. As such, this unit can operate in the 2 to 5-ton range, making it quite versatile for different cooling needs.

Aside from that, it’s integrated with the brand’s property intelligence system, which monitors the unit throughout to “check and fix” problem areas. In other words, the unit can automatically troubleshoot itself to ensure consistent operation. At the same time, the durable copper tubing and aluminum fin condenser coil help minimize damages from regular use.

The brand also offers a 12-year limited warranty for the parts and the same for a complete unit replacement, so you can contact the brand in case of issues.

Furthermore, the smart thermostat technology enables two-way communication for precise and convenient temperature control. It’s also compatible with other Daikin HVAC systems, thereby enabling a brand ecosystem at home or office. 

SEER Rating: 24.5 | Speed: Variable | Total cooling capacity: 2 to 5 ton | Maximum sound output: 70 dB

Comparisons Of The Best Central ACs

Central ACsSEER RatingSpeedTotal cooling capacityMaximum sound output
Goodman GSX14036114Non-variable3-ton73 dB
Lennox SL28XVCUp to 28Variable3-ton59 dB
Goodman 3ton GPC1436H4114Non-variable3-ton78 dB
Carrier Infinity 26Up to 26Variable2 to 5-ton51 dB
Trane XV20i TruComfortUp to 21.5Variable4-ton75 dB
Rheem RA20Up to 20.5Variable4-ton76 dB
MrCool18Variable4 to 5-ton55 dB
Amana ASXC1818Variable4 to 5-ton51 dB
Daikin DX20VC24.5Variable2 to 5 ton70 dB

Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide

If you’re still confused about which unit to choose, I have something that may just help you make the right decision. Read on for an extensive buyer’s guide that will help you understand the key factors to keep in mind for making a worthy decision.

1. Type Of AC

When it comes to central air conditioners, there are two categories to choose from: split and packaged.

Split AC models are the commonly used type for residential and office spaces alike, comprising an outdoor component called the condenser. The refrigerant is carried back and forth from the condenser to the indoor unit (or indoor coil inside the air handler) using a line set. And this air handler can well be the furnace of the space.

Packaged central air conditioning units, on the other hand, are single outdoor units containing the cooling component and the air handler. Such models are connected to the main ductwork of the space and are generally easier to install than split systems.

A common perception is that packaged units aren’t as efficient or long-lasting as their split counterparts. However, with improvements in technology and manufacturing practices, you can get packaged models with high SEER ratings just as easily.

You can also opt for a mini-split system, which can be installed without any ductwork and come in multi and single-zone models. These are typically recommended when there’s a sudden need for centralized cooling, but installing ductwork isn’t feasible. Moreover, these ACs are compatible with AC-specific and mini-split heat pumps.

2. BTU Rating

The BTU (British Thermal Units) rating of a central air conditioning unit is a direct representation of how much space (measured in square footage) it can cool effectively. 

So, the more the BTU rating, the more area the AC can cool down without taking your electric bills through the roof. However, it won’t hurt to look for energy-efficiency features, especially an energy-efficient compressor or motor. 

If you’re renovating your home or constructing a new home, I’d suggest taking special care to ensure proper insulation in areas like the attic, windows, and doors. This way, you can save money by choosing a lower BTU-rated unit.

3. Energy-Efficiency Rating

There’s no rocket science here- no matter how much or little you plan to spend on central air conditioning, you’d always want a unit that ensures optimal energy efficiency. And the best way to gauge the efficacy of your preferred model is to look at its SEER ratio.

Ideally, you should opt for a unit that has a SEER rating between 14 and 26. Anything less than 14 will be of no use if you want to save considerably on your power bills. But keep in mind that central ACs with high SEER ratings may cost more upfront, so plan your budget accordingly.

4. Single Vs Variable-speed

As you may have already figured out by now, central AC compressors are either single-speed or variable-speed. While single-speed ACs run at one only power level, variable-speed units can run at different speeds according to the required cooling. As such, these units may help you save more power.

That said, single-speed central air conditioning units equipped with proper energy-efficient properties can also lessen your energy consumption in the long run.

5. Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats allow precise temperature control, and you can even set the cooling times for automatic switch-off. Furthermore, some ACs may facilitate remote control operation for easy temperature change and switch on/off from any corner of the house. Some units may be equipped with Wi-Fi-enabled remotes for reinforced convenience. 

6. Buying Season

It’s no secret that central air conditioners cost more than the average electrical appliances in a standard home or office. Hence, you’d want to get the best deal to save money on the upfront price. That’s why I’d suggest purchasing central air conditioning units during the off-season, i.e., during the winter, spring, or fall, when prices are likely to be low.

7. Humidity Control

If you live in a high-humidity area (like Florida), it’d be a smart idea to invest in a model like the Carrier one, which can eliminate a significant amount of moisture from the indoor air. 

Otherwise, prolonged exposure to high humidity can damage the internal parts of the unit, especially the metal ones. And these damages may not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, ultimately requiring hundreds or even thousands of dollars for repairs or replacements.

8. Brand Reputation

Finally, consider the brand reputation before purchasing a central AC. Look at the reviews, especially the ones about customer service, to understand if you’ll receive a prompt response in case of emergencies. From what I have seen, even budget brands like Goodman can provide you with reliable and fast customer service.

Central AC FAQs

  • How to ensure the best location for installing a central AC?

    Firstly, make sure that the indoor unit is placed near a dedicated electrical outlet, so it can be wired into the circuit properly, and the circuit can handle the extra load. Moreover, it should be installed in a central location, like your basement or utility room, close to the ductwork. 

    As for the outdoor unit, it should be placed in a shaded area if possible to prevent overheating. As a rule of thumb, keep it at least 2 feet away from any obstruction (like walls) and install it on a flat surface.

  • Do central air conditioners come with an air-purifying function?

    Some air conditioners may purify the air slightly, especially if they’re equipped with certain air filters like HEPA. However, this isn’t among the primary features of a central air conditioner, as its main job is cooling the air indoors. So, if air purification (along with air conditioning) is on your mind, it’s better to go for good-quality air purifiers. 

    However, it’s important to clean the filters to prevent dirt and debris from accumulating and spreading all across the room.

  • How to clean the air filters of your central air-con?

    Start by switching off the power to the unit and gently remove the filter. Then, use a vacuum cleaner on the lowest setting to remove any solid debris from the filter. As an additional step, you can wash the filter soap and water or cleaning solution by gently scrubbing it with a soft toothbrush. 

    Once the filter is dry, place it back on the unit. And remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you plan to use a cleaning solution.

  • Do all central ACs have a heat exchanger?

    Yes, all central ACs have heat exchangers located in the outdoor compressor, which consists of refrigerant-filled coils. As the warm indoor air passes over these coils, the refrigerant traps the heat to cool down the air, which is then distributed in the room.

    Meanwhile, the trapped heat travels to the outdoor unit and is released, which is why outdoor compressors release hot air.

  • What Are The Factors That Affect The Cost Of Installation Of A Central AC?

    Apart from the brand, size, type, and energy efficiency of your preferred central air-con, many important factors can affect its cost, like:

    • Ductwork- ducted air conditioners typically cost more than the ductless models, as you have to bear the extra cost of installing the ductwork
    • Labor charges- additional steps (like installing ductwork) or cutting walls to make space for the unit or the compressor will cost more
    • Installation service- the best HVAC technicians usually charge more due to the quality of services provided
  • Final Verdict

    For me, it’s the Goodman Air Conditioner that takes the first place on the podium. But if you’re looking for a variable-speed unit and budget isn’t an issue, then you may well consider the Lennox.

    And before wrapping up, here’s a final tip- don’t try to install central air conditioning units on your own, as the process requires professional expertise. Even if you have the tools to install one, remember that even the slightest mistake can nullify the manufacturer’s warranty. So, it’s better to pay for installation costs instead of getting stuck with a damaged unit.

    With that, I will now sign off. Keep a watch on this space for more such reads. Until next time, stay cool, and goodbye!