Top-Rated Central Air Conditioners

Top-Rated Central Air Conditioners Central Air Conditioners

Most Energy-Efficient Central Air Conditioners

Central air conditioners (central ACs) are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). This is the cooling output divided by the power input for a hypothetical average U.S. climate. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the air conditioner. The national efficiency standard for central ACs took effect in 1992, requiring a minimum SEER of 10. New standards, set to take effect in 2006, will raise the SEER requirement to 13, an improvement of 30% relative to 10-SEER units. Many older central ACs achieve SEER ratings of only 6 or 7.

Unfortunately, SEER doesn't tell the whole story. To get the best performance and highest efficiency possible from your new system, follow these steps:

Have your contractor perform a complete load calculation (called a "Manual J" calculation) to make sure you get a properly sized unit. An oversized central AC will cycle on and off too often, impeding its ability to control humidity.
Make sure that all of the components of your new system are designed to work together. In addition to the large outdoor unit (the condenser and compressor), your contractor should replace the indoor unit (the blower coil), and, if necessary, even the thermostat. Your system will work best if all the pieces take advantage of advances in product design and are matched to each other.
For efficiency when it is needed most (on the hottest days), be sure that the unit has a TXV (thermal expansion valve) plus an EER (high temperature rating) greater than 11.6. Ask your contractor to provide details on the models that you are considering or check the CEE Directory of ARI Verified Equipment to make sure that the combination of condenser and indoor unit your contractor has proposed meet the efficiency levels recommended by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency.
A variable speed air handler will improve comfort and efficiency and allow continuous air filtering at minimum energy cost.
Have your contractor check that all ducts are sealed and insulated (where outside the building envelope) with supply and return systems balanced.

Our list provides manufacturer, trade name, and condenser model. Depending on the indoor unit (or blower coil) installed, SEER can vary significantly within the ranges provided in the link above. When purchasing a new system, check with your contractor or visit the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute to see the specific SEER value for the combination you are considering. For the most efficient system, ACEEE recommends SEER of at least 14.5.