• 2011 Air Conditioner Buying Guide

    When considering the purchase of a new central air conditioner there are several things you look for.  They include:

    1. Cost: You don’t want to overspend on equipment, but with quality equipment you get what you pay for.

    2. Efficiency: You want an efficiency rating that’s right for you – a balance between cost and SEER. Those in warmer climates recognize that spending more to get a high-efficiency unit will save them much more in the long-run in the form of lowered energy bills. Those in moderate to cool climates may do better to spend less on a mid-efficiency or standard-efficiency air conditioner that isn’t used as heavily.

    3. Performance features: Some consider it a good value to spend a little extra on 2-stage compressor operation or advanced noise reduction while others are looking for more basic functionality.

    With those considerations in mind, we put together this 2011 Air Conditioner Buying Guide by selecting 3 central air conditioners that are tops in their categories: high-efficiency, mid-efficiency and standard-efficiency.  Their price match their level of efficiency and in some respects, so do their performance features.  As you start your search for your next central air conditioner, these and the comparison models will give you a great place to start…and perhaps end your search.

    As part of each review, we include prices sent in by our readers to give you a ballpark idea of what your costs might be.  Here are our top 3 central air conditioners for 2011.

    High Efficiency, High Price: Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner

    Mid Efficiency, Mid Price: American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 Central Air Conditioner

    Standard Efficiency, Low Price: Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A 14 SEER Central Air Conditioner

    Top High-Efficiency, High-Price Central Air Conditioners

    Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner

    This is a top of the line model from a proven winner, Trane.  It was designed and built with quality and performance in mind.  It features 2 ClimaTuff compressors for maximum efficiency and comfort.  The unit uses one compressor about 80% of the time, but when temperatures rise significantly or the homeowner calls for a boost in cooling, the second compressor comes on to maximize cooling capacity.  With a very high 20.0 SEER efficiency rating, cooling costs may be cut in half since most units it will replace are in the 8-12 SEER range.

    Top features of the Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner include ComfortLink II technology that coordinates the performance of the air conditioner with the furnace or air handler to optimize balanced cooling, and Comfort-R enhanced humidity control that runs the blower more consistently at low speed to promote removing moisture from your home environment.  For a complete list of features follow the links to our main HVAC Prices article about the Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner.  Here is a sampling of the prices our readers have reported to us.

    2 ton Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner: $1,979.

    3 ton Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner: $2,200.

    5 ton Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i Central Air Conditioner: $2,659.

    If you want high performance and high efficiency and are willing to pay a bit more to get it, the Trane Ultra Efficiency XL20i will reward you with precise indoor comfort and lower energy bills for many years to come. It is a top choice in warmer climates where high efficiency is the key to controlling energy costs.  Have this central air conditioner installed by a qualified contractor who will know how to set up and adjust the system to maximize efficiency.

    Other Top High-Efficiency, High-Price Central Air Conditioners:

    • Bryant Evolution Model 180B 20 SEER Central Air Conditioner
    • Dave Lennox Signature Collection XC21 Central Air Conditioner

    Top Mid Efficiency, Mid Price Central Air Conditioners

    American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 Central Air Conditioner

    If your goal is to find a central air conditioner with excellent efficiency but not a “top of the line” price tag, this is it.  The American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 Central Air Conditioner offers an excellent 17 SEER rating and very competitive pricing.  It features a 2-stage Duration compressor that operates at 70% capacity most of the time, lowering noise, producing more consistent cooling and better dehumidification.  This an excellent all-climate air conditioner that is easy on the budget. Here are reader-submitted costs for the American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16:

    3 ton American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16: $2,229

    3 ton American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 split system with air handler: $4,319.

    4 ton American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 split system with air handler: $4,530.

    5 ton American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 split system with air handler: $5,200.

    Other Top Mid Efficiency, Mid Price Central Air Conditioners:

    • Bryant Evolution Model 187B 17 SEER Air Conditioner.
    • Ducane 4AC16 High Efficiency 16 SEER Central Air Conditioner.
    • Amana model ASXC16 16 SEER Central Air Conditioner.

    See the full list of features for the American Standard Platinum XM Allegiance 16 at our price review article for this model.

    Top Standard Efficiency, Low Price Central Air Conditioners

    Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A 14 SEER Central Air Conditioner

    Bryant makes a complete lineup of central air conditioners because they know that not everyone should pay top dollar to get a very high-efficiency unit.  In cooler climates where the A/C doesn’t run as much, it may make more sense to spend less on equipment costs.  The Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A air conditioner still offers Energy Star efficiency of 14 SEER which will lower energy bills in most homes where it replaces an older model.  Other features to note include the efficient single-stage scroll compressor that is durable and quiet and the use of environmentally sound R-410A refrigerant.  This is our choice for the best standard-efficiency central air conditioner currently on the market.   Here is a sampling of current pricing:

    2 ton Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A split system with air handler and heat strip: $2,250

    3.5 ton Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A only: $1,319

    3.5 ton Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A split system with air handler and heat strip: $2,719

    5 ton Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A only: $1,557

    5 ton Bryant Legacy Line Model 113A split system with air handler and heat strips: $3,299


    Other Top Standard Efficiency, Low Price Central Air Conditioners Models:

    • Amana Model ASX14 14 SEER Central Air Conditioner.
    • Armstrong Model 414LE 14 SEER Central Air Conditioner.
    • Ducane Model 4AC14 High Efficiency 14 SEER Air Conditioner.

    We hope this 2011 Air Conditioner Buying Guide helps you better understand what you want from a central air conditioner and points you in some directions that will assist you in finding just the right one for your situation.  These are our top 3 air conditioners for 2011, but there are many more outstanding models to compare and consider.

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