9 Best Central AC Unit Brands: 2,2.5,3,3.5,4,5 AC Unit Costs

Picking a new central air conditioner is the last job you want to get wrong. They can cost $10,000+, have a complex installation process, and even the best central AC unit can leave you sweating in the summer if it’s not properly sized to your home.

In 2019 alone, a total of 5.65 million central AC units were sold in the US; that doesn’t necessarily mean that 5.65 million homeowners were satisfied with their choice of central air.

Failing to choose the right central AC unit for your home can result in:

  • Higher-than-desired indoor temperatures in the summer. Reason: Central AC is not big enough for the square footage.
  • Repeated calls to HVAC repairman and $500+/year AC repair costs. Reason: Central AC has of low-quality (usually connected with less-known brands).
  • Super high electricity bills in the summer. Reason: Central AC had low energy-efficiency (below 14 SEER rating).
  • Overpaying more than $2000 for faulty central air-con. Reason: Consumers were not well informed about which central air conditioners are the best, and picked a bad one.
  • In general, wasting $5000+ on the unit, installation cost, time, and effort that vent into ducting.

Ultimately, you can’t be without a right and properly functioning central air conditioning system when the summer heatwave hits. The best guarantee for a great central AC is the brand itself:

central AC unit producers
Some of the best central AC brands; you can find reviews and a list of 2, 3, 4, 5 models further on (complete with cost estimates).

Essentially, a central AC unit is a vital part of any home. That’s why more than 93% of new homes come equipped with either central air or ductless mini-split AC units. Many homeowners with older systems are looking to replace the existing central air unit with a new AC system, especially due to higher energy-efficiency.

According to the US Office Of Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy, “Today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid-1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.”

There are several questions you have to answers before picking the best central air conditioner for your home. This is the only way to avoid choosing a “bad” central air conditioner or get swindled by buying an unnecessarily pricy unit.

Here are the most important questions to ask with a bit of explanation:

  1. How many tons do you need for central air? Do you need a 2 ton, 3 ton, 4 ton, or 5 ton central AC unit? (Depends on square footage and zone you’re in).
  2. Should you choose central air or mini-splits? (Depends on existing ducts, or lack of them, and cooling needs).
  3. Which are the most energy-efficient central air conditioners? (SEER rating is used to measure energy-efficiency, and consequently lower electricity bills as much as $1,000 per cooling season).
  4. Ultimately, which are the best central air conditioner brands? (Good brand is the best guarantee for no-malfunctioning AC units that will last for 20+ years)

In this article about the best central air conditioner brands, we will make a systematic approach of how exactly to choose the right central AC unit. Here is the full structure that will get you acquainted with ins and outs of central air:

  1. Covering basic concepts such as capacity (2, 3, 4, 5 tons), energy-efficiency (SEER rating and energy-savings), cost of central air conditioners ($2,000-$8,000 unit cost + cost of installation), reliability (good brands vs. bad brands).
  2. A comparison of 9 best central air conditioner brands in 2021. Complete with the comparison between top central AC unit producers, unit costs, installation costs, and short descriptions of each top-rated brand like Goodman, Trane, Rheem, Daikin, Lennox, Carrier.
  3. Examples of best central AC units by tonnage. We will cover the best 2 ton, 2.5 ton, 3 ton, 3.5 ton, 4 ton, and 5 ton AC units, complete with costs (unit + installation), recommended coverage areas, and specific models you can buy.
  4. Other FAQ about central air conditioners such as how long does a central air conditioning unit last, what is the ultimate best SEER rating, and who to call for central AC unit installation.

There is quite a lot of material to go through here. However, going through it is vital, if you don’t want to choose the wrong AC unit.

Even before purchasing a central air conditioner, it makes sense that you get the key information you need and talk to HVAC people competently (and not get fooled into choosing overpriced and malfunctioning central AC systems).

Let’s start with the most common question when it comes to central air-cons.

Note: You can use this table of contents to jump to any part of this structured article.

What Size Central Air Conditioner Do I Need?

When you’re buying a new central air conditioner, the first thing an HVAC guy will ask you is “OK, how many ton AC are you looking to get?”.

Tonnage is the basic measurement of central air conditioner capacity. In other words, it tells you how powerful the cooling effect can the unit generate. There are two units we use for AC capacity:

  • BTU/hr. Usually more appropriate for smaller air conditioners (below 2 tons).
  • Tons. For bigger units like central air or mini-splits. 1 ton is equal to 12,000 BTU/hr.

To calculate how many ton central AC unit you need, you can follow the energy-conservative recommendation by EPA:

“20 BTU per sq ft (or 0.0016 ton per sq ft).”

That would mean that each 1 ton of central AC could cool down this area:

1 Ton Cooling Area = 1 Ton / 0.0016 Ton per sq ft = 625 sq ft

Even as EPA puts it, this is only a rough estimate for a central air conditioner coverage. The energy-saving rule depends on several other factors, like isolation, window space, sun exposure, ceiling height, and the climate zone you’re in.

There are, in general, 7 zones across the US. In Minnesota (Zone 6 – Cold), 20 BTU per sq ft might suffice. On the other hand, in Texas (Zone 2 – Hot) or Miami (Zone 1 – Very Hot), you need a more powerful 30 BTU per sq ft central air conditioner.

How Many Square Feet Do 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, And 5 Ton Central AC Units Cover?

Given the various factors, we can use a simplified rule for AC tonnage coverage (rough estimates):

  • 20 BTU per sq ft for colder climates (Zone 5, 6, and 7 – Minnesota, Chicago, even New York).
  • 25 BTU per sq ft for moderate climates (Zone 3 and 4 – Colorado, Carolinas, Tennesse, Northern California, Rust Belt, for example).
  • 30 BTU per sq ft for warmer climates (Zone 1 and 2 – Southern California, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, for example).

Based on these numbers, we can adequately estimate the central AC tonnage needed to cool down certain square footage. Here is a table with how large an area can 2 to 5 ton central AC units cool, depending on climate:

Central AC Capacity (Tons) Colder Climates Coverage (Sq Ft) Moderate Climates Coverage (Sq Ft) Warmer Climates Coverage (Sq Ft)
2 Tons 1,200 sq ft 960 sq ft 800 sq ft
2.5 Tons 1,500 sq ft 1,200 sq ft 1,000 sq ft
3 Tons 1,800 sq ft 1,440 sq ft 1,200 sq ft
3.5 Tons 2,100 sq ft 1,680 sq ft 1,400 sq ft
4 Tons 2,400 sq ft 1,920 sq ft 1,600 sq ft
5 Tons 3,000 sq ft 2,400 sq ft 2,000 sq ft

Here is an example of how to use this AC tonnage table:

Let’s say you have a 1,500 sq ft house. How many ton central AC you need?

If you live in a colder climate like Chicago, 2.5 ton central AC will suffice. If you live somewhere in Rust Belt, you will need at least a 3 ton central AC unit to properly cool your home during the heatwave. If you live in San Francisco, for example, you will probably require a 4 ton central AC unit.

General rule 1: 1 ton will cool down about 500 sq ft of space.

General rule 2: The further south you go, the more powerful central C unit you’ll need.

For more estimates, you can also use the AC tonnage calculator here.

Do You Have HVAC Ducts In Place That Will Accommodate Central AC?

Ducts are a necessity when it comes to central air conditioners. All the airflow generated by the outdoor is conducted through these aluminum ducts. More than 90% of new homes come with ducts.

If you don’t have ducts in place, you can:

  • Install the complete ductwork (average cost is between $1,800 to $3,300).
  • Buy a ductless mini-split unit. These can generate up to 3 tons of cooling effect and don’t need ducts.

To install the complete ductwork, you have to take the costs into consideration. The price breakdown for 60 ft of ductwork, insulation, and 5 vents (standard ductwork) will include:

  1. Ducts (Price: $150).
  2. Joints (Price: $100).
  3. Vents (Price: $80). 
  4. Permit (Price: $100).
  5. Insulation (Price: $150).
  6. Fan (Price: $30).
  7. Tape (Price: $40).
  8. Vent filters (Price: $5 per filter).
  9. Labor (Price of ductwork installation: $1350).

This is for a $2,000 complete ductwork. The prices vary based on where you’re located, installation difficulty, and the extensiveness of the ductwork (linear feet of aluminum ductwork).

The primary cost – that, by itself, generates more than 50% of costs – is labor. To reduce that cost, you can check these certified HVAC installers and get up to 4 free quotes.

Energy-Efficiency Of Central Air Conditioners (SEER Rating)

The SEER rating is the single most important specification when picking a new central air-con. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio; it gives you an idea about how much it will cost to run any central air conditioner.

Older models have a SEER rating of 13 or 14. The new highly energy-efficient air conditioners you will find in the table below can have a 20+ SEER rating.

To illustrate the electricity costs associated with the central air conditioners, let’s compare the energy expenditure and cost of 14 SEER and 20 SEER central AC (3 ton units).

Let’s presume that you will run an AC for 1000 hours (8.5 h per day for 4 summer months) and that the average cost of electricity is $0.1319 kWh (national average). Here’s how much would these two AC units spend during 1 summer season:

Data: 14 SEER Unit 20 SEER Unit
Cooling Capacity: 3 ton (36,000 BTU) 3 ton (36,000 BTU)
Running Hours: 1000 h per season 1000 h per season
kWh Cost: $0.1319 per kWh $0.1319 per kWh
Average Wattage: 2571 watts 1800 watts
kWh Spend: 2571 kWh 1800 kWh
Total Electricity Bill: $339.17 per season $237.42 per season

As you can see in this 14 SEER vs 20 SEER comparison, the more energy-efficient central air conditioner will cost about $100 less every season. In 20 years, the total energy-savings are about $2,000.

In short, when in doubt, always go for a central air conditioner with a higher SEER rating. The initial cost of the unit might be higher but you will in almost all cases be making a financially smarter long-term decision due to electricity bill savings.

One of the easiest ways to figure out if a central air conditioner is energy-efficient or not is to look for the Energy Star rating. Energy Star rated 2 ton, 3 ton, 4 ton, or 5 ton central AC units usually have a SEER rating over 18.

How Much Do New Central Air Conditioners Cost?

The total cost of any central air conditioner is primarily comprised of 3 factors:

  1. Price of the unit itself.
  2. Installation cost.
  3. Electricity costs.

When we talk about how much does a central air conditioner costs, we talk about the unit + installation. According to Home Advisor, the central air conditioner system costs between $3,811 and $7,476. The national average is thus $5,638.

Some high-end 5 ton Trane air conditioners can cost more than $10,000 (complete with installation and ductwork).

Other low-end smaller 2 ton central air conditioners can cost as little as $2,000.

When we will go through all the best central air conditioner brands, you will see the cost of installed units. Do keep in mind that those costs are only rough estimates with quite a big range; the price of central air conditioner and installation does vary from state to state, from home to home, and from brand to brand.

Most homeowners would obviously prefer to pay less for a central air conditioner. Why should you choose Goodman or Trane central AC, if you can get some no-brand central AC unit for $2000 less?

For normal products, that logic makes complete sense. However, when it comes to choosing a central air conditioner, a long-lasting and recognizable brand is the safer choice altogether:

Reliability And Lifespan (Good Brands vs. Bad Brands)

There is a reason why people Google “Best Central Air Conditioner Brands” more than “Best Central Air Conditioners”. The brand matters quite a lot.

What is so special about established brands like Goodman, Trane, Carrier, and so on? Well, for one, many of them have been in the business of producing air conditioners for 30+ years. If they produced bad central air conditioners, we would know and they wouldn’t be on the market anymore.

Because they have been on the market for so long, we can actually look at their units and see two very important things:

  1. How reliable their central air conditioners are?
  2. How long do their central air conditioners last?

To evaluate both of these qualities – very significant ones – you need decades of central air conditioners running, breaking down, stopping, and meeting their lifespan. All the established central air conditioner brands have those data for all of their models.

The newer central AC brands try to complete with, most predominantly, lower prices of the central AC units themselves. They may even have a high SEER rating, but if a company exists for 10 years, we can’t really tell if the central air conditioner they produce will last for 20 years, right?

Reliability is also important. You want an air conditioner with as little need for repairs as possible. If you need to repair your central air conditioner, you would like for HVAC guy to have some experience with that brand.

Central air conditioning systems made by good brands don’t break down as much. What is more, if they do break down, HVAC installers will know how to repair a Goodman, Trane, or Lennox central air conditioner. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she will be able to fix a newer no-name brand unit.

In almost all cases, it pays off to pay a little more for an established HVAC brand that has extensive experience with producing central air conditioners. They will also have an extensive network of installation experts that can help you; something you can’t really expect from lesser-known brands.

Which are the best HVAC brands that produce central air conditioners?

Let’s look at the most well-known ones, compare their models spec-by-spec, and get to know them a bit. Most of the data you will find in the table below is based on Energy Star’s Most Efficient Central AC Units In 2021 database.

If you’re looking for the best 2 ton AC unit, 2.5 ton AC unit, 3 ton AC unit, 3.5 ton AC unit, 4 ton AC unit, or 5 ton AC unit, you can look at the chapter further on (you’ll find specific models as examples as well):

Comparison Of Central Air Brands (Followed By Short Reviews)

Central AC Brand Logo Capacity SEER Rating Lifetime Electricity Cost Savings Over Federal Minimum Installed Cost Average Rating
1. Goodman 2-5 ton 18-24.5 $1,452 – $3,934 28% – 49% $3,100 – $6,600 4.7 out of 5 stars
2. Trane trane central air cons 2-4.5 ton 18-21.5 SEER $1,551 – $3,703 28% – 40% $5,500 – $13,000 4.7 out of 5 stars
3. Rheem 2-5 ton 13-20 SEER N/A N/A $3,900 – $6,400 4.6 out of 5 stars
4. Daikin 0.75-4.5 ton 18-26.1 SEER $856 – $3,962 26% – 43% $2,400 – $7,200 4.5 out of 5 stars
5. Lennox 2-5 ton 18-26 SEER $1,134 – $3,845 26% – 50% $3,400 – $7,200 4.5 out of 5 stars
6. Carrier 2-5 ton 18-25 SEER $1,189 – $3,916 28% – 48% $3,400 – $7,100 4.5 out of 5 stars
7. Bryant 2-5 ton 18-25 SEER $1,189 – $3,916 28% – 48% $3,300 – $5,800 4.4 out of 5 stars
8. Mitsubishi 0.75-3 ton 20.5-24.6 SEER $469 – $2,117 37% – 52% $2,900 – $6,100 4.4 out of 5 stars
9. Coleman 2-4.5 ton 19.25-20 SEER $1,558 – $3,364 32% – 35% $3,100 – $5,800 4.3 out of 5 stars

1. Goodman. Cost: $3,100 – $6,600

Goodman Manufacturing is an American HVAC manufacturer, based in Houston, Texas. They have been in business for almost 50 years (since 1975); currently, they are an independent subsidiary of Daikin Group. Together they form the world’s largest producers of HVAC systems.

They offer two lines of central air conditioners:

  1. Older GSX line. Models: GSX13, GSX14, and GSX16 with SEER ratings up to 16.
  2. New GSXC line. Models: GSXC16, GSXC 18, and GSXC20.

The GSXC20 is Goodman’s newest and best model. With the implementation of the new inverter technology, GSXC20 achieves an incredible 24.5 SEER rating.

Goodman units are considered to be reliable, durable, albeit the older models are less energy-efficient. The best part about Goodman’s unit is that they are widely available, cheap, and comparatively easy to install.

Goodman central AC units cost between $3,100 and $6,600 (total cost with installation), depending on the capacity, size, and area you’re located in. Obviously, these are rough estimates and you have to check with your local HVAC guys for the precise pricing.

You can literally buy a Goodman central air conditioner over Amazon; in the section where we feature examples of the best 2-5 ton units, we’ll provide you with the Goodman items you can buy right without going to an HVAC installed, Home Depot, and so forth.

2. Trane. Cost: $5,500 – $13,000

Trane Technologies is one of the oldest and best-known HVAC brands. It was established over 100 years ago (in 1913, just prior to WW1) and it has prospered ever since. Currently, it employs about 30,000 people and generates more than $8 billion in annual sales.

They offer 3 lines of Energy Star rated central AC units:

  1. TRANE XV18I Series TAM9: 18 SEER units that use 28% less energy than 14 SEER units; with a lifetime electricity cost (15-years) from $1,680 for 2-ton units to $3,845 for 4.5-ton units.
  2. TRANE XV20I Series TAM9: 19-21.5 SEER units that use up to 40% less energy than 14 SEER units. The 21.5 SEER 3 ton unit is especially energy-efficient; it’s comprised of a 4TTV0036A1 outdoor unit and a TAM9A0B30V31 indoor unit.
  3. TRANE XV18I Series TEM8: 18 SEER units that range from 2-ton to a little over 4-ton (the biggest capacity is 52,000 BTU or 4 1/3 tons).
  4. TRANE XV20I Series TEM8: 19+ SEER units that are at least 32% more energy-efficient that the federal minimum energy-efficiency requirements.

Trane central air conditioners have two proprietary features that set them apart from the competition. There are:

  1. Trane TruComfort™ system: the ultimate thermostat that keeps the temperature within 1/2 degree. The variable-speed compressor can increase or decrease the cooling output by as little as 0.1%, allowing for precise cooling.
  2. Trane ComfortLink™ II XL850 or XL1050 Zoning Control with built-in Nexia Bridge: Industry’s best central AC unit automation hub, accessible via smartphone.

The cost of a Trane central air conditioner is understandably high. The proprietary technology, smart integration, and 100+ years of reliability do add to the overall cost. With installation, a bigger 4+ ton Trane central air conditioning system can cost over $10,000.

3. Rheem. Cost: $3,900 – $6,400

Rheem Manufacturing is a US company, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Their primary focus is on producing water heaters and boilers, and they also have a big HVAC department that produces one of the best central air conditioners. Rheem has close to a 100-year tradition; it was founded in 1925 and, in addition to the Rheem brand, also sells HVAC products under the Ruud brand.

They produce anything from 2 ton central AC units to bigger 5 ton units. Rheem’s best central AC line is the Prestige Series with a variable speed compressor (RA20). RA20 units are capable of achieving a 20+ SEER rating, are EcoNet enabled (Rheem’s proprietary smart integration feature), and have a powdered coat paint system.

Cost-wise, they are cheaper than some of the best central AC unit brands. If you compare Trane vs Rheem central air conditioners, you can save up to several $1,000 by choosing a Rheem unit.

4. Daikin. Cost: $2,400 – $7,200

Daikin Industries is one of the best central AC unit brands. They are a Japanese HVAC company, based in Osaka, Japan, and have made their name by inventing the variable refrigerant flow (VRF) AC units. On top of that, they are the ones who developed and successfully marketed R410A; one of the most widely used refrigerants (in cooperation with Carrier).

They have been in business since 1924 (close to 100 years now), and have made quite a few very successful series of central air conditioning systems. In 2021, they offer the most extensive portfolio of central AC units.

Here are the Daikin lines of central AC units:

  1. Daikin DX18TC Series: 18 SEER units available in 2 ton, 3 ton, and 4 ton cooling capacities. They are up to 32% more efficient than 14 SEER units.
  2. Daikin DX20VC Series: Incredibly energy-efficient 20-23 SEER units, ranging from 2 ton units to 4.5 ton units. With 16 models in total, the Daikin DX20VC Series is the largest line of Energy Star rated central air conditioners.

Daikin DX20VC Series is one of the most energy-efficient and popular whole-home air conditioners. At its heart is the advanced variable speed scroll and swing compressor.

That compressor is the very thing that allows these Daikin central AC units to achieve SEER rating up to 23; that’s 43% more efficient than the minimum federal required energy-efficiency.

All Daikin units also come with proprietary ComfortNet digital thermostats that are easy to use and add to the energy-efficiency.

How much do Daikin central air conditioners cost?

With such a big range of units offered (20+ models), the price range for Daikin units is also broad. You can get the smallest below 1 ton units (9,000 BTU mini-split) for as little as $2,400 (that includes the installation).

Full-sized 2, 3, and 4 ton Daikin central air conditioning systems can cost up to $7,200. That’s pretty much the standard industry price.

If you compare Daikin vs Trane prices, Trane will probably be costlier. If you compare Daikin vs Bryant, Bryant will probably be cheaper, but they don’t have such a long and successful track-record for reliability as Daikin (something you definitely need to take into consideration).

5. Lennox. Cost: $3,400 – $7,200

Lennox Internation is one of the oldest US-based HVAC companies. Established in 1895 by Dave Lennox, this Iowian company has always been at the forefront of the newest HVAC technologies, and they are readily implementing and upgrading their models every 5 years or so.

The integration of new technologies has enabled Lennox to come up with Lennox XC25 series 2 ton AC units. That’s the one with an outstanding 26 SEER rating; something unheard of only 5 years prior.

Here are all the current Lennox Energy Star rated series of central air conditioners in 2021:

  1. Lennox XC20 Series: 20 SEER units available in 2, 3, and 4 ton cooling capacities. They are 35% more energy-efficient than 14 SEER rated units, with the exception of 19 SEER rated 5 ton unit.
  2. Lennox XC21 Series: 18 and 20 SEER units with up to 4 ton cooling capacity.
  3. Lennox XC25 Series: There are 4 units in this line. 20 SEER 5 ton unit, 21 SEER 4 ton unit, 23 SEER 3 ton unit, and the incredible 26 SEER 2 ton unit that is a true energy-saver. It’s comprised of XC25-024-230-** outdoor and CBX40UHV-024*+TDR indoor unit and has a total lifetime cost to operate of only $1,134 (50% more savings than the federal minimum energy-efficiency rated units).

All Lennox central AC units have a 1/2 degree thermostat preciseness. That means that the variable speed compressor Lennox uses will hold the temperature almost exactly as you set it.

To control the thermostat, Lennox has developed Lennox’s iComfort S30 Ultra-Smart smart feature that enables the connection of the thermostat to a smartphone.

Price-wise, Lennox is not cheap but it’s also not expensive. The cost of Lennox central air conditioners really depends on the SEER value. Here is the comparison of prices of central AC units with different SEER:

  • Installed 2.5 ton Lennox XC20 with 20 SEER rating costs about $4,500.
  • Installed 2 ton Lennox XC25 with an incredible 26 SEER rating can cost as much as $7,200.

Those energy-savings from a +6 SEER rating in favor of Lennox XC25 make the Lennox XC25 a smarter long-term option from a financial standpoint.

Obviously, as stated before, the precise prices of all central air conditioners depend on several factors.

6. Carrier. Cost: $3,400 – $7,100

Carrier is THE big brand in HVAC. They have been around since 1915 and produce a range of HVAC products, with a special focus on air conditioners. This Florida-based company has more than 50,000 employees, makes almost $20 billion in revenue, and operates across the globe. In short, Carrier truly is THE brand when it comes to central air conditioners.

They offer 2 Energy Star rated lines of central air conditioners:

  1. Carrier 24VNA0 Infinity Series: Standard 18 SEER line with 4 models. You can choose between 2 ton, 3 ton, 4 ton, and 4.5 ton Carrier AC unit.
  2. Carrier 24VNA6 Infinity Series: A remarkable 21.5-25 SEER line with 4 models. 2 ton Carrier 24VNA6 Infinity Series model can achieve one of the highest – 25 SEER – energy-efficiency rating among all central air conditioners.

The high energy-efficiency of the 24VNA6 series is the result of something Carrier calls Greenspeed intelligence. It’s basically a code name for the efficient compressor they use.

The controller unit for Carrier central AC units is called Infinity Touch and it’s pretty easy to use.

How much do Carrier air conditioners for whole-home cost?

Carrier offers quite standard prices for most of their central air conditioners. Their units can cost anywhere from $3,400 to $7,100 depending on the model, tonnage, and several other factors.

7. Bryant. Cost: $3,300 – $5,800

Bryant is a bit less-known HVAC company. They have a reputation for being a discount central AC producer; Bryant sells units that are cheaper, but still have decent specs and are comparatively reliable.

In their 2021 portfolio, they offer 2 lines of central air conditioning systems:

  1. Bryant 180CNV Evolution Series: 18 SEER series ranging from 2 ton to 4.5 ton units. These are 28% more energy-efficient than the minimum federal energy-efficiency requirement.
  2. Bryant 186CNV Evolution Extreme Series: New highly energy-efficient series. They have an impressive 2 ton 25 SEER unit. However, the best central AC in this line is the 5 ton 22.5 SEER rated unit that has a predicted lifetime electricity cost of only $3,361.

Bryant is all about price-performance. Bryant models are cheap and, we can see, they can achieve a 20+ SEER rating. The estimated cost of installed Bryant unit starts at $3,300 and it’s unlikely that you will have to pay more than $6,000 even for the biggest 5 ton AC unit; that’s not something you can say about Trane, Carrier, or even Goodman.

8. Mitsubishi. Cost: $2,900 – $6,100

Mitsubishi is the oldest HVAC company. It was formed in 1870, and it’s based in Tokyo, Japan. The company – Mitsubishi Group – is a global conglomerated. They have a big HVAC department as well.

Primarily, Mitsubishi is focused on producing ductless mini-split air conditioners, but they also offer smaller up to 3 ton central air conditioners. They offer these mini-split lines in 2021:

  1. Mitsubishi MUY-GE Series: 21.6-23.2 SEER-rated mini-splits. The 9,000 BTU or 3/4 unit can achieve a 23.2 SEER rating; very energy-efficient.
  2. Mitsubishi MUY-GL Series: 5 20+ SEER units, including up to 2 ton 20.5 SEER rated MUY-GL24NA-U1 (outdoor unit) MSY-GL24NA-U1 (indoor unit) air conditioners.
  3. Mitsubishi PUY-A Series: Inverter-driven series with 1 ton to 3 ton cooling capacities. The 12,000 BTU or 1 ton unit has a record-level 27 SEER rating. It is one of the few air conditioners that provide more than 50% energy savings over the federal minimum. It’s comprised of PUY-A12NKA7*** outdoor unit and PLA-A12EA* indoor unit.

The key to extremely high energy-efficiency is the incorporating of Mitsubishi’s inverter compressor that is controlled by Kumo Cloud controller.

Price-wise, the Mitsubishi units cost less than AC units by other brands because they are smaller (up to 3 ton). Buying a Mitsubishi mini-split will set you back anywhere between $2,900 and $6,100 (the cost of installation is included in this rough estimate).

9. Coleman. Cost: $3,100 – $5,800

Coleman is a smaller central AC brand that produces good air conditioners. The company is primarily focused on manufacturing camping gear, including propane and gasoline stoves.

They offer 1 line of central AC units in 2021:

  • Coleman AC21B Series: 5 models of 19.25-20 SEER units that range from 2 ton (19.25 SEER) to 4.5 ton (20 SEER) units.

Coleman might not be the most well-recognized brand like Carrier or Trane, but they do offer their central AC units at budget-friendly rates. With installation, the total cost of Coleman central AC units is between $3,100 and $5,800.

Best Central AC Units By Tonnage

Central AC units are made in a variety of sizes or capacities. In HVAC lingo, this is known as ‘tonnage’.

Most homeowners are looking for units with these cooling capacities:

  • 2 ton AC units, or 24,000 BTU.
  • 2.5 ton AC units, or 30,000 BTU.
  • 3 ton AC units, or 36,000 BTU.
  • 3.5 ton AC units, or 42,000 BTU.
  • 4 ton AC units, or 48,000 BTU.
  • 5 ton AC units, or 60,000 BTU.

When buying either of these units, homeowners are most interested in knowing 3 things:

  1. What is the coverage area of 2-5 ton units?
  2. How much do 2-5 ton units cost?
  3. Which are the best 2-5 ton units; specific models.

That’s why we will go through all of these tonnages and indicate the coverage, how much they cost, and which specific models are the best. We’ll start with 2 ton AC units and continue to 5 ton units:

2 Ton AC Unit Price, Square Footage, Models

2 ton AC units generate 24,000 BTU of cooling power. They are usually used as small house air conditioners.

Coverage-wise, 2 ton is enough to cool down:

  • 800 sq ft in warmer climates.
  • 960 sq ft in moderated climates.
  • 1,200 sq ft in colder climates.

The best 2 ton AC units can cost between $1,500 and $5,000 (with installation).

Here is a shortlist of the best Energy Star-rated 2 ton AC units by renowned central AC brands:

2 Ton Series SEER Rating Outdoor Unit Indoor Unit
Amana AVXC20 23.0 AVXC200241A* AVPVC24C14A*
Bryant 186CNV 25.0 186CNV024*0**A* CAP**4321AL*+UI
Carrier 24VNA6 Infinity 25.0 24VNA624A*030* CNPV*3717AL*+UI
Coleman AC21B 19.25 AC21B2421 AVV25BE12+CC
Daikin DX20VC 23.0 DX20VC0241A* DV24PVCC14A*
Lennox XC25 Series 26.0 XC25-024-230-** CBX40UHV-024*+TDR
Mitsubishi PUY-A 24.2 PUY-A24NHA7*** PLA-A24EA*
TRANE XV20I TEM8 19.5 4TTV0024A1 TEM8A0C36V31+TDR

Lennox produces the 2 ton AC units with the highest 26 SEER rating.

2.5 Ton AC Unit Cost And Coverage Area

2.5 ton AC units are capable of generating 30,000 BTU of cooling power. They are very useful in cases when 2 ton AC is not quite enough powerful and a 3 ton unit would be overkill.

How many square feet do 2.5 ton AC units cover?

  • 1,000 sq ft in warmer climates.
  • 1,200 sq ft in moderate climates.
  • 1,500 sq ft in colder climates.

Prices of 2.5 ton AC units have a broad range. Complete with installation, they can cost as little as $1,800. However, the high energy-efficiency units (that make a smarter and eco-friendly long-term investment due to energy-savings) can cost up to $5,600.

Note: 2.5 ton AC units are quite a rarity. Not many companies offer 2.5 ton units; mostly, major brands produce 4 models series with 2 ton unit, 3 ton unit, 4 ton unit, and 5 ton unit. Unfortunately, 2.5 and 3.5 units are, in most cases, not included.

3 Ton AC Unit Cost, Coverage, And Specific Models

3 ton is the most popular and common central AC tonnage. Pretty much every company that makes central AC systems offers one or several 3 ton units.

3 ton AC units is capable of generating 36,000 BTU of cooling effect. That means that such a unit can cover quite a lot of space; a standard house, for example.

Here is the rough estimation of coverage of 3 ton units in square feet for 3 general climates:

  • 1,200 sq ft for warmer climates.
  • 1,440 sq ft for moderate climates.
  • 1,800 sq ft for colder climates.

3 ton AC unit cost is between $2,000 and $6,000 (with installation included). There are several factors that can affect the cost of 3 ton AC units, such as location, house size, the SEER rating, and the brand itself.

Here is a list of the best 3 ton AC units in 2021:

3 Ton Series SEER Rating Outdoor Unit Indoor Unit
Amana AVXC20 21.0 AVXC200361A* AVPVC36D14A*
Bryant 186CNV 23.5 186CNV036*0**A* CAP**3721AL*+UI
Carrier 24VNA6 Infinity 23.5 24VNA636A*030* CAP**3721AL*+U
Coleman AC21B 19.0 AC21B3621 AVV37CE22+CC
Daikin DX20VC 21.0 DX20VC0361A* DV36PVCD14A*
Lennox XC25 Series 23.0 XC25-036-230-** CBX40UHV-036*+TDR
Mitsubishi PUY-A 21.8 PUY-A36NKA7*** PLA-A36EA*
TRANE XV20I TEM8 20.0 4TTV0036A1 TEM8A0B30V31+TDR

3.5 Ton AC Unit Cost And Coverage Area

Similar to 2.5 ton units, 3.5 ton AC units are also a bit of a rarity. They are, however, a very good choice when 3 ton units are not strong enough and 4 ton units might be overkill.

3.5 ton units generate 42,000 BTU of cooling effect. That is enough to cool down:

  • 1,400 sq ft in warmer climates.
  • 1,680 sq ft in moderate climates.
  • 2,100 sq ft in colder climates.

3.5 AC units cost more than your average 3 ton unit. The prices of 3.5 ton units with installation start at $2,000 and can reach as high as $6,400.

4 Ton AC Unit Cost, How Big Area Do They Cover, Best Models

4 ton AC units are quite big. They can generate 48,000 BTU of cooling output and are usually powered by 3,000+ watt power sources.

4 ton AC units are very popular because they have an ideal about 2,000 sq ft coverage. Based on rough estimates, here are the basic square footage list for 4 ton units:

  • 1,600 sq ft in warmer climates.
  • 1,920 sq ft in moderate climates.
  • 2,400 sq ft in colder climates.

Because they are bigger, they also cost more; the unit price, as well as installation, is pricier. The prices of 4 ton AC units range from $2,500 and $7,400 (complete price with installation).

All major central air conditioner brands produce 4 ton units. Here is a list of the best 4 ton AC units with the highest SEER rating in 2021:

4 Ton Series SEER Rating Outdoor Unit Indoor Unit
Amana AVXC20 21.0 AVXC200481A* AVPVC48D14A*
Bryant 186CNV 21.5 186CNV048*0**A* CAP**4824AL*+UI
Carrier 24VNA6 Infinity 21.5 24VNA648A*030* CAP**4824AL*+UI
Coleman AC21B 19.5 AC21B4821 AVV49DE32+CC
Daikin DX20VC 21.0 DX20VC0481A* DV48PVCD14A*
Lennox XC25 Series 21.0 XC25-048-230-** CBX40UHV-048*+TDR
TRANE XV20I TEM8 19.5 4TTV0048A1 TEM8A0C42V41+TDR

Carrier and Bryant create the most energy-efficient 4 ton AC units with a 21.5 SEER rating.

5 Ton Central AC Unit Cost, Coverage Area Of 60,000 BTU, And Models

5 ton AC units are one of the biggest central AC units available for residential use. They produce 60,000 BTU of cooling effect and are powerful enough to cool down bigger houses all on their own.

Here is are the basic estimates of what area can 5 ton AC units cool down, depending on the climate:

  • 2,000 sq ft in warmer climates.
  • 2,400 sq ft in moderate climates.
  • 3,000 sq ft in colder climates.

5 ton units are one of the most expensive central air conditioning systems simply because they are bigger, need extensive installation, and can cool down larger areas.

Total cost of 5 ton units with installation starts at about $3,500 and can reach up to and even over $10,000.

Here are the most prominent 5 ton AC units in 2021:

5 Ton Series SEER Rating Outdoor Unit Indoor Unit
Bryant 186CNV 22.5 186CNV060*0**A* CAP**6121AL*+UI
Carrier 24VNA6 Infinity 22.0 24VNA660A*030* CAP**6024AL*+UI
Lennox XC25 Series 20.0 XC25-060-230-** CBX40UHV-060*+TDR

Be careful when choosing 5 ton unit: most producers label even 52,500 BTU units as 5 ton units. 5 ton equals 60,000 BTU; we can consider any unit with above 55,000 BTU cooling output a ‘5 ton’ unit.

Who To Call When You Need Help With Central AC Installation?

In most cases, you don’t buy central AC units over the internet. That’s the case with mini-splits, portable air conditioners, and window air conditioners.

You can your local HVAC company, ask for some quotes, and they will recommend you the central AC unit to use as well as calculate the coverage area you need, ductwork, and so on.

To sum everything up; be smart when choosing the central AC units. This is a decision that can cost

15 thoughts on “9 Best Central AC Unit Brands: 2,2.5,3,3.5,4,5 AC Unit Costs”

  1. Thanks so much for this insight into the ac world. I’m new to this area of home ownership and this is very helpful for the project of replacement of complete unit

  2. Brilliantly done, this is the best 30 minute read through that anyone could hope for when learning the basics of HVAC. This is coming from an HVAC engineer who does commercial systems. Even I learned a little, but mostly this helps to make sure people have useful model information which can sometimes be confusing. The summary at the bottom is definitely great so they can work with a local installer and use a brand and model supported by the installed. Good job!

  3. New homeowner, obviously my A/C is leaking and looking to get a new one :)) You really help me navigate through my options and gained a lot of new knowledge. Great job!

    • Hello Pavel, glad to be of help 🙂 Getting a new central AC is quite challenging and having comprehensive data on the mater is helpful.

  4. Hello. I live in South Texas Zone 2. I have a 1996 sq ft 2 story home and just had the outside unit replaced. The inside was replaced in 2017. The hvac co installed a Trane model 4twr4036h1000a unit which figures to a 3 ton unit. My house is not cooling to 75 during the day like with the older unit but stays at 77/78 until 10:00. The company keeps telling me it’s not made to cool to 75 in 100+ temperatures but ive never had this issue and been here since 1996 (Note: Had new blown insulation in 2016). Looking at the charts, I guess not as I don’t think I have the proper tonage for zone 2 texas. What tonage should I be at so I can be cool during the day but not run the risk of mold? I’m calculating 30BTUs for TX x 1996 sq ft. Is that right, should it be 4? My ceilings are 8 ft.

    • Hello Connie, that’s the correct thinking. Basically, even if the outdoor temperatures are above 100 degrees, you should be able to cool your home to 72 degrees, if you have sufficient cooling output. For Texas, 1996 sq ft, 3-ton unit does seem undersized. A bigger unit should lower the temperature sufficiently. You can add cooling output by installing 1 ton (12,000 BTU) window or portable AC unit, for example. Taking the 3 ton unit out and installing a new 4 ton unit is much more expensive. Hope this helps.

    • Hi there, American Standard is usually more focused on heating. It is not as well a recognizable brand for central AC units as Trane, for example.

  5. Total newbie to central air, but my current unit has lasted for 11 years. Alas, it is not immortal. I love your info. Clearly and logically presented. Thanks so much!

    • Hi TVL, central air conditioners are not immortal, that’s exactly right. 11 years is a bit on the low side, hope your next central AC survives for 20+ years.


Leave a Comment