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Competitive Analysis of Split System Home Air Conditioners?

Any literature out there (from an unbiased, independent source) that compares/rates "like" competing AC systems (Tons, SEER, Component Materials, Warranty, Price) from Trane, RUUD, Carrier, Amana, Westinghouse, American Standard, etc.

Every AC company tends to promote the unit that they have agreements (or biggest profit margin) with and always play down the other competitive units. Likewise, pricing in the industry is strenously controlled and not available to consumers (even retail pricing) unless you get a quote, making it extremely difficult to do your research.


I appreciate the suggested advice, but as usual they present several observations. Notwithstanding sizing (in my case 5 Ton)and efficiency (14 SEER) Carrier Brand, after several years of now having this unit, the EVAP is leaking. After some research, determined that copper coil was manufactured in Mexico and has defects. Likewise the new ones I have researched include both copper and aluminum. Which is better, durable, efficient.

Furthermore, some local pros have indicated that SEER is not most important but comfort index (or something like that) and that undersizing the coil for superheating purposes is more suitable for the Texas environment. Finally, I question whether the builder subcontractor installed to manufacturers specifications as the CFM or air volume per room ranges widely (some rooms cold, other rooms warm). As such, how does the avg consumer verify installation to manufacturer specifications?

2 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I spent ten years in the biz, and I had an outstanding sales record because I did not marry myself to a particular product and their marketing spin. Instead, I advised my clients to purchase the highest efficiancy equipment available, get a ten year all parts and LABOR extended warrantee, contract with an excellent installation company, and negotiate a great price.

    A good installation is going to include new refrigerant lines, rustproofing, sealing, replacing or modifying ducts for optimum performance, high-efficiancy filtration, germicidal lamp for the evaporator coil, and proper sizing based on heat load calculations.

    I have sold and installed all of the brands that you listed, and all have good equipment in their most efficiant products. The installation, warranty, efficiancy & price are the elements you would do well to focus on. Here is a site with some good shopping tips:

    Consumer Reports will have the comparitive data that you are after, but it appears they want you to subscribe to their publication. Lots of free tips, but I'm afraid the good stuff will cost you a subscription:

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

    I can't address all of your issues, but I'll take on two. My primary claim to fame in the biz is air distribution. I never bought into the bogus claim that poor air balance is a given. This is all a function of proper duct design, and a pro will be able to achieve good air balance for you. This is easily determined by temperature and c.f.m. output at the diffuser. I had no problem guaranteeing balance (within reason) in the day.

    The latest equipment achieves efficiancy through 2 primary means, variable speed blowers and compressors. Trane/Amercan Standard uses two compressors. In a four ton unit, the 2-ton runs 80% of the time, and the 4-ton kicks on in it's place during peak loads.( Your utility bills look more like a 2-ton home.) The variable speed blower wheel ramps up slowly, allowing humidity to be extracted and air to slowly even out temperature in the ducts, and then throttles up to high speed to achieve the temperature drop. It also ramps down slowly, to extract moisture from the coil so it stays in a drier condition. The old single-speed blowers are famous for slinging moisture from the evaporator coil right back into the duct system. Carrier/Bryant features a dual-speed compressor in the same housing, where there are two rotary pistons that kick in according to the load. The 4-ton unit will run with a single piston, and then the second piston kicks in for symeltaneaous operation to achieve a four ton capacity.

    Carrier/Bryant has a proprietary thermostat, the Thermidistat, that allows you to set your desired relative humidity and temperature, and keeps it there through the manipulation of the blower and compressor.

    With this technology, there is no longer any need to "undersize" a unit to achieve efficiancy or humidity results. The change in comfort is remarkable. A properly dehumidified 76 degrees feels more like 72 degrees in a standard system.

    The reason I am an advocate of extended labor is my office was next to the service department. Trust me on this one. You will get hammered without it.

    Given the level of specifications and performance you are looking for, I would recommend the assistance of a third party for your purchase.A friend in the biz, or a consultant, to review the contract and specs, help with the design, and inspect the installation. With the cost of a new system, and the impact on your utilities over the next 15-20 years, this expense, if any, will be well worth it.

    Source(s): 10 years in the a/c biz
  • 1 decade ago

    Great answer, Airboy. I haven't worked residential for a while now, but when I did I gave close to the same advice. Capacity and efficiency are standardized for all manufacturers through ARI (The Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute). Kind of like the UL lister for this kind of stuff. Thus, manufacturers can't invent the efficiency nor capacity of their equipment. You may - or may not - be surprised to learn that multiple companies go to market with the exact same piece of equipment. You hit on one combo in Trane and American Standard. Same equipment. Same factory. Different label. Remember Chevy / Oldsmobile? Warranty is important. Most states require a minimum of 1 year on material and workmanship. Every manufacturer that I'm aware of extends the warranty on the compressor and heat exchanger (the main components of the air conditioner and heater, respectively) to 5 years or longer. The manufacturer's warranty is for parts ONLY. If you haven't purchased an extended labor warranty, it could cost you a few hundred bucks even with the free warranted parts.

    Every AC contractor has access to any brand you prefer, but they do get better pricing from the brand that they represent. Quality of construction may differ a bit among manufacturers, but with a few exceptions, they're all made from the same compoinents. Yeah - same factory - same compressor.

    With this in mind, know that the key is in the installation. Quotes are free. It's a big investment - get a few. You've taken some time to become informed about the equipment - take the same time to meet your contractor. Ask for references, pictures of installations. Remember that you should look for value for your hard earned dollar - and that may not equate to the lowest price.

    The one disagreement that I have with Airboy is the extended labor warranty. Your money may be better spent on a preventive maintenance agreement. Ask the question. And good luck

    Source(s): About 35 years in the business
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