Ask any air conditioning contractor in Orlando about commonly asked questions they receive from customers and "what is the best air conditioning system brand?" will certainly be at, or near, the top of the list.
And, if by "best brand" you mean the most reliable and longest lasting, then here are my thoughts. Back in the 1980's Trane and Carrier were the dominant brands with the greatest name recognition. And, for the most part, this dominant positioning was well deserved.
Trane acquired the GE brand of air conditioning equipment in 1981. By most accounts, and in my own experience, GE was the most dependable and reliable brand on the market. To this day, I occasionally come across old GE A/C units out there that are still churning out cold air. The last of the GE air conditioning brand came off the line in 1981, so that makes them at least 35 years old.
Willis Carrier invented what we know as the modern air conditioning system in 1902 and the brand dominated for many decades right up until very recently when Goodman Manufacturing overtook them in worldwide sales of compressor-bearing units.
Of course, sales volume and brand longevity don't necessarily add up to reliability, but it's safe to say the leading brands have established themselves in terms of name recognition and brand awareness.
My advice? Focus your energy and attention on the air conditioning contractor who installs your system instead of trying to subjectively pick the "best" brand. If you check with the state regulatory agencies, 99% of complaints involve the air conditioning contractors, not manufacturer's.
Unlike a commodity such as a dishwasher or dryer, which are both delivered and simply plugged in, air conditioning systems require professional installation and assembly in the field.
Imagine if your next car was delivered to you in 50 pieces and required professional assembly by a skilled dealer. It is a certainty that the quality and longevity of the vehicle would be dependant in large part on the skill and training of the assembling dealer.
The vehicle brand may become a lower consideration factor than the local assembly team you choose. Now, imagine how differently you would treat the decision to purchase a vehicle.
Here are the critical aspects of any residential central air conditioning installation:
1) Proper system sizing - an undersized system will perform poorly, rarely turning off. An over-sized system will "short-cycle", or cycle on and off too frequently, reducing humidity control and the life of the system.
2) Properly sized ductwork - This is one of the biggest plagues in the industry. Your air conditioning system has to deliver and return a given volume of air based on its capacity. The individual designing the duct system needs to understand some basic math, including the dynamics of air flow delivery and velocity rates.
3) Ensuring that no installation flaws are inhibiting system performance - I once saw an air conditioning system with a rigid duct connected to the top of the indoor air delivery unit. The duct only rose about 18 inches before it made an abrupt 90 degree horizontal turn.
This means that the air being delivered by the indoor unit was immediately chocked off before it even entered the duct system. This back-pressure, of course, led to very poor performance, high utility costs, and unneccessary comfort losses for the homeowner.
4) Connecting to a defective, leaky duct system - the average duct system in homes over 10 years old is responsible for up to a 38% reduction in airflow due to poor quality ductwork and leaky connections. This leads to increased running time, higher utility costs, and very poor indoor air quality due to the transfer of attic air directly into the living space.
5) Ensuring that the system properly heats and cools every room in the house - Actually this is something that has to be isolated up front because even a perfectly installed air conditioning system will not fix an area of your home that is not receiving proper airflow.
It may help to some degree, but if you have a room that is 5 degrees behind the rest of your house, there is another issue that should be addressed by the installing contractor prior to, or during, the installation.
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