Heating, Air Conditioning, and Ventilation Brands

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

When heating systems or air conditioners do not work properly, you know how miserable you can be. If your furnace or air conditioning unit is out of commission more often than not, or if it's more than ten years old, it could be time to start looking for a new, more energy-efficient model that can reliably keep you comfortable and minimize your utility bills. So which HVAC brands are the best?

Major HVAC brands preferred by contractors

The brand names you might hear most often recommended by HVAC contractors are the following:

  • Trane/ American Standard
  • Carrier/Bryant
  • Rheem/Ruud
  • Lennox/Ducane
  • Goodman/Amana

While contractors typically have their preferences for one or two brands, all of the major brands offer similar quality, and all offer various pricing tiers relative to efficient heating and cooling.

Furnaces are rated for annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE); new units are now rated 90 or above for maximum utilization efficiency. Central air-conditioning carries a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER); a minimum SEER of 13 has been required since 2006. The higher the AFUE for a furnace and the higher the SEER for air conditioners, the more you can expect to pay for your central HVAC.

So what's the difference?

If all the brands offer similar product lines, quality and efficiency, why does a contractor prefer one brand over another? According to HVAC contractor, Ty White, at Sierra Air Inc. in Sparks, Nevada, installation and replacement parts' support are the top considerations for contractors and their customers. A contractor may steer away from some brands not because of quality, but because of support for that brand in their local area, which he says is what "makes or breaks a system, especially if a furnace fails and you have to order a part."

It does not matter, for example, that Trane and Lennox are excellent brands; the closest parts support for either brand to Ty's area is in Sacramento, Calif., and when the mountain passes are closed due to snow, his customers might have to go without heat for three days before parts can arrive to repair the furnace. For that reason, he prefers Carrier and Rheem, both of which offer excellent support to his particular location.

Regardless of brand, for any system to work right, all the parts must be compatible and installed correctly. Getting quotes from reputable HVAC contractors who can do the installation is the best way to shop for a new HVAC system. They can make calculations and recommend replacement systems based on the size of your home and the existing ductwork. And remember, too, even the best HVAC brands might not function dependably if you don't maintain them according to schedule.