Our definitive guide to the best central air conditioner brands and models for Canadians in 2021.
Not only are new air conditioners a big investment, but they also serve a vital function in your home for several months of the year, so of course you want something that’s going to be efficient, powerful, and hard-working for many years.
This guide will examine all the best air conditioner units on the market in Canada in 2021, and break them down based on categories like price and value, warranty, efficiency, and features.
Plus, we’ll also talk about how to get the best value for your money, and how to make sure that any air conditioner you invest in gives you the best and most efficient performance for many summers.
If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, also check out:
- Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide
- Air Conditioner Prices in Canada
- Central A/C Cost Calculator (Short Quiz)
- Current Local Heating & Cooling System Deals
- Get Free Estimates from Our Certified Local Contractor Partners
Table of contents
- If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, also check out:
- Important Installation Tips for Your New Air Conditioner
- How We Evaluate the Best Air Conditioners
- Air Conditioners with the Best Prices (by Budget)
- Air Conditioners with the Best Warranty Coverage
- Most Energy-Efficient Air Conditioners of 2021
- The Newest and Best Air Conditioner Features and Technologies
- Design Features to Increase Longevity
- Getting the Most from Your Air Conditioner
Important Installation Tips for Your New Air Conditioner
When you spend a few thousand dollars on a new cooling system for your home, you want to get the most of what it has to offer.
The best way to achieve this is to hire an HVAC expert and have the unit professionally installed. That will guarantee the air conditioner:
- Is installed properly
- Is the right size for your house
- Doesn’t get damaged during installation
- Operates at the efficiency level advertised
Plus, professional installation will get your new air conditioner up and running without invalidating the warranty.
Use our contractor certification program to find HVAC experts in your area who have been independently evaluated for things like customer satisfaction, credentials, experience, and more.
How We Evaluate the Best Air Conditioners
Homeowners who don’t know a lot about the HVAC industry might be tempted to consider brand and price above all else, but there are problems with this approach, and that’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best high-efficiency air conditioners.
We consider a wide variety of important elements when evaluating air conditioners, and brand is actually near the bottom of the list.
Similarly, while we recognize how vital it is to stay within budget when upgrading your air conditioner, we also take into account the fact that you can save more money over time by spending a bit more on the right model.
So what do we consider when evaluating air conditioners? We’ll talk about all of these topics in more detail, but for now let’s briefly look at some of the most important factors when assessing and buying a new cooling system:
- SEER rating: An air conditioner with the right efficiency rating could save you plenty on cooling bills.
- ENERGY STAR®: It’s not necessary to get an air conditioner with ENERGY STAR certification, but ones that qualify are guaranteed to perform and deliver excellent efficiency.
- Compressor style: Whether the unit has a single-stage, two-stage, or variable-speed compressor will help to determine its price, efficiency, performance, and noise level.
- Warranty: A good warranty can save you lots on repairs and maintenance over the years.
- Features: Some air conditioners are very basic, but some of the higher-end ones come with cutting-edge technologies and cool features.
- Quality and durability: Air conditioners in Canada all meet a certain standard when it comes to quality of construction, but some are built more durably than others.
- Size: Getting an air conditioner that’s the right size for your space can be even more important than all the other factors because a unit that’s the wrong size won’t perform in terms of efficiency, longevity, or cooling capabilities.
- Value versus budget: We said that price isn’t necessarily a top priority, but value certainly is. An expensive top-of-the-line air conditioner isn’t necessarily worth the price if it doesn’t deliver, whereas an affordable entry-level model that performs reliably will be worth every penny.
Air Conditioners with the Best Prices (by Budget)
Air conditioners can typically range in price from $3,000 to $6,000, but it’s possible to pay more or less for a specific model.
While that is a large spread, the brands can be broken down into smaller price categories based on whether they’re entry-level for economy budgets, mid-range for medium budgets, or premium for higher budgets.
In the entry-level category, you’ll find mostly single-stage air conditioners from brands like York and Goodman. These are typically more basic units, in that they won’t usually have a lot of bells and whistles, they’ll have standard warranties, and they might be less efficient. However, you might find some more advanced two-stage models in this category, and it’s also possible to find economy air conditioners with great features.
Most mid-range models will be more efficient single- or two-stage models from brands like Tempstar and Napoleon, but there are also lots that still have single-stage compressors. The air conditioners in this category will probably come with a few extra features and technologies and slightly longer warranties.
You’ll find the most expensive and most advanced air conditioners from brands like Lennox and Carrier in the premium category. These will be two-stage or variable-speed models with the most features, most advanced designs and technologies, longest warranties, and likely the highest efficiency ratings.
Let’s compare some of the best-priced air conditioners on the market in the different price categories (the prices include the cost of installation):
|Economy||Keeprite CSA5||$3,500 to $5,500+||15||Single-stage, durable unit, Wi-Fi enabled|
|Economy||Goodman GSX13||$3,000 to $4,750+||14||Single-stage, easy installation, easier to repair|
|Economy||Daikin DX14SA||$4,000 to $5,500+||Up to 15||Single-stage, good warranty, durable unit|
|Mid||ComfortMaker N4A6||$4,500 to $5,750+||17||Single-stage, relatively quiet|
|Mid||Amana ASX14||$4,500 to $6,000+||15||Single-stage, relatively quiet, self-diagnostics|
|Mid||Armstrong 4SCU20LX||$6,000 to $7,500+||Up to 20||Variable-speed, relatively quiet, remote operation|
|High||Rheem RA14||$5,500 to $7,500+||16||Single-stage, scroll compressor, easy installation|
|High||Trane XR14||$6,000 to $8,500+||16||Variable-speed, relatively quiet, durable|
|High||Lennox Merit 16ACX||$6,000 to $8,500+||16||Variable-speed, relatively quiet|
Air Conditioners with the Best Warranty Coverage
We mentioned that air conditioner warranties are important to pay attention to, and this is because good coverage can save you hundreds of dollars or more on the cost of repairs and replacement parts.
The longer the warranty, the more money you can potentially save. Furthermore, a longer warranty means the manufacturer stands behind their product with more confidence, so you can expect a new air conditioner to perform efficiently and reliably for at least as long as the warranty period lasts.
Air conditioner warranties can vary greatly depending on the brand and the tier. Most manufacturers have more affordable economy models and more expensive premium models, and the premium models usually come with the best coverage.
At the very least, every air conditioner sold in Canada will come with a five-year warranty that covers the compressor and functional parts. However, many manufacturers offer longer and more comprehensive warranties, which can include:
- Parts warranties that cover internal functional parts
- Separate compressor warranties
- Unit replacement warranties that will provide a brand new replacement unit if a major component fails
- Labour warranties that cover the labour costs of an HVAC technician (these are rare)
Here’s a list of the air conditioners on the market right now that come with the best warranties in the industry:
|Budget||Brand and Model/Series||Compressor Warranty||Parts Warranty||Unit Replacement Warranty|
|Economy||Goodman GSXC18 and GVXC20||Lifetime||10 years||10 years|
|Economy||York YXT||Lifetime||10 years||N/A|
|Economy||Keeprite CCA7 and CVA9||N/A||10 years||10 years|
|Medium||Amana mid-range and premium models||N/A||10 years||Lifetime|
|Medium||Luxaire Acclimate series||N/A||10 years||Lifetime|
|Medium||Daikin DX16TC||N/A||12 years||12 years|
|High||American Standard Gold and Platinum series||12 years||10 years (plus 10 years for outdoor coil)||N/A|
|High||Rheem Prestige series||N/A||10 years||10 years|
|High||Trane XV18||12 years||10 years||N/A|
Getting the longest-lasting air conditioner warranties
The warranty information above is for registered warranty terms.
Just about every air conditioner manufacturer offers basic terms and registered terms. The registered warranty periods are always longer, and you’re eligible for these extended terms as long as you register your new unit with the manufacturer, usually within 60 to 90 days of installation.
Most Energy-Efficient Air Conditioners of 2021
Measuring air conditioner efficiency
Air conditioner efficiency is measured with a SEER number. This stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, and it measures how much energy an air conditioner uses versus how much cooling power it produces. The higher the SEER, the more efficient a unit is.
How compressor and fan style can impact SEER
The least efficient models on the market are ones with single-stage compressors and single-speed fans. These are generally also noisier, and they don’t do as good a job at maintaining consistent temperatures throughout your house.
Air conditioners with two-stage compressors are a step up, and they are more efficient, quieter, and better at producing even temperatures.
The most sophisticated and most efficient models have variable-speed compressors and variable-speed fans. They operate at extremely low speeds for most of the day, so they’re the best at operating quietly, keeping the temperature the same, and controlling humidity.
Weighing price and value when choosing air conditioners in Canada
You’ll want to pay attention to the efficiency of different air conditioners when you’re shopping, and there are a few reasons for this.
Air conditioners with higher SEER ratings come at a higher cost. But at the same time, better efficiency ratings typically translate to lower cooling bills.
In Canada, however, our summers tend to be milder than some other places, so it’s important to balance price, SEER, and potential energy savings.
Air conditioners that fall within the 16 to 18 SEER range generally have the best balance between purchase price and energy savings for Canadian summers. However, there are models available with much lower and much higher efficiency ratings. Any air conditioner that carries the ENERGY STAR logo will have a SEER of at least 15.
Now that you understand how air conditioner efficiency is measured and why it’s important, let’s look at some of the most efficient models on the market, broken down by budget:
|$4,750 to $7000+||Napoleon NT 16||16||Single-stage|
|$5,500 to $7,500+||Keeprite CVA9 / Tempstar TVA9 / Comfortmaker CVA9 / Heil HVA9||19||Variable-speed|
|$4,500 to $7,000+||Payne PA16NW||17||Single-stage|
|$5,000 - $7,500+||Ruud UA17||17||Two-stage|
|5,000 to $7,500+||Goodman GSXC18||19||Two-stage|
|$5,500 to $8,500+||Amana ASXC18||19||Two-stage|
|$5,500 to $8,500+||Armstrong 4SCU20LX||20||Variable-speed|
|$5,500 to $8,500+||Daikin DX18TC||19||Two-stage|
|$5,500 to $8,500+||Coleman AC21 / Luxaire AL21||20||Variable-speed|
|$6,500 to $8,500+||American Standard Platinum 18||18||Variable-speed|
|$6,500 to $8,500+||Rheem RA20||20.5||Variable-speed|
|$6,500 to $8,500+||York YXT||19.75||Two-stage|
|$7,000 to $8,500+||Bryant 189BNV||19||Variable-speed|
|$7,000 to $8,500+||Carrier 19VS||19||Variable-speed|
|$7,000 to $8,500+||Trane XL18i||18||Two-stage|
Note: While there are air conditioners with SEER ratings above 20.5, these are rarely available in Canada, and we have not included them because they don’t offer high enough energy-savings to justify the cost. And Canada’s milder climate and shorter summers make these units uncommon as they’re meant for places like Florida.
The Newest and Best Air Conditioner Features and Technologies
Humidity control is an important feature of any cooling system because dry air is more comfortable, and it’s easier to cool, so a unit that properly manages moisture will also be more efficient. If you live in a climate with humid summers, then you might want to check out these technologies:
- Carrier’s Greenspeed Intelligence controls humidity levels by enabling the unit to operate at lower speeds for longer periods.
- Lennox’s Humiditrol is a separate whole-home dehumidification system that pairs with some of their air conditioners for advanced moisture control all summer long.
Easy Installation and Maintenance
Professional installation and maintenance do require an investment, but they’re also necessary for the health and longevity of your cooling system. Luckily, there are some brands that have designed their models to be easy to install and easy to maintain, and that can translate to quicker and cheaper service calls. Here are some of the features that make for easy service and installation:
- Luxaire’s Charge Smart and York’s Charge Assurance technologies monitor the refrigerant charge when units are installed, thereby allowing for faster installation and maintenance.
- Rheem’s PlusOne Expanded Valve Space ensures easy access for repairs by increasing the amount of work area around their units.
- Rheem and Ruud’s PlusOne Triple Service Access gives technicians easy access to the internal components, making it faster and easier to clean, repair, and reassemble the unit.
- Ruud’s QR Code system allows HVAC professionals to scan the code for instant access to important information about the unit.
Self-Diagnostics and System Monitoring
Self-monitoring and diagnostics are helpful for maintenance and faster service calls, but they can also facilitate DIY troubleshooting and minor repairs. More than that, these technologies can improve the performance of your cooling system by ensuring it’s always operating at peak efficiency and performance. These are some of the self-diagnostic technologies on the market:
- Goodman’s ComfortAlert Diagnostics technology makes troubleshooting and repairs faster by keeping an eye on issues as they arise.
- Amana’s Copeland CoreSense Diagnostics system continuously monitors the unit for problems, provides guidance for troubleshooting and diagnosing issues, gives tips about potential repair solutions, and will automatically shut down the system if it detects problems that could lead to compressor damage.
- Coleman’s Charge View is a monitoring system that gives instant updates about the unit’s condition for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes.
- Rheem’s EcoNet is a Wi-Fi enabled monitoring system that gives you remote access to the health of your air conditioner, and lets you request service calls with a simple click.
- Select Bryant air conditioners have Bluetooth connectivity so you can keep an eye on the system settings and performance.
Smart Thermostat Compatibility and Remote Operation
Smart thermostats don’t just make programming your air conditioner a breeze: they can also reduce energy use, save you money, and give you remote access to the settings for all your HVAC systems.
Many of the newer air conditioners coming out these days are smart thermostat compatible, but here’s a list of the proprietary smart thermostats and other devices that give you remote access to your air conditioner:
- Select Luxaire and York air conditioners can be paired with the Hx3 Communicating Zoning System, which allows you to program up to eight zones, has voice control through Amazon Alexa, and is compatible with the Apple Watch.
- Carrier’s Infinity Touch Control lets you set and change air conditioner settings from your mobile device.
- Carrier also has the Performance Edge Relative Humidity Thermostat, a smart thermostat that gives you control over your heating, cooling, ventilation, fan, and air quality settings.
- Armstrong’s Comfort Sync Thermostat gives you remote access to your air conditioner, allowing you to program and change the temperature, keep an eye on internal parts, and get alerts about required maintenance and repairs.
- Bryant’s Housewise Wi-Fi Thermostat can be paired with select Bryant air conditioners for remote control over the unit’s settings.
- Bryant also has the Evolution Connex Control smart thermostat with Wi-Fi connectivity.
- ComfortMaker, Heil, Keeprite, and Tempstar have the Ion System Control, a Wi-Fi technology for remote access that comes standard in their Ion air conditioners.
- ComfortMaker, Heil, Keeprite, and Tempstar also have the Observer Communicating Wall Control, which is a Wi-Fi thermostat that can be used to control up to six zones within your home.
Indoor Air Quality Improvement
Something that people don’t always think about is the fact that the air you breathe in your house in summer goes through your cooling system, so you can actually eliminate contaminants and improve indoor air quality with the right air conditioner technology, like these ones:
- Trane’s CleanEffects is a whole-home air filtration system that’s great for families dealing with allergies and asthma. This filter is capable of eliminating up to 99.98 percent of contaminants from the air, and that includes allergens, dust, dander, pollutants, and more.
- Armstrong’s Microban Protection improves air quality by preventing mold and bacteria from growing in the drain pan.
- Bryant’s Evolution air purifier kills up to 99 percent of the airborne pathogens that are caught by the filter, helping to prevent the spread of pathogens in your home.
Green and Efficiency Features
There are lots of reasons to be concerned about the environmental impact of our choices at home, and that includes your cooling system. It’s obviously better for the planet to choose green products, but more than that, environmentally conscious choices often mean lower energy bills too. More efficient air conditioners use less energy, and that means they cost less to run. Here are some of the best features that can improve efficiency and help reduce your impact on the planet:
- Ruud’s EcoNet Smart Home System gives you precise control over the temperature inside your house so that you can save money and reduce energy use.
- Payne’s Non-Ozone Depleting R-410A Refrigerant doesn’t damage the ozone layer, so you can feel better about your summer home comfort.
- Napoleon’s Green Technology includes a chlorine-free R-410A refrigerant that’s more environmentally friendly than traditional refrigerants.
- Armstrong’s MHT Technology improves refrigerant flow and heat transfer for a more efficient cooling system.
- Amana’s ComfortBridge Technology gathers and monitors data to reduce energy use and improve efficiency while also maximizing indoor comfort.
- Bryant’s Puron Refrigerant is another environmentally friendly refrigerant that doesn’t deplete ozone.
- Lennox’s SunSource Home Energy System lets you integrate your air conditioner with a solar array to power your cooling system with energy from the sun.
Technologies that Improve Indoor Comfort
Standard air conditioners keep your home comfortable by removing heat from the house and keeping the indoor temperature cooler than outside. Beyond that, many modern air conditioners have additional features and new technologies that improve their ability to maintain the perfect indoor environment, no matter what your comfort preferences are.
This is a list of some of the best new technologies that are designed to help your air conditioner perform at its best:
- Trane’s ComfortLink II Communicating Control Board is a communicating technology that monitors the temperature and humidity levels in your home and makes automatic adjustments to maximize your comfort.
- American Standard’s AccuComfort technology and Trane’s TruComfort technology enable the air conditioner to make the smallest and most miniscule adjustments to the unit’s operating speed to improve efficiency and get precise indoor temperature control.
- ComfortMaker, Heil, Keeprite, and Tempstar all offer SmartSense Technology, a communicating system that promises accurate humidity, temperature, and comfort levels.
- Coleman’s Climate Connect, Luxaire’s Climate Sync, and York’s Climate Set enable an HVAC technician to set your air conditioner to one of several climate settings during installation so that your air conditioner performs ideally for your climate.
- American Standard’s AccuLink Communicating Control Board is another communicating technology that links the components of your cooling system to deliver consistent temperatures all summer long.
- Daikin’s ComfortNet Communicating System allows you to monitor your air conditioner’s performance, improve efficiency, and customize temperature and humidity settings.
- Goodman’s ComfortBridge Technology monitors the system from within and enables precise adjustments to maximize comfort and minimize energy use.
- Premium Amana and Goodman air conditioners are equipped with inverter technology that automatically can adjust cooling output to improve indoor air quality and comfort.
Advanced Compressor/Coil Technology and Designs
One of the ways that technology is improving air conditioners is by enabling manufacturers to build compressors and coils that are more efficient, more durable, and that have improved heat transfer. There are lots of special compressor and coil designs on the market today, including:
- Napoleon’s Advanced Coil Technology uses compact coils that reduce air conditioner size, reduce refrigerant use, make maintenance easier, and increase longevity.
- Ruud and Rheem’s Copeland Scroll Compressors increase both reliability and efficiency by eliminating the number of moving parts inside the compressor.
- Goodman’s Copeland(R) Ultratech Scroll Compressor uses a special design to improve temperature consistency and humidity control.
- American Standard’s Spine Fin Coil improves heat transfer and cooling output, and it’s also more corrosion-resistant.
- Daikin’s Inverter Technology continuously controls and adjusts the compressor’s motor speed to save energy and keep your home at the perfect temperature.
Design Features to Increase Longevity
We’ve already talked about air conditioner prices, so you know that a new cooling system is an investment. And like with any investment, you want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, and that means an air conditioner that will perform reliably through many summers.
Modern air conditioners can be expected to last between 10 and 15 years, but it’s possible to get even more life out of your unit, especially when it has added durability and protective features, such as:
|Napoleon||Quality Filter Drier||Eliminates moisture, acid, dirt, and other debris from your air conditioning system, thereby extending the life of the unit|
|Trane||Spine Fin Coil||Resists corrosion, increases airflow, improves reliability, and prevents leaks|
|Trane||Climatuff Compressor||Increases durability, efficiency, and quiet|
|Ruud||Composite Base Pan||Sound-reduction, corrosion-resistance, and increased lifespan|
|American Standard||SermaGuard Rust-Resistant Screws||Corrosion-resistance thanks to the zinc-coating|
|Bryant||DuraGuard Plus Protection System||Weather-resistant finish that protects your air conditioner from the elements|
|Carrier||WeatherArmor Ultra Protection||Rust and corrosion protection thanks to the special finish, galvanized steel cabinet, and louvred coil guard|
|Payne||Protective Tight Wire Grille Panels||Increased longevity and easier maintenance|
|Armstrong||Omniguard Total Corrosion Protection Technology||Corrosion-resistance and increased longevity|
Quietest Air Conditioners – Quiet Operation Features
Have you ever found yourself sitting outside on a warm, quiet, relaxing summer afternoon only to be interrupted by the rattle and hum of an air conditioner kicking on?
Anybody who has ever experienced the unpleasantness of a loud air conditioner knows how important noise-reducing features can be
While no air conditioner is silent, some features that help include:
- Carrier’s Silencer System II Design, which reduces noise by minimizing vibration and increasing airflow.
- Amana’s Quiet Performance uses a sound-reducing compressor cover and control top to help eliminate noise.
- Armstrong’s Heavy-Duty Compressor Blanket reduces noise coming from the compressor.
- York’s QuietDrive, Coleman’s WhisperDrive Comfort System, and Luxaire’s SilentDrive Comfort System help to eliminate noise using a compressor cloak, composite base pan, and swept-wing fan blade design.
- Lennox’s SilentComfort Technology uses a combination of features to deliver quieter operation.
- Payne’s Whisper-Quiet Performance uses a special compressor and fan design to reduce noise levels to almost nothing.
- Napoleon’s Whisper Quiet technology includes a special fan blade technology that increases airflow, reduces noise, and improves durability.
Getting the Most from Your Air Conditioner
We’ve been talking a lot about the best air conditioners on the market in Canada in 2021, but it’s important to mention something else: no matter what air conditioner you end up buying, it can be the best one for your home as long as it’s sized properly, installed professionally, and maintained well.
Sizing is crucial for an air conditioner because too big or too small can spell disaster in terms of high humidity, temperature inconsistency, frequent break-downs, and a shorter lifespan. Among other things, installation by a professional HVAC technician will ensure you get an air conditioner that’s the right size for your space.
Similarly, regular maintenance will keep your air conditioner clean, in good repair, and working optimally and efficiently for as long as possible. Plus, it will prevent minor issues from becoming major problems that could cost much more to repair than you’d spend on annual service. Finally, maintenance will ensure that you don’t find yourself without a working air conditioner on those hot and humid days that sneak up on us in Canada.
It’s easy to get caught up in brand names when you’re looking at air conditioners, but the truth is that the vast majority of the brands on the market in Canada are made by just a handful of manufacturers. The brands we’ve talked about today are some of the most popular in the country, but things like efficiency, durability, warranty, features, and value are all more important than the name on the unit.
Almost none of the major air conditioner brands sold in Canada are actually made by a Canadian company or manufacturer locally, with the exception of Napoleon
You should have your air conditioner inspected and serviced annually by a professional HVAC technician. Annual maintenance can include cleaning components, tightening parts, recharging the refrigerant, and more, and it will keep your air conditioner performing optimally and efficiently for many years.
Air conditioners are available with single-stage, two-stage, and variable speed compressors. A single-speed compressor has only On and Off settings, so it’s always running at one constant speed or not at all. Two-stage compressors have two speeds, meaning they can operate at a lower or higher setting when they’re running. These are quieter, more efficient, and better at keeping temperatures even. Variable-speed compressors have many speeds and can make incremental adjustments to the speed to increase efficiency, reduce noise, and keep every corner of your house at the same temperature all the time.
ECM stands for electronically commutated motor. The main benefit of an ECM motor is that it varies the fan speed using electronic controls, so it’s quieter and more efficient than a single-speed motor.