An Unbiased Review from a Contractor Who Sells Many Air Conditioner Brands, Not Just Trane
Before I go any further, for those who’ve never read my blog articles before…
I’ve owned an air conditioning company in Mesa, AZ – Magic Touch Mechanical, for over twenty years. We sell a lot of Trane air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pump units. However, we also sell a lot of Lennox, Goodman, Mitsubishi, Day & Night (a Carrier brand), First Company, the occasional Fujitsu, and then some as well. In other words, this is an HVAC contractor’s opinion, not a Trane Dealer’s opinion.
We “sell” Magic Touch Mechanical and the service we deliver, not Trane, Lennox, Goodman, etc. We choose to sell the brands, more specifically models, that we feel offer the best value, reliability, and performance.
The reason we choose to offer our customers multiple brands is we believe in providing multiple options, not ultimatums. Bluntly said, I feel that any company that only offers their client one or two brands to choose from is offering what they want to sell, not always what’s best for the customer.
That said, there are brands, and even particular models from brands we do sell, that we flat out will not recommend…those that we have found to have a particularly high failure rate. Years ago, we stopped selling brands like Rheem and Maytag for this very reason. I realize there will be contractors that sell one or both of these brands that read this and disagree, however I base that on our experience with the brands.
Is Trane Better Than Carrier, Goodman, and Lennox?
When someone asks me this question (which is often), I always answer with a question. Which models are we comparing?
Technically, I should start by asking how well it will be installed because that makes a much bigger difference than the brand or model. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume Magic Touch Mechanical installed it – then I know it was installed per exact manufacturer specifications, ACCA guidelines, and to higher standards than code requires.
Our motto is “We do it better than it has to be”, and our Installation Manager, Quality Control Supervisor, and myself make sure we live up to that promise.
Back to the “which model” question:
If you read my article, How Much Does a New AC Unit Cost, you know that the price range is huge. In that article I stated (variables aside), you can expect to pay as little as $4,000 for a new ac unit, all the way up to $12,000.
Since that article was written, there have been a few newcomer models that get into the $13,000 range and the mid $4,000 units are creeping into mid $5,000 units.
With the announcement of steel tariffs earlier in 2018, we’ve already seen increases from manufacturers and suppliers as high as twenty percent over 2017. *That is not a political statement, just the fact that it has impacted the price of this equipment which are made with a lot of ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Trane Entry-Level Air Conditioners & Heating Systems (Good)
Most air conditioning contractors offer a good, better, best scenario when proposing a new ac and heating system.
On the lower end of the price range (good), we are talking about entry-level efficiency and features. The truth is, in this range, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the brands.
When it comes to the base models, the manufacturers are more “assemblers” than they are “engineers”. The design is pretty much the same it has been for years, most of the components are similar if not exactly the same and are built by third-party manufacturers not the AC manufacturer themselves.
At this level, the big separator is really the quality of the design and the materials used to build the cabinet and coils. There are a few exceptions in a few models, and one worth pointing out is Trane.
Trane is one of the few brands that still manufactures its own compressor, the Climatuff.
While modern air conditioners consist of dozens of components, the compressor is still the “heart” of the unit. I don’t think you would find many HVAC service technicians that would argue that the Climatuff is a tank. If you know Trane’s slogan, “It’s hard to stop a Trane”, you may know they built that slogan on the Climatuff compressor’s back – it can take a lot of abuse.
That said, most of the other manufacturers nowadays are using Copeland brand compressors, a great component in its own right, but the Climatuff takes the prize as best in class in my opinion and I’d guess probably most other HVAC experts’ opinions as well.
Aside from the compressor, of the three “premium” brands (Trane, Lennox, and Carrier), you will not find a whole lot of differences in the components themselves.
I recommend politely shying away from most of the non-name brands because although the differences in materials and design may be subtle at first glance, combined they usually add up to a unit that doesn’t last as long and/or is prone to frequent failures.
To the end user, even a minor failure means “no cooling” or “no heat” regardless of how minor the failure may seem to an experienced HVAC service technician.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the behemoth, Goodman – now owned by Daikin. I have mixed emotions regarding this brand (and yes, we sell it). Some Goodman models offer good bang for the buck, which can be good for clients with a tighter budget, or perhaps someone selling their home soon.
However, after years of recording failure rates (from minor to major), Goodman comes in last place of all the brands we install. Not quite high enough to stop selling them as we have with other brands, but it should be said because there’s a reason Trane costs more than Goodman.
In fairness to Daikin, I should mention the commercial Daikin Package Rooftop Unit has proven as reliable, if not more reliable as a few of the premium brands commercial products in recent years.
Does the AC Brand Name Matter?
Keep in mind I’m still only talking about entry-level equipment when I say yes, the brand name matters, but not for reasons you may have already considered. The differences in mid-tier and premium-tier models become more apparent later in the article, but what about some of the less tangible issues? Are you just paying for the name?
If you’ve searched homes for sale lately, you’ll notice one of the things realtors use in home listings now are phrases like “new Trane AC” or “new Lennox air conditioner”.
Rarely do you see; “new Goodman AC” or “new York air conditioner”. Instead they just say “new air conditioner”.
So, there’s a consumer perception that names like Carrier, Lennox, and Trane are more premium or desirable than Goodman, York, or Ruud, whether it is based on real data or not.
Since the title of this article is, Is Trane Worth the Extra Money? – even in the entry-level tier, it just might be when you consider this fact.
Other things to consider:
How much is selling your home in 5-days vs. 45 days’ worth to you?
How much is a failure rate of under 5% compared to a failure rate of 10% worth to you?
How much is a unit that lasts 15-years vs. a unit that lasts 10-years’ worth to you?
Mid and High-Efficiency – Where Trane AC Units Start to Rise Above the Rest
Trane Mid-Level Air Conditioners & Heating Systems (Better)
When I think about the “better” tier of comfort systems or any other consumer product, I think about products that offer a lot of bang for the buck. I’m talking about equipment that’s not the most efficient, but fairly high efficiency, not the most feature rich, but with plenty of worthwhile features, not the quietest unit on the market, but pretty darn quiet, etc.
This is where we start to see the cream rise to the top, and by cream, I mean Trane for one.
You’d be hard pressed to find a major air conditioning brand that doesn’t make a 16 to 18 SEER air conditioner or have at least one model with a 2-stage compressor, variable speed blower motor, etc. – but put most of them physically side by side with a Trane unit and you start to see the differences pretty quickly.
Aside from the Climatuff compressor, you start to recognize the devil is in the details (or lack thereof in some brands). Even physically shaking the machine itself, you can feel the Trane unit is going to remain a much sturdier machine than most over the course of time.
In my opinion, Trane only has a few competitors when we start talking about “better” HVAC systems.
Lots of small details like Teflon coated screws that help prevent rust (so they won’t loosen up and cause rattling noises), to fully accessible condenser coils so a service technician can really get to all the nooks and crannies for cleaning (meaning less loss of efficiency over time), and so on, are details that add to the quality and value of Trane many of their competitors are lacking.
Trane builds a stout machine that is clearly well engineered and as I’ve witnessed with my own eyes after multiple visits to the factories they build them in…well tested.
HVAC Contractor’s Use Trane on Their Own Homes
For what it’s worth, I own several properties (both commercial and residential), of six total air conditioning and heating units, I personally own only two brands; Trane and Lennox (not including ductless equipment).
Granted, I do this for a living so I purchase my equipment at wholesale contractor cost, but – most of the other brands would gladly give me equipment for personal use just to get their foot in the door with Magic Touch Mechanical. Breakdowns, noise, and short-lived units are things I don’t want for myself either so I buy the peace of mind these brands offer me.
Speaking of practicing what I preach, it’s probably also worth noting that all of my equipment (even on my rental property) are either “better” or “best” tier models. Don’t get me wrong, there are circumstances where I will recommend a base model, but if someone is going to be living in the home for a while, and budget allows, the case can usually be made why the homeowner and residents will be happier with a “better” or “best” model air conditioner and heating unit.
It’s also worth mentioning, I’m talking specifically about conventional central air conditioners and heaters in this article. If we were discussing ductless air conditioners or VRF (variable refrigerant flow) units, we would be discussing Mitsubishi (who ironically recently announced a joint venture partnership with Trane).
Trane Premium-Level Air Conditioners & Heating Systems (Best)
When we are discussing the “ultimate” air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps; 18+ SEER units with variable speed inverter compressors, fully-communicating systems, Wi-Fi controls, ultra-quiet, etc. – Trane takes the top spot with models like the XV20i.
To be fair, the XP25 (heat pump) and XC25 (split gas/electric) from Lennox are an equal match for the XV20i with some features, even besting Trane in a few areas, but there are a few features and capabilities in the Trane unit nobody can touch…and I mean nobody. Lennox, Carrier, York, Goodman, Rheem, Maytag – all take a back seat to this model in some categories.
- Quiet– At this level, quiet is an understatement. Trane’s premium models are practically silent.
- Comfort– Trane’s variable speed inverter driven compressor can maintain room by room temperatures in your home to within one-half of one degree of your temperature setting…seriously.
- Efficiency– Only Lennox can claim higher efficiency ratings with the XP25 and XC25, but the Trane is no slouch in this area, and far and away more efficient than the majority of their competition.
- Durability / Warranty– Trane’s 12-Year parts warranty trumps the Lennox XC and XP by two additional years. With one of the longest part warranties available on any new ac system, it’s clear Trane is aware their equipment stands the test of time.
So…Is Trane Worth the Extra Money?
As I stated earlier, I personally own two brands of air conditioners and Trane is one of them. I have access to every brand and can buy many for much less than I can buy Trane – some I could probably get for free.
So – Yes, if your budget allows Trane is worth the extra money as far as I’m concerned.