When researching the best air conditioning brands online, you will more than likely come across two companies: Carrier and Trane. Both are premium brands with a solid reputation and are known for reliability and customer satisfaction. They also back up their products. But you will need to make a choice. Understanding the difference between the two helps you select the right brand for your needs.
This article outlines each brand in detail to show you how they stack up.
The Story Behind the Brands
Carrier and Trane have long histories in the air conditioning space. Here is the background on each company.
Willis Carrier invented what is considered modern air conditioning in 1902. His company opened in 1915 in New Jersey and started marketing itself to the residential market in the 1950s. The company was sold to United Technologies in 1979, where it continued to grow internationally. In 2001, Carrier became the world's largest manufacturer of air-conditioning, heating, and refrigeration equipment. It acquired more companies until shifting back to being an independent business in 2020. Today it is based out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Trane has a long history of innovation. In 1885, James Trane opened a plumbing and pipe-fitting business in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he invented a low-pressure heating system in response to the area's cold weather. His son Reuben earned a degree as a mechanical engineer in1910, and in 1913, the father and son opened The Trane Company. Reuben invented the convector radiator in 1923, and the company developed its first air conditioning unit in 1931. The business continued to grow, and in 1982, Trane bought General Electric's Central Air Conditioning Division, providing Trane with Climatuff compressors and aluminum evaporator coils. American Standard purchased the company in 1984. After American Standard broke up its business divisions in 2007, the division that ran The Trane Company renamed itself Trane Inc and was acquired by Ireland-based Ingersoll Rand in 2008.
Today, Trane is manufactured in 23 locations across the globe. Currently, it is replacing the chillers for the cooling system used in the English Channel, Europe's largest cooling system.
Both Carrier and Trane are listed among the top air conditioning system brands by Consumer Reports. The company surveyed members who installed air conditioning units from 2005 to 2020. Of the nearly 24,000 AC units installed, Trane was the only brand to rank Excellent in predicted reliability and overall satisfaction. Carrier also ranked Excellent in overall satisfaction.
Let's take a closer look at the traits of each brand.
The most important component of any air conditioner is the compressor. It does the hard work of moving refrigerant through the system, pulling the warm air out from a room, and pushing cold air in.
Today there are three types fo compressors on the market: single-stage, dual-stage, and variable-stage compressors.
- Single-stage compressors turn on at 100% capacity when the temperature in a room reaches above a set temperature. This is typically the lowest-priced compressor.
- Double-stage compressors are single-stage compressors with an optional lower speed of around 60% or 70% capacity. Since they are more energy-efficient, they run more often for better temperature control and, therefore, are cost less to use.
- Variable stage compressors are the most energy-efficient option that operates at an even lower speed of around 30% capacity. These units are often on all day thanks to their maximum efficiency.
For a better understanding of how compressors work, feel free to reference our more detailed article on compressors. https://www.dallasheatingac.com/ac-compressors/ . The good news is Carrier and Trane offer all three types of compressors, which allows for different options in cost and efficiency. You can't go wrong with either brand. Here is a closer look at what each company offers:
Carrier uses Copeland Scroll compressors, except for in its Performance 17 model. These compressors are widely used in the industry and manufactured by Emerson, the world's leading compressor manufacturer. They have a reputation for being reliable, quiet, and long-lasting, with low failure rates.
Trane's home AC units typically use their proprietary Climatuff compressors, which are also made in partnership with Emerson, though very recently, they have shifted some models to Copeland compressors. The results aren't in, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus on Climatuff as a differentiator.
Like Carrier's Copeland Scroll compressors, the Climatuff compressors are known to be very quiet, efficient, and have low failure rates.
Energy Efficiency / SEER Rating
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and it is how air conditioner energy efficiency is rated. The ratio is determined by dividing the output of a unit by the amount of electricity, spanning a calendar period from April 15th to October 15th. The resulting number most often ranges between 13 and 28. The higher the SEER ratio, the more efficient the unit is, and the less you pay on your electric bill.
The US requires a minimum SEER rating of 14 for improved energy costs and a reduced carbon footprint. Most ACs are also ENERGY STAR certified, and these two brands are no exception. But how do Carrier and Trane compare?
Carrier SEER rating:
The ratings will range depending on the category of AC. Carrier carries three tiers. Here is each with its corresponding SEER rating:
Trane SEER rating:
Like Carrier, Trane models fall into three tiers, each with its own rating:
XR: 14.5 - 16
Between the two, you get a higher base rating from Trane, but Carrier's Infinity line has a significantly higher SEER rating.
Both Carrier and Trane use the same refrigerant called R-410A for reliable and efficient operations. This type of refrigerant absorbs and releases more heat than past R-22 models, letting your compressor run cooler without overheating. The R-410A model for Carrier goes under the name Puron®.
Noise levels are in decibels (dB), and air conditioners that fall between 50 and 60 dB are considered particularly good. This range is the same as a typical person-to-person conversation.
Carrier offers units below 60 dB, with the Carrier Infinity 19VS coming in at 56cB thanks to special non-vibration builds and sound blankets. Still, units that feature their Silencer System II™ and Greenspeed Intelligence can go even lower - as low as 51 dB.
Trane's units are even quieter. All models are generally pretty quiet, but the higher-end models are as low as 45dB - as much as 6 dB lower than Carrier. Lower-end models can be as high as 71 dB.
These results show that both brands are generally quiet, but Trane's higher-end models win out.
An evaporator coil cools the unit's refrigerant to absorb heat from a room before flowing to the outside unit. Carrier refers to them as the "unsung heroes" of their systems.
Traditionally, evaporator coils have been copper tubing attached to aluminum fans, but now aluminum coils are often used, and more manufacturers are shifting to this new type of coil party due to pricing increases in copper. Trane was the first brand to use aluminum coils, but other brands have followed their lead, including Carrier.
Thermostats with AI Technology
Both Carrier and Trane offer traditional thermostats and smart thermostats that include digital assistance/AI. These smart systems significantly reduce costs by allowing you to activate an AC instantly and at precise times when - and only when - you need them. They let you turn on, off, or reset times with just a few words or a push of a button anywhere you and your smartphone are. They work with home AI technologies, such as Alexa and Google Home.
Air conditioning brands typically offer their own brand of smart thermostats. In some cases, they can work with other smart systems. Generally speaking, it is better to use the same brand that comes standard with the unit for best performance. Plus, communicating with your AC through an outside AI system may require replacing more parts within the unit to ensure everything works properly, making it a hassle in time and expense.
Carrier's smart technology works with Alexa and comes in six model types. Of those, many let you operate three or more zones, which may be a strong choice for large families or homes with ranging temperatures.
All carrier models are connectable through Wi-Fi, but for the full smart technology experience, Carrier's high-end models include their communication technology called Infinite. Another is called Cor Smart Home. Both have received high reviews on the Apple App Store though some users on the Apple app store mention that the technology isn't all that simple to use and that the app can crash on occasion.
If you desire smart thermostat technology, Trane will be your better choice. They use a technology named Nexia that works with either Google Home or Amazon Alexa. It also comes in different price models related to the technology it offers, giving you some flexibility on cost. Trane uses ComfortLink II technology in its most expensive units.
Like Carrier, Trane's Nexia technology has garnered high reviews on Apple App Store. All Trane's top models are connectible with Wi-Fi and feature communication technology.
Carrier offers a system called Greenspeed Intelligence on its top units, offering benefits like increased energy savings, comfort, and less noise. Still, it does face some stiff competition with Trane's higher-end models.
Trane has a few features that stand out and are directly related to extended performance. One is the fact the AC is solid. Even when shaking it, there are fewer rattling sounds. Also, the units are easier to access inside, making it easier to clean every element to prolong their life.
Trane units also have a variable speed inverter-driven compressor that lets you set temperatures extremely accurately – as precise as one-half a degree.
When it comes to home warranties, your AC is worth special attention. Air conditioners are one of the most expensive costs homeowners face, and when issues come up, a company warranty can cover unexpected issues that will save you significant money.
Remember that ongoing maintenance doesn't come standard, and not all repairs fall under the warranty. AC companies also don't offer warranties on labor, but you can obtain labor warranties from suppliers/installers. Be aware that many extended warranty plans require regular maintenance.
The overall life of each system will depend on factors like usage frequency and environmental factors. On average, good-quality systems last between 10 and 15 years and even longer if they are well maintained.
Of the two brands, Trane lasts longer than Carrier. Some users say Trane systems last a minimum of 15 to 20 years, which can be a significant benefit that compensates for their higher cost. (We will touch more on pricing in a moment.)
- Limited Warranty:10 years on compressors and parts.
- Extended warranties are available through third-party companies.
- Parts are well-priced and widely available.
- Limited Warranty: 12 years on compressors for XL and XV models, and 10 years for XR. Parts for all models are covered for 10 years.
- Long Term Warranty: Some models come with a 20-years heat exchanger warranty.
- Extended warranties are available through third-party companies.
- Trane's parts on average cost more than Carrier.
If you need parts or repairs that don't fall under warranty or occur after your warranty contract expires, Carrier is the better of the two brands. Their parts are well-priced and readily available, resulting in a lower overall cost.
Carrier certifies its dealers and installers. Certification is not required, so prioritize those companies that have them. If shopping around, Carrier also recommends that customers look for North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified installers.
Trane also offers certification to dealers, and many of the dealers have NATE-certified technicians.
Models and Pricing
Analyzing pricing for ACs is not always clean-cut due to AC companies working directly with approved dealers and installers who provide final pricing. The final price you pay will also depend on the quality of the installer, the pricing in your area, and the installation needs of your home.
As for the units, the features and amenities, noise levels, and energy effeciencies determine each unit's price. Though high SEER ratings will cost more upfront, these units also use less electricity, resulting in lower energy bills. Still, there are tricks you implement at home that make a big difference in the performance of any level of units, such as ensuring your windows and doors are sealed well and using an attic fan.
Trane and Carrier put their units into low-priced, mid-priced, and high-priced tiers. Below are pricing for each level of models, including installation. Note that pricing has jumped quite a bit in the last two years due to supply shortages from the pandemic, and pricing may continue to shift. But on the whole, Trane's pricing typically runs higher than Carrier.
These prices are national averages. You will need to shop in your region for the most accurate pricing. Labor costs can make a big difference in which model you end up choosing, but when shopping installers, don't rely on pricepoint alone. A qualified and experienced professional is key to the longevity of the unit. A good unit can't make up for a shoddy installation. Receiving an especially low bid when shopping around should be a red flag.
Carrier Sample Pricing and Model Descriptions
Base models: The Comfort series, which excels in a more simple operation than other models and a SEER rating up to 17. Pricing: $4,500 - $7,575
Mid-range models: The Performance series, which excels in quieter operation and enhanced humidity and temperature control, and a SEER rating up to 17. Pricing: $4,900 - $9,400
Top-range models: The Infiniti series, which excels in ultra-quiet comfort, premium humidity and temperature control, and a SEER rating up to 26. Pricing: $5,600 - $10,700
Trane Sample Pricing and Model Descriptions
Base models: XR series is known as the most budget-friendly line, offering single-stage heating and cooling and SEER ratings from 14 to 16.: Pricing: $5,800 - $10,800
Mid-range models: The XL series is a quieter series that gives you options of single output or double stage output. Some come with variable-speed motors and improved humidification. You also get an additional two years in your warranty for the compressor. This series has a SEER rating of up to 18. Pricing: $7,600 - $11,600
Top-range models: The top-of-the-line XV series has features of the XR but also includes a variable speed compressor and variable speed blower fo more precise temperatures reaction -as precise as half a degree. It is also Trane's quietest series. It offers a SEER rating up to 22. Pricing: $8,000 - $14,000
Both Carrier and Trane have long traditions in the air conditioning market and provide reliable and energy-efficient units. They also have quality compressors and evaporator coils. Still, there are differences between the two that may make one a better choice for you.
Choose Carrier if:
- You are looking for maximum energy savings.
- You have a home with as many as six zones that require varying AC needs.
- You want a lower-priced system.
- You are concerned about the price for repairs over the long run.
Choose Trane if:
- You want a brand rated high in predicted reliability and overall satisfaction.
- You want improved smart thermostat technology.
- You are looking to purchase the base model of AC. Trane has a better starting SEER rating of 14.5, vs. Carrier's score of 13.
- You want a longer warranty. Trane's compressor warranty extends two years longer on specific models, plus a 20-year warranty on heat exchangers.
- You desire less noise. Trane offers the ultra-low sound of 45dB, vs. Carrier's 51 dB.
- You are ok with the high upfront cost in exchange for longer performance and fewer repairs.