Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioner Review | The Definitive AC Review

People often ask us, “which is the best AC brand?”  Well, that’s kind of like asking, “which is the best car?”  When it comes to AC brands, Trane and Carrier air conditioners are two of the most widely recognized brand names in the HVAC industry.  As such, today we’ll give you our unbiased, Trane vs Carrier air conditioner review.  Those of you who have read our articles before, know that we are a small, U.S. Veteran-Owned heating and air conditioning company located in Southern California, and have built a reputation for giving honest, straight answers.  This will be no different.  When comparing two brands like Carrier and Trane air conditioners, it is important to note that we are not official representatives or distributors of either brand, so you’ll be getting a fair, honest answer.  We instead opt to install all major AC brands, and are beholden to no one but our readers.  In this Trane vs Carrier AC review, we will discuss these two brands from four different aspects: company reputation, performance and features, reliability, and finally, cost.

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Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioner Review of Industry Reputation

As part of our Trane vs Carrier air conditioner review, we think it’s important to get a broader idea of the products, versus just looking at things like efficiency, some model numbers, and other pedigree information.  In that light, it is important to understand that a brand’s industry reputation – especially with the HVAC technicians who install them – is a key representation of their worth to you, the consumer.

Unfortunately, getting a straight answer from a contractor is sometimes difficult, to say the least.  To them, their brand is the best, and all of the others are substandard.  In this section, we’ll discuss the industry reputation of both Trane and Carrier, first from the consumer standpoint, and second, from the contractors who actually install them.

Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioner Consumer Reviews

Trane Air Conditioner Reviews

Some of you who have read our articles before, may have seen this demonstration so bear with me…the consumer reviews of Trane air conditioners are not flattering, to say the least.  Trane ACs broke out with an industry rating of just 1.1 out of 5 stars, according to Consumer Affairs.  These reviews sited a multitude of problems, including premature breakdowns and regular AC maintenance requirements.

Trane vs Carrier AC review - Trane Reputation

Trane Reviews c/o ConsumerAffairs.com

 

Surely the Trane air conditioning brand is doomed with that reputation.  There’s no chance of recovering, and Carrier wins the Trane vs Carrier AC review, right?  My answer to this is, of course, “yes, we’re done.  Stop reading.”  Well, on second thought, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, sparky.  Maybe we should still perform our due diligence, and take a look at how Carrier ACs broke out, before making our decision.

For a different AC comparison, you may also be interested in:

Carrier Air Conditioner Reviews

Even though Carrier air conditioners have already won the Trane vs Carrier competition, let’s just take a quick look at their reputation with consumers…just as a formality.  Unfortunately, the Carrier air conditioner consumer reviews didn’t fair much better, coming in at a a measly 1.3 out of 5 stars, marginally better than Trane.

 

Carrier vs Trane air conditioner review - carrier reviews

Carrier AC Reviews c/o ConsumerAffairs.com

 

So…what the hell is going on?  Are you telling me that neither Carrier, nor Trane air conditioners are worth consideration?  Not so fast.

The Problem with Consumer Reviews

The problem with reading the consumer reviews of companies like Trane and Carrier air conditioners, is that they are written by customers.  Customers, by definition, are stupid and uninformed, so I have hard time taking them seriously (clearly, we verbally abuse our customers).  Yes, of course I’m joking, but in all seriousness, there is something we should discuss when it comes to consumer reviews…particularly reviews of manufacturers.

When it comes to finding out which restaurant to go to (or which air conditioning contractor to choose), then online reviews are a great resource to aid you in your decision making.  However, when was the last time that you ate at a Chinese restaurant, and the noodles were so good, that you went online and wrote a stellar review of the noodle manufacturer?  Chances are, you haven’t.  Yet, when people read reviews, according to a 2013 study, 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do a personal testimonial from someone they know:

 

 

Trane vs Carrier AC Review - Graph of Customer Trust

79% of Consumers Trust Online Reviews as Much As Personal Testimonials from People They Know.

 

Air Conditioners & Chinese Noodles

You see, when people get online and write a review, they are more than happy to do so for their favorite restaurant, or even when a restaurant is bad.  These types of companies – including contractors – typically have a mix of good and bad online reviews, which add up to their average overall rating.  However, who is going to take the time to get online and write a good review of their air conditioning manufacturer (i.e. Trane or Carrier)?  If the AC works well, they are going to go about their lives as per usual; that’s the way it’s supposed to be, right?  Your AC is supposed to work for ten or fifteen years.  Maybe they’ll get online and write a review of the HVAC company that installed it (hopefully), but writing an online review of their AC manufacturer is probably going to be low on their list of priorities.

Unfortunately, when the unit fails, however, that blame goes straight to the manufacturer.  It shouldn’t.  If you think about it, that’s kind of unfair.  Being an HVAC equipment manufacturer can be thought of as being kind of like the U.S. Mail; when things go well, no one notices.  You get your mail; that’s what’s supposed to happen.  Do you call up your post office to tell them that they are doing a great job?  Of course not.  But, when they loose an important package, people have no problem getting on the phone with their local post office and complaining.  Yet, believe it or not, when it comes to air conditioning, the contractor that installs a unit plays more of a roll in how it functions than the brand chosen.  So, if you forget everything else that I say in this article, remember this at the very least:

 

  • Who you get to install your air conditioner is more important than any other factor when determining the successful lifetime of an HVAC unit; even more so than the brand chosen.  DO YOUR RESEARCH.

 

  • Spend 70% of your time researching contractors, and the other 30% on academics like which brand to choose.

 

When your air conditioner fails, the common tendency is to blame the manufacturer, but in many circumstances, it failed because it was installed improperly.  These are not plug-and-play units, and if you don’t spend some time researching contractors in your area (or just go with the lowest bidder), you’re taking a roll of the dice.  There is: high-voltage electrical, low-voltage electrical, drainage, weather sealing, soldering, and proper pressure balancing required for the refrigerant, all of which need to be done in a very specific way.

Unlike some of the other trades, I’d highly recommend against skimping on your HVAC contractor.  In this industry, you get what you pay for.  The majority of you aren’t even close to our service area, so all I can do is give you my honest two-cents.  Do your research, and don’t skimp; enough said.  Here is an article to help you choose a reliable contractor in your area: How to Choose an HVAC Contractor – 7 Tips You Need to Hear.

In the end, remember that consumer reviews of manufacturers will always be jaded to the negative, because no one wants to go online and write a positive review of an AC manufacturer (well, maybe you would…nerd).

Contractor Reviews of Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioners

Both Trane and Carrier air conditioning units have a solid reputation in the HVAC industry, with common sense installation requirements and a record of reliability.  In fact, to be honest, the biggest drawbacks to Trane and Carrier AC units are their prices (more on this later), and their relative accessibility to contractors.

Both Carrier and Trane regulates who has access to their equipment, with specific training requirements for the HVAC contractors who will sell them.  While this may sound like a good idea at first glance, it actually (in my opinion) ends up limiting the options available to you, the consumer.  Think about it…how many companies are going to go out of their way to send their employees to required training for a Trane air conditioner, then send them to a comparable training course on Carrier?  They aren’t, and it ends up driving most of the industry towards single-brand companies (i.e. “we only sell Carrier AC units!”).  In the end, however, competition – even amongst brands inside the same company – is good for you as a consumer.

Lack of competition within a company itself is bad for you because you want the best air conditioner for your home, at the most affordable price…you want to be able to choose between brands, and allow the free market to decide who is best, which also keeps prices down.  But when the market is divided like this, that doesn’t happen as much.  Everyone scrambles to their corners, clings to their brand’s equipment, and is uncompromising on the idea that maybe there’s a better unit out there.  Are you really going to call ten different HVAC installation companies (for the ten major AC brands) to come out and bid your project?  Probably not; you’ll pick a few and have them come out.  Whereas, a company which sells all major brands is free to offer you the best equipment for your specific project.  It’s just something to keep in mind.

Ok, so to review:

  1. Who you have install your new air conditioner is the most important decision you’ll make; more important than choosing Trane vs Carrier.
  2. If possible, shop around and get at least three bids.  Use a contractor that sells multiple brands, if you can.

If you’d like to see our thoughts on which brand is best, try our article:

“But Tim…!  I’ve read this whole article, and you still aren’t talking about Trane vs Carrier!”  I know, there are more important things to consider, and that’s exactly my point.  But just as I told my wonderful, impatient flight students…patience is a necessity.  So, let’s talk a bit about these two brands.

Don’t Overpay for Your New Trane or Carrier AC; Watch This Short Video:

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Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioner Review of Performance and Features

In this section of our Trane vs Carrier air conditioner review, we’ll discuss the real nitty-gritty nerd stuff.  For those of you who are normal people, you can skip this section (no, that’s probably not you, if you’re reading this article).  If you’re like most of the people who read our blog, you’re a total nerd and want to know useless stuff like the different models and SEER ratings for your new AC.  So, let’s get started.

Trane vs Carrier AC Review - Trane AC
Trane Air Conditioner Performance and Features

Trane Product Lines

Trane is one of the only air conditioning companies that doesn’t have distinct product lines (i.e. Gold Series, Platinum Series, etc.).  Instead, they opt to present their units strictly with model numbers.

Trane air conditioners and heat pumps are typically designated with an “X” designation, and a rough estimate of their SEER rating (i.e. Trane XR-17 is an air conditioner of around 17 SEER).  Although confusing for the consumer, this makes the ordering process for contractors a lot easier.  So…ha!

Trane SEER Values

Trane air conditioners are measured using the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or “SEER rating.”  This is an industry standard form of measuring the efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump.  Simply put, the higher the SEER number, the more efficient a unit, with modern SEER ranges going anywhere from around 13 SEER, to over 25 SEER for the high-end models.  Trane air conditioners have a SEER range of:

  • SEER 14.5 (entry -level) to SEER 21 (high-end)

Interestingly enough, it is worth noting that most air conditioner manufacturing brands offer low-end units in the 13-SEER range, whereas Trane’s low-end models are closer to 14.5-SEER.  Are you getting something for nothing?  No…Trane is also more expensive than most other major brands, so don’t even go there.

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Trane AC Features

Trane air conditioners offer a variety of features, including:

  • Variable Speed Technology – this feature allows the condenser inside your outdoor condensing unit to work a wide range of speeds, instead of just one.  It’s kind of like the difference between a kid’s BMX bike with a single gear, and a Tour-de-France road bike…the road bike can cycle it’s gears and run at multiple speeds.  Although this isn’t the best analogy, you get the idea.  Variable-speed compressors are not unique to Trane, and are the key to higher-SEER technologies from all major brands.

For those who are always interested in the top-of-the-line unit (probably unnecessary), the Trane XV-20i Air Conditioner offers every feature available, including:

  • “ComfortLink” II Communicating Capability
  • Unique Refrigerant-Cooled Inverter Drive
  • “Climatuff” Variable Speed Compressor
  • Compressor Sound Insulator
  • All-aluminum Spine Fin coil
  • “WeatherGaurd” II Top
  • “DuraTuff” Rustproof Basepan
  • Integrated Fan System
  • Simplified Two-Wire Connection
  • Full-sided Louvered Panels
  • Powder-Paint Finish
  • “WeatherGuard” Fasteners

A Memorandum on High-SEER Air Conditioners

What does all of this mean for you?  Nothing…I hate to be the Debbie Downer, but for those of you who haven’t read our articles before, it is time for my usual high-SEER beratement.  We typically don’t recommend that our clients buy a higher SEER value than 14, and in some occasions (think desert), 16 SEER.  The reason for this is simple: high-SEER units offer newer technology, which, in our not-so-humble opinion, is relatively unproven.  We have had a lot of maintenance calls on some of these higher-SEER units, and oh by the way, the replacement parts are about three times as expensive.  We prefer the reliability of a proven single-stage air conditioner around 14 or 16 SEER.

Look, we’d make a lot more money off of our clients by recommending the high-SEER units, but it’s contrary to our ethos.  It just isn’t a good value.  If you look at the long-term life of your air conditioner, once the added expenses of required repairs are factored in, the savings presented to consumers by the increased energy efficiency, are all but negated by the increased repair cost.

Plus, keep in mind that these ratings are kind of like the Miles-Per-Gallon (MPG) rating of your car; just because it has that rating in a laboratory setting, does not necessarily mean that you will experience these savings in your own home.   Just as the MPGs you get depend greatly on how you drive, your energy savings from high-SEER units will depend largely on how you live.  Do you keep your thermostat set to a brisk 68-degrees, or a balmy 78 (like my wife would have it, if it were up to her)?

Also keep in mind that your new 14 or 16-SEER unit will be significantly more efficient than the old unit it is replacing.  If you are a millionaire, and you want a 21-SEER Trane air conditioner, then by all means…do it.  All I’m saying is that the value is not quite there yet, and we still feel it is an unnecessary expense to go for the higher-end AC models.  Do what you want.

For more on this argument, it is continued in this article: What is a Good SEER Value for my House?

Trane Air Conditioner Models

Although discussing all of the models offered by Trane would be outside the scope of this article, it’s still important to take a look at a few of the more popular models and their SEER values.  Let’s take a look:

TRANE Model SEER Rating Energy Star?
Trane XV-20i Air Conditioner (Variable-Speed) 21 Y
Trane XV-18 Air Conditioner (Variable-Speed) 18 Y
Trane XR-17 Air Conditioner 18 Y
Trane XR-16 Air Conditioner 17 Y
Trane XR-13 Air Conditioner 14.5 Y

 

Trane vs Carrier air conditioner review - Carrier AC

Carrier Air Conditioner Performance and Features

Carrier Product Lines

Carrier air conditioners are manufactured by United Technologies (UT), which also manufactures some of the other big HVAC brand names, such as Bryant, Heil, and Day & Night.  They are offered in three different product lines:

  • Carrier Comfort Air Conditioners – this is their basic AC line, and in our opinion, provides the best value to their customers.
  • Carrier Performance Air Conditioners – their mid-line air conditioners, with similar SEER ratings to the Comfort series, but a little bit more efficient, with a few more features.
  • Carrier Infinity Air Conditioners – their top-of-the-line AC units.

Carrier Air Conditioner Efficiency Ranges

Carrier air conditioners are rated in the same fashion as all other brands, using the SEER model.  They come in a variety of efficiency ranges:

  • Carrier Comfort Series Air Conditioners – 13 SEER – 16 SEER
  • Carrier Performance Series Air Conditioners – 13 SEER – 17 SEER
  • Carrier Infinity Series Air Conditioners – 16 SEER – 21 SEER

Carrier Air Conditioner Features

Carrier, like Trane, offers all of the same technology available from the other major brands, including multi and variable-speed compressor technology to increase SEER value.  But I’m not going to delve too deeply into that, as we just did it with Trane.  Instead, I’m going to offer up something that really sets Carrier and United Technologies apart from their competitors…Slimline Units.

Carrier Performance 14 AC Unit

Carrier Performance 14 Compact Air Conditioner

  • Carrier Compact (aka “Slimline”) Units – Carrier air conditioners (as well as all other UT brands) offer their units in a 14 SEER, Slimline unit, the Carrier Performance 14 Compact.  This unit is only 18-inches wide, making it ideal for instances in which there is limited room, such as on the side of a house.  Although expensive (usually to the tune of $700 more), it is well worth it if you’re dealing with limited space, or can’t fit an air conditioner where you really want it.  It is also one of the quieter AC units that Carrier makes.

Additional Features Offered by Carrier High-End Models:

Again, for those wondering what features are out there, you need only look at their high-end model, the Carrier Infinity 21 Air Conditioner:

  • Up to 21 SEER cooling efficiency
  • Sound: as low as 65 decibels
  • Superior humidity and temperature control
  • Two-stage compressor for better comfort and quiet operation
  • Compressor sound blanket and “Silencer System II” design
  • Filter drier system protection from moisture and contaminants
  • “WeatherArmor Ultra” protection
  • Non-ozone depleting “Puron” R-410a refrigerant
  • 10-year parts limited warranty

 Carrier Air Conditioner Models

Again, to go in-depth on each of the models would be outside the design of this article, but we are going to take a quick look at a few of the more common units to help familiarize you.  What’s also helpful, is that Carrier goes out of their way to list the noise levels for each of their air conditioners as well (most brands burry them in a manual somewhere):

 

Carrier Model Noise Levels SEER Value
Carrier Infinity 21 AC Unit 65 Decibels 21
Carrier Infinity 19 VS “Variable Speed” 56 Decibels 19
Carrier Performance 17 Air Conditioner 72 Decibels 17
Carrier Performance 14 “Slimline” AC 66 Decibels 14
Carrier Comfort 14 Air Conditioner 72 Decibels 14

 

Carrier vs Trane Air Conditioner Review of Reliability

Take a load off, and take a break.  I know this is a long one, but we’re almost there, I promise.  Next in our Trane vs Carrier air conditioner review, we’ll discuss reliability.

Both Trane and Carrier meet or exceed the industry standard in life expectancy, which is usually between 10 and 15-years for an air conditioner (NAHB – Average Life of an Air Conditioner).  In fact, if you talk to contractors, both of these brands are reliable, and are a good choice if that’s something you are worried about.  Consider these the Coca-Cola and Pepsi of the air conditioning business…these aren’t small-time players.  According to a 2014 study by Consumer Reports, both Trane and Carrier broke out in the middle of the pack when it came to required repairs:

CARRIER VS TRANE reliability graph

Carrier vs Trane Reliability c/o Consumer Reports

Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioner Review of Cost

Trane and Carrier air conditioners directly compete with one another.  So, those of you in the business world won’t be surprised to hear that their prices are almost identical (shocker).

However, to beat a dead horse, please realize that there are comparable brands – made with the same internal components – for far more reasonable prices.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, and strongly encourage you to look at companies like Day & Night (made by the same company that makes Carrier) and Goodman air conditioners.

Trane vs Carrier AC Price Comparison

Prices listed for a 2-ton, 14 SEER air conditioner (uninstalled, with no other equipment, etc.):

AC Brand Price
Trane $1,291.10
Carrier $1,394.55
Day & Night $981.35

The interesting part about these prices, is that the 14 SEER Day & Night is made with the exact same internal components as Carrier, including Aspen Coils, yet the Carrier is $400 more expensive.  Do what you want, but this is certainly worth your consideration…just saying.

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Look, if you are seriously in the market for a new air conditioner or furnace, be it Trane, Carrier, or otherwise, take a look at this program that can save you some money:

CALCULATE A FAIR PRICE FOR MY NEW TRANE OR CARRIER

Trane vs Carrier AC Wrap-Up

Look, in the end, only you can decide whether a Carrier or Trane AC unit is best for you.  To review, let’s sum up what we’ve discussed in this article, and see which unit is best for you:

  1. When it comes to online reviews, take reviews of manufacturers like Carrier and Trane with a grain of salt.  Remember that people go on to write bad reviews, but only very rarely would someone take the time to write a positive review of an HVAC manufacturer, and every company will have a bad review sometimes.
  2. Spend 70% of your research on finding an honest contractor in your area, and the other 30% on academic items like choosing between Carrier and Trane air conditioners.
  3. Most contractors have a favorable opinion of both Trane and Carrier.
  4. Carrier offers a “Slimline” compact condensing unit that is useful when there is minimal space to work with.
  5. Take a moderate stance on SEER ratings; we recommend 14 or 16 SEER for your AC project in most cases.
  6. Both companies have reputations for reliability.
  7. When it comes to price, both Trane and Carrier air conditioners are priced similarly.  However, there is better value to the consumer in other HVAC brands such as Goodman and Day & Night.

Final Decisions

In the end, I think you can’t go wrong with either of these brands.  We are somewhat partial to Carrier because they are made by United Technologies, and offer a compact unit that will be helpful in some situations.  However,  please realize that there are more affordable air conditioners available out there, of equal value and reliability to Trane and Carrier.

Final Thoughts on Our Trane vs Carrier Air Conditioner Review

We hope you’ve found our Trane vs Carrier air conditioner review useful.  Do your research on local contractors, and make sure that you receive multiple bids before agreeing to do business.  Regardless of your decision, both Carrier and Trane air conditioners are good options, although a bit on the expensive side.  For more articles like this, try our ASM Air Conditioning Blog.  If you are in Southern California, you might be in our service area; click the button below to see.

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