HVAC Replacement Basics

HVAC Brand Buyer’s Guide

This is designed to be an overview of the equipment brands we see out in the field with observations that might be relevant to a purchasing decision. Over time this article should be comprehensive enough where it becomes a brand buyer’s guide.

About Consumer Reports on HVAC systems or anecdotal brand reviews online:  HVAC systems are an applied product. What that means is that the manufacturer doesn’t sell you a product that you just plug in and use. The product(s) are used in conjunction with other variables such as ductwork, thermostats, zoning systems, etc.. In addition, these products are installed by dealers or individuals that result in a far from consistent application of these products. In short, I don’t know how anyone can actually provide a realistic rating of brands or models of equipment.

About this information: While the information or conclusions below are intended to be based on observation and fact as much as possible, it is not without opinion. Thousands of customers trust us our knowledge, but it’s up to you to make your own judgements on the information provided.

There are many brands of residential central heating and air-conditioning systems available on the US market today, but most of them are manufactured by seven companies. There are perceived as well as real differences between the major brands. In the industry, experts argue the strengths and benefits of one brand over another just like old men talk about Chevy vs. Ford. Some varieties of products may roll off the same assembly line identical except for paint and labeling. Other groups of brands, while manufactured by the same company, have been designed with different quality or feature levels.

The information below presents some of the major equipment manufacturers and their retail brands that you can look for while shopping.


Goodman has historically sold equipment to anyone, regardless of qualifications. Their factory support can be limited and because of their loose relationship with dealers. You will largely be responsible for finding a dealer you trust to service your equipment. Goodman has historically been known as a value brand, Meaning they sell no-frills equipment as inexpensively as possible. Goodman is changing this reputation with better quality manufacturing and more high efficiency full-featured equipment in their lineup.

When to buy it:

There is no shame in buying Goodman if you aren’t worried about long-term reliability. That’s not to say that Goodman won’t necessarily last a long time, it’s that the equipment is built entirely on value so your chances of the equipment lasting a long time is decreased. Every part has been sourced (often times from the same manufacturers that supply higher priced products), but every effort has been made to reduce the cost of these components. Perhaps certain components are single-plated or painted instead of powder coated or double-plated, perhaps certain metal is thinner than it would be in higher quality products. There are lots of examples, but the main point is that Goodman wants to be the value leader so their manufacturing is based on cost first and quality second.

Field Observations:

There doesn’t seem to be any single component that we see failing regularly and buy and large the quality isn’t so bad that we would say to avoid the product. Just buy it, knowing the difference between Goodman and a higher quality product. The list below represents a summary of major components and our opinion on how these failures compare to higher quality equipment over the first 10 years.

  • Condenser fan motor (higher)
  • Blower motor (higher)
  • Evaporator Coil (average)
  • Condenser Coil (higher, but veryl limited)
  • Compressor (slightly higher)
  • Other Issues (higher)

Carrier (Payne, Bryant, Day and Night, Maytag)

Carrier invented the air conditioner and has been making them ever since. They have worked to try and maintain engineering and quality leadership in a market that can easily slip into commoditization. Carrier’s lineup includes value products as well as high-end products in their Infinity line.

When to buy it:

Carrier is usually considered a safe choice. At the low-end of their product line the “Comfort” products compete favorably with similarly priced equipment. The “Performance” line injects subtle differences in quality and performance such as additional insulation and sound isolation, better hardware, and 2-stage and variable speed fan options. The Infinity line represents the high end of the lineup and includes their best features in sound control, efficiency, and technology. The “Greenspeed” offering represents their most efficient equipment.

Field Observations:

About 10 years ago (around 07-09) Carrier experienced some issues with their evaporator coils (as well as most other manufacturers), which at the time were almost entirely copper. The issue was traced to formicary corrosion, in layman’s terms copper breakdown due to an acidic reaction. Carrier lead the industry in research and was relatively quick to address the issue (largely through the use of aluminum coils). While Carrier has had their issues with certain manufacturing runs and models, by and large their quality over the history of the company has been among the best available. 

The list below details a few issues we’ve seen that are worth mentioning.

  • Condenser fan aesthetics (the ~1995 Comfort series equipment looks awful. The condenser fan shroud and cover paint peels off and rusts)
  • Condenser/package unit cabinet screws (from 1995 to 2009, primarily on Comfort series the hardware used could definitely be higher quality.
  • Condenser fan motor (lower, higher on ~2006-09 equipment)
  • Blower motor (lower)
  • Evaporator Coil (low/average)
  • Condenser Coil (very low)
  • Compressor (low/average)
  • Infinity Inverter Board (2016-2018) (higher)
  • Other Issues (lower)


Lennox has been around a long time. In the industry, they stand apart from the crowd a little because they tend to go their own way on engineering and make a larger portion of their own parts than Carrier or Trane might.  For a good part of their history they have produced a quality product. See notes below regarding recent quality.

When to buy it:

Right now, Lennox is not a recommended product to purchase. They have huge issues with leaking evaporator coils that were not addressed when the rest of the industry experienced similar issues 10-12 years ago. Until we are sure the issues have been corrected, we can’t recommend buying a Lennox product. 

Field Observations:

Trane and Carrier are often your first thought in terms of brand recognition, but there are other brands like Lennox that are out there and sell a very large amount of equipment. Years ago they manufactured the “Pulse” furnace and they have been extremely reliable for many homeowners. In fact, they are one of the longest lasting furnaces we still find installed today. In our area Lennox has aligned themselves in a big way with the big national HVAC service companies such as ARS and Service Experts. Cleaning up Lennox/ARS/Service Experts issues is good for our business, but you can draw your own conclusions about whether that’s a good thing for HVAC buyers.

Note there is currently a class action suit against Lennox due to premature evaporator coil failure.

The list below details a few issues we’ve seen that are worth mentioning.

  • Condenser fan motor (average)
  • Blower motor (lower)
  • Evaporator Coil (unacceptably high 2009-2016+)
  • Condenser Coil (low)
  • Compressor (average)
  • Furnace (low/average)
  • Other Issues (low/average)

Trane (American Standard)

Trane is owned by the industrial conglomerate Ingersol Rand. Their biggest claim to fame is they have done truly an excellent job with their marketing. With consistent work and a big ad budget they have cemented the idea that they are the reliability leader in HVAC. 

When to buy it:

For most of their products Trane is a very acceptable product to purchase. 

Field Observations:

Trane generally makes a good product with a few exceptions. For a while they made a hideous plastic furnace and fan/coil that we don’t appreciate as much as their engineers probably intended. Another exception is their gas package units. We see a higher than average incidence of failures and issues within 10 years of installation, at least as far as the equipment installed in the ~2007-09 era)

The list below details a few issues we’ve seen that are worth mentioning.

  • Condenser unit aesthetics (the old equipment from even the late 80’s still looks pretty good)
  • Package unit heat exchanger (worse than average)
  • Condenser fan motor (good/average)
  • Blower motor (better)
  • Evaporator Coil (good/average)
  • Condenser Coil (great)
  • Compressor (good)
  • Other Issues (good)

Rheem (Ruud)

Rheem/Ruud occupies a similar market space as Subaru might. If you can’t make a decision between Chevy and Ford, throw in the towel and buy a Subaru. We kid, we kid..  Or do we?

When to buy it:

If you want to buy something a little off the beaten path and show your consumer independence, go for it. 

Field observations:

There is a lot less Rheem/Ruud equipment in the market to draw conclusions about, at least around our area. We might see the equipment at 1 of 25+ homes. Part of that may be that it hasn’t been used a lot during building/new construction. The new construction industry in our area historically has been dominated by Carrier, Trane and Lennox. 
As such we have pretty limited observations about specific components failing.