It is hard to argue that Trane isn’t a quality brand. Moreover, the Trane condenser coils are a scientific advancement that makes other brands envy. Foundationally, they have always taken care of their employees and their employees consistently turned out a premium product. They honor their warranties and make it easier than brands like Lenox for technicians to obtain replacement parts for immediate warranty repairs.
So why is it that we are not a fan anymore?
I believe that, to spite their many attributes there are 4 glaring problems we have seen and expect to see more of in the future.
A few years ago, and with little fanfare, Ingersoll Rand the parent company of Trane and American Standard began to outsource the manufacturing of the AC Compressor. As a long-time service tech, I can say with confidence that the old compressor and the new compressor are not in the same league. Many times, I have personally replaced fans, switches, capacitors and other parts on 25-year-old Trane and American Standard systems with the original compressors. Yes 25-year-old compressors. Not only were they still working but they were pulling no more amps than when they were installed on the home originally. Impressed? I still am.
The New and (Not Necessarily) Improved Compressor
In the past 2 to 3 years we have had 4 compressor failures on Newly installed Tranes and believe we know of 3 more that will fail in the next year or so. Unfortunately, the call backs keep coming in.
I have to wonder why Trane and American Standard stopped making their own compressors. One can only speculate it had something to do with cost. It is no secret that labor is much cheaper in Korea. Also, if they had to outsource the manufacturing of their compressors, why didn’t they go to the biggest and best manufacture with the longest and best reputation like theirs. Copland has been around forever. Next to the Trane compressor, Copland is what we find still working in some 20 to 30 year old units still in service.
Copland scroll is the most widely used compressor in the USA. If you ask this old HVAC workhorse, I think the Copland compressor coupled with the ingenious Trane condenser coil design is the smartest match up you could find. Unfortunately there seems to be little hope of a change on the horizon.
Is it time for a new furnace design?
For all the advancement in their condenser coils, I feel that the Trane and American standard furnace is a old-school technology. The calm shell heat exchanger is efficient at heating. However, it is not nearly as efficient as the tubular design. Additionally, the clam shell design has seams of different thicknesses. You don’t need to be an engineer to know that metal of different thicknesses will not heat up or cool off at the same rate. Over time this will make them crack. The clam shell heat exchanger is also noisy. In some cases, the wind noise created as air moves across it is downright loud. If you have long duct runs you might never notice it. In truth, I never thought about it until I installed a furnace with a tubular heat exchanger which is ultra-quiet.
Their Funace cabinets are very flexible and can become skewed when doing a horizontal install. The two slide on doors are also problematic. Yes this design of slide on cabinet doors is very common on 80% furnaces. They do offer a twist lock and sturdier cabinet but at an added cost. Hard to justify that when you can get better from another brands entry level funrace.
The Trane and American Standard furnaces are also not that simple to work on though I suppose no harder than most other brands. This is another fact that didn’t occur to me until I looked inside the newly designed Rheem. In some cases, you may need to remove multiple components from a Trane to get at the one you are trying to repair. Again, this is common among many other brands, but I feel that a premium brand at their price should stay on top of the most cutting-edge design.
After the news of the impending steel tariff, Trane liberally increased there pricing to offset the upcoming added expense. This was expected but if you look at what other brands increased, Trane increased the most. Lennox, Rheem, Ruud, Amana and Carrier increased only a fraction of what Trane or American Standard did. They still have a well reviewed and notoriously long-lasting system though I question what the future will hold.
To me a “real” premium brand would have a warranty that stands out from their competitors. Such as free replacement if it fails in the first 12 months or 20 year warranties on some parts. The Trane warranty is same as it has been for the past decade or 2. When you have brands that have a more comprehensive warranty than a much more expensive brand, you can’t help but ask why. Wouldn’t the “superior product” come with a warranty that builds the most consumer confidence?
I can forgive the anti corrosive agent debacle that left us all scratching our heads wandering why a brand new AC may need a new TXV, reversing valve or compressor. We can even forgive tech support when every suggestion they had failed to solve the problem and left us holding the bag for the cost of pump downing, disposing and recharging with fresh refrigerant. Several brands were saddled with this problem. Our loss was our problem since these issues only revealed themselves after the 1 to 3 years. It was our choice to deviate from the industry standard 1 year warranty and offer 3 years of labor coverage. After years of being a raving fan and disregarding every other brand it is time for us to take the blinders off. The painful truth is Trane and American Standard falls short these days.
Wise customers are still shopping for Trane and America Standard. Those adamant fans of this equipment are going to call us, and we are still going to install New Trane and American Standard equipment. As a former TCS Dealer we know the product better than most. Unfortunately, on this brand, we will follow the industry standard. We will limit our labor warranty to only 1 year alongside Trane’s 10-year parts warranty. All in, if Trane could solve the compressor problems, take a good look at their warranty structure and join this millennium with their furnace design, it would be difficult in good conscience not to offer them to our customers as our premium brand even at the higher price. Until that happens, we will give the customer what they are asking for and promote a higher quality better warrantied brand at a more reasonable price.