The Fedders Company was recently bought out by the Airwell Group1. They retain the Fedders name and brands, along with brands Fedders was marketing under — Emerson Quiet Kool, Airtemp, Melcor, Trion, Sun, Koppel, Eubank, Polenz a MAC-10 and Maytag2 (under license agreement). The brand is most known for its residential window-mounted air conditioning systems.
Although headquartered in New Jersey, like all other air conditioning brands sold in the U.S., Fedders is manufactured overseas. The Airwell-Fedders plants are located all over the world — Barlassina, Italy, Pons, France, Tilleres, France, Shenzhen, China, Rishon Le Zion, Israel, and Aires Del Sur, Argentina3.
Fedders window air conditioners are classified based on a chassis size, with letter designations indicating the size of the window or opening into which it will be installed. The letters are not in sequence, and the smallest size, the X, is available from 5,000 to 8,000 BTU/h. The largest sold is the K chassis, with 32,000 BTU/h. Most of the models come in a range of outputs for the same chassis size and the prices mirror the outputs.
It appears that while products are still being sold under this classification scheme, the acquisition by Airwell has altered the landscape and some dealers are posting “no longer sold” notices4. This may be due, at least in part, to the goal of Airwell to only sell air conditioner systems that get a SEER of 13 or better – a standard that older window mounted models cannot reach. (A SEER rating comes from the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio5 and can be used to compare energy requirements across brands.)
A specification sheets from 20086 shows that all models have remote control features, either 2 or 4 way directional air flow and the larger models run off of 230 volt power supplies. None have a SEER rating above 11.
Generally, window air conditioners sold under the Fedders brand are lower end and attractive purchases on a budget. However, consumer complaints seem to support the maxim, “You get what you pay for.” Customers complain about noise levels being much higher than similar sized units, fuses blowing on start up (these models do not have inductive power supplies) and refrigerant leakage. Because part of the reason for acquiring the brand was to bring it to a global market, the Internet has examples of the Fedder brand with complaints from as far away as India7. Fedders did offer a two-year warranty, but it isn’t yet known whether Airwell will keep this in place or not.
Wary consumers would be wise to consider the cost/benefit ratio of purchasing a discount brand and the trouble, even under warranty, that comes with having no air conditioning during hot summer days. Naturally, products tend to break down under the hardest use, and this is also when repair technicians are at their busiest. Many complaints had to do with repeat visits or delays in repair.
Although complaints are fewer under the Maytag brand (licensed by Fedder) they mirror complaints above. Noise and the inability to get warranty repair are the most common. Because Fedder went into bankruptcy before they were bought by Airwell, it seems that some liabilities (warranties) were dropped as part of the bankruptcy and sale8. Furthermore, the low SEER ratings also apply under this trademark. Consumers who are eager to get rebates (Energy Star and SEER driven) are becoming aware of the differences in efficiencies – a quality lacking in both brands.
Overall, the highest rated products in either line were not the window air conditioners, but the portable, hose vented units. These were only criticized for accumulating water which had to be emptied (there is no external drain capability), a common complaint with portable units from all manufacturers.
Because the Fedder and associated brands are still under flux from the buy-out by Airwell, this brand is hard to pin down. They do manufacture (in China) some very inexpensive models and the many deficits may be swept under the rug simply because they are the cheapest on offer at any particular appliance store. When they do work, consumers are pleased with the price and performance. The variety of sizes (in the full line) makes matching to existing windows relatively easy (including openings that are taller than they are wide) although whether models in all sizes will continue to be manufactured is unknown. There are problems with the SEER ratings – without improvements, U.S. minimum standards might place much of the Fedder line into a category that cannot be sold in the U.S. because of poor energy performance.
One way to avoid difficulties is to purchase from a licensed HVAC dealer. They will offer an in-store or extended warranty that they back up personally. In this case, it might be well worth a few extra dollars to have a local repairman on call.