Air Conditioner Installation Costs
It’s hard to come up with a more important appliance than your air conditioner. After all, without it, many of us would be extremely miserable six months of the year. Fortunately, if your AC unit is on the fritz, there are plenty of models out there perfect for your home.
See what they cost and once you’re ready to install, ImproveNet can connect you with an AC professional in your area for free!
National Install an A/C Unit Costs
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Table of Contents
- Air Conditioner Installation Costs
- Air Conditioner Installation Cost Factors
- AC Units & BTUs
- Air Conditioning Ratings
- Types of Air Conditioners
- Energy-Efficient AC Units
- Tax Credits
- Best AC Brands
- Cooling Facts
- Cooling Myths
- Find A Cooling Pro
Air Conditioner Installation Costs
As you can see above, the average cost to install all air conditioning units is roughly $4,700. Nonetheless, your AC unit cost will largely depend on the size you need. If your home is 1,600 square feet, a 2.5 ton air conditioner will cool it well and cost between $3,000 and $5,000. There are platinum models that could potentially cost $10,000, but these are rarely necessary. If you're looking to install central air rather than a window unit, it may be cost effective to install central heating at the same time, as both usually utilize the blower from the furnace. If you already have central heat, you can use the existing fans and system when installing central air.
Air Conditioner Installation Cost Factors
Just like a roof, floor or kitchen updates, there are plenty of factors that can increase or decrease your central air installation cost. While many of the factors below are not controllable, some of them are. See how you can lower your AC unit price by reviewing the cost factors below:
The most obvious cost factor is house size. In fact, you can get more specific and look at room size if you’re thinking about installing a window unit. Overall, the larger the area that needs to be the cooled, the more expensive your air conditioner will be.
Air conditioner strength is measured in "tons," a measurement that refers to the amount of heat your AC unit can remove in an hour. Each ton corresponds to 12,000 British thermal units (BTUs). Be careful when calculating this, because bigger isn't necessarily better. If your unit is too large for the space of your home, it will switch on and off repeatedly, wasting energy and costing you money.
Type of Air Conditioner
If you’re lucky, your home has current ducts set up and central air conditioning is a possibility. If it’s not, you need to look into window units, mini-split air conditioners, or swamp coolers. As you might expect, all are cheaper alternatives than central air. You can see all costs at Types of Air Conditioners.
Another factor that will affect the cost of central air installation is whether or not you need to install ducks and vents. Older homes don't possess the ducts and vents that go along with a newer heating system. They have convection heating systems or baseboard heat, and all the ducts and vents will need to be installed. This is costly (up to $3,000), so think about window units or a ductless split system instead.
Believe it or not, your insulation, windows and doors will play a big role in your air conditioning installation cost. If your house is letting valuable, cool air leave the home, that means your AC unit has to work that much harder to keep the home at the desired temperature. The harder it works, the more expensive your unit and energy bills will be. Therefore, before purchasing a new central air system, it pays to check your insulation, windows and doors.
Labor & Materials
Most people who install an air conditioner agree that spending between $300 and $400 on labor to hire a cooling contractor is worth the extra expense just to make sure the unit is installed properly. You'll want to hire a licensed contractor that you can trust if you truly want to improve your home.
Finally, besides the unit itself, the cost of materials, supplies and equipment allowance will run you another $50 to $100.
AC Units & BTUs
An air conditioner’s power is measured by BTUs, which are defined as the amount of energy needed to cool or heat up one pound of water by a Fahrenheit. All in all, it measures and ultimately determines what size your air conditioner must be to cool the entire home. Thanks to our friends at HomeAdvisor, the chart below should help you determine what size AC unit you need:
Area To Be Cooled (Sq. Ft.)
Capacity (BTUs per hour)
700 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,500
1,500 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,500
Air Conditioning Ratings
In addition to BTU and price, there are other numbers you need to evaluate before you purchase or replace your central air system. Those two numbers are the EER and SEER ratings.
The energy-efficiency ratio (EER) essentially tells you how efficient your AC unit is. The ratio looks at the dry bulb (db) versus the wet bulb (wb) temperatures. The best EER rating you can have is 80db/67wb inside.
The seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) looks at how efficient your system is through all four seasons. It looks at the cooling output during the winter versus its electric input during the winter. All in all, make sure your new system has a SEER rating of at least 14.
Types of Air Conditioners
If you don’t have ducts and vents set up, don’t worry. There are plenty of other air conditioners on the market that are perfect for your home. Below are the most common unit and their costs, but if you want to see more, please check out our full HVAC cost estimator.
- Window AC Units: $150 - $750
- Mini Split Air Conditioners: $1,700 - $2,100
- Swamp Coolers: $350 - $2,000
- High Velocity Air Conditioners: $4,000 - $10,000
- High Efficiency Air Conditioners: $1,176 - $2,000
Energy-Efficient AC Units
Energy prices are going up, but luckily, we are moving towards a more energy-efficient world. That is certainly the case when it comes to air conditioners. Luckily, all the advantages of such units usually outweigh the high initial costs.
First and foremost, your monthly utility bills will almost certainly go down versus traditional central cooling systems. Next, you may get a tax credit for updating your old, outdated AC system. Finally, in terms of comfort, high efficiency units dehumidify the home, preventing any dry air.
Moving over to the environment, energy-efficient AC units do not deplete the ozone layer like Freon, the old chemical coolant in air conditioning systems. Most also include a high MERV-rated filter that captures dust and microscopic air pollutants. As we know, a healthy home is a safe home.
If you can not afford a high efficiency AC system, consider the following changes:
- Install ceiling fans to move about the cool air you’re paying for.
- Put your system on a timer so you’re not using during the day.
- Do not block vents with furniture or toys.
- Keep all windows closed in the summer to prevent cool air from leaving.
As we touched on earlier, depending on your current central air system and what type of system you’re installing, you may qualify for a government rebate. If you purchase an Energy Star air conditioner, you may qualify for a tax credit from the federal government that could be worth as much as $500. To determine the cost of the actual unit, you need to measure its strength. This will hinge on the size of the space you need to cool.
Best AC Brands
Now that you know the cost factors and ratings of all air conditioning systems, it’s time to find the right one for your home. While prices do change, many manufacturers list their average prices on their website. Below are those averages. However, before you head to their website, make sure you consult with a local HVAC pro to see what brand they recommend for your home.
- Aire-Flo - $1,900
- American Standard - $3,500
- Armstrong - $2,100
- Bryant - $2,400
- Carrier - $3,400
- Comfortmaker - $1,950
- Frigidaire - $3,300
- Gibson - $2,600
- Goodman - $2,300
- Lennox - $3,600
- Payne - $1,700
- Rheem - $2,600
- Tempstar - $1,900
- Whirlpool - $2,250
- York - $2,900
HVAC in general is not as sexy as kitchens or bathrooms, but believe or not, there are many fun facts most homeowners don’t know when it comes to cooling. After you take a look at these facts, you may have a new appreciation for your AC system.
- Children were given summer vacation from school because of the lack of air conditioning, but even when air conditioning came about, schools decided to keep this going. Businesses also used to shut down for two months.
- Modern air conditioning made way for the increase in human life expectancy. It’s because of modern air conditioning that advances in medical technology and new medicines were created.
- Air conditioning in the U.S. uses the same amount of energy as it takes to power the whole continent of Africa, and that’s just air conditioning alone for the U.S. With such high energy use, it’s no wonder why owners need HVAC maintenance.
- The first automobile brand to have air conditioning units installed in its cars was the Packard Motor Car Company.
- One of the first buildings to install air conditioning was the New York Stock Exchange in 1903.
- The first president to experience air conditioning in the Oval Office was Herbert Hoover. Franklin Roosevelt added air conditioning to the White House bedrooms.
Along with the unknown facts above, there are many HVAC myths that are costing Americans serious cash. Keep these in mind the next time you consider a new AC unit.
- There’s no use in adjusting the temperature of the heating or air conditioning when leaving the house.
- It’s not worth having your air conditioning and heating systems serviced regularly.
- It’s guaranteed that an energy-efficient system will always reduce the energy bill.
- The use of fans will decrease the energy used by the air conditioner.
- The only function the air conditioning is good for is cooling.
- Duct tape is the best to seal HVAC ducts.
To see why all are myths, please check out Heating & Air Conditioning Myths.
Find A Cooling Pro
The final step in all of this is to find a reputable HVAC contractor. More often than not, AC installation or replacement is not a DIY project, especially if you’re working with central air. Luckily, ImproveNet can connect you with up to four cooling pros in you area ready to tackle your HVAC project.
Last updated on Jan 31, 2017
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