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How Much Does High Velocity Air Conditioning Cost?

Installing an efficient system to condition air in the home can seem like a large task if there are difficulties in the way. An older home with old lathe can prevent new ductwork in critical areas. Construction may not allow for an aesthetically pleasing air return in small rooms such as a powder room or bathroom. A high-velocity system is one option that homeowners choose when installing an air conditioning system in difficult spaces.

The Costs

  • Minimum cost: $4,000
  • Maximum cost: $10,000

Retrofitting walls and ceilings

Retrofitting is the act of adding a new system in a home that would previously lack the ability to have a conditioning system. The costs associated with retrofitting include the labor of removing drywall or lathe to cut an opening for ductwork within the wall or ceiling.

A retrofit will also require planning the appropriate device to size and expertise patching after installation. This may require additional electrical work. Electricians charge anywhere from $25 to $50 per hour, depending on the type of work. House power will require at least one dedicated 230v circuit to handle the air handler and condenser. An older home with 60 or even 100 amp may not be sufficient to apply the amperage required. Upgrading from an older electric service can range in price from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the complexity of the job and site requirements to the lot. A utility company can determine if there additional costs associated with dropping a new line into the home.

Custom trim finishing

Because of the nature of the small air ports of a high-velocity system, it usually results in applying some clever trim to blend in with the decor of a home. Custom moulding and shelving can make an air outlet practically invisible. Custom carpentry services at $50 to $75 per hour plus material can be common for this work.


Flexible insulated tubing

High-velocity systems use flexible tubing instead of the standard metal ductwork in traditional central air. The tubing is continuous to reduce the amount of leaks in traditional ductwork. The tubing can be 'snaked' throughout the home around existing construction. They can maneuver around closets and small cavities in walls on the lower levels of the home for a compact installation. The flexible tubing is approximately 2 inches in diameter and can be placed on a single run without losing air velocity. A 10-foot minimum is required for running a line of tubing to prevent any vibration or sound issues.

Attenuator and air load calculations

An attenuator reduces sound and acts as a baffle in the tubing. Air movement can generate a considerable amount of noise in high velocity. These devices are connected just before an air outlet is installed. The addition of a diffuser can control direction and flow of air into the room. Extra care is made to ensure that each attenuator device is balanced to handle flow from the plenum off the trunk line.

The attenuator is just one half of the calculation behind reducing noise and creating efficient airflow. An installer should provide industry-standard calculations for airflow based on the size of the home. Ceiling height and square footage of each room can affect noise and airflow. Most calculations in the industry use what is known manual J or manual D. In HVAC language, this is a load calculation number and duct design. Finding an installer that is familiar with these numbers will ensure a quiet and efficient system.

High-velocity air handler

The air handler acts as the exchange unit to draw warm air in and recirculate it as conditioned air into the rest of the home. High-velocity air handlers are much smaller than their traditional counterparts. A 4 to 5 ton air handler is approximately 40-inches wide by 30-inches deep. Air handlers are between 12 to 18-inches in height. Most are placed in attics or basements. In smaller homes without sufficient attic space, a crawl space will suffice. Specific measurements should be taken to determine the best location of the air handler unit.

Air port outlet

High-velocity conditioned air enters the room through small, 2 or 5-inch diameter outlets. They can be placed along floors, ceilings or walls. Each of these ports is connected to the 2-inch flexible duct that runs to the air handler. The trunk line can be less than 12 inches for running a line into lower-grade levels such as a basement. Each port is fitted with a diffuser that acts as a damper to control sound and noise from each register.

Condensing unit and drain lines

A condensing unit supplies the refrigerant to the air handler for conditioning the home. The unit is located outside the home. These units function the same as a central air condenser and may work as a heat pump in locations that require a dual-purpose device. The condensing unit also functions to remove humidity from the home. A high-velocity system aggressively removes humidity by increasing the load volume of removal over a larger area.

Advantages & Disadvantages of High-Velocity Air Conditioning

A high-velocity system is a subtly designed system that can match the decor of any home. They are incredibly popular with historical homes due to their low-impact solution. The air vents can be blended into moulding and wallpaper to look invisible to the naked eye. They are also less expensive over time, compared to installing traditional ductwork for a central air system when calculating reduced energy costs. Most systems are also capable of future upgrades when retrofitting a home's HVAC.

Most high-velocity systems can be placed in hidden locations around the home to save on space. However, noise can be an issue if it is located in an attic with uneven joists. An improperly designed system can make larger rooms feel spotty in terms of temperature. An overhead outlet can also be uncomfortable to stand under if it is placed in a heavy-traffic area. Despite the few negatives, a high-velocity system is efficient and easy to install in new or historical homes.

Last updated on May 17, 2016

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