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What Is The Cost To Install Central Heat & Air?

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Central air and heating systems use a series of ducts to circulate cool air or heat throughout the home. Quickly becoming the standard for cooling or heating a home, central air and heat are usually added as part of a combined heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, or HVAC.

Of course, the best heating and air systems do not come without a cost. See the average cost to install central air and central heat below. Then, use ImproveNet to find the most reliable HVAC contractors in your town.

Table of Contents

  1. How Much To Install Central Air?
  2. How Much To Install Central Heating Systems?
  3. Central Air Cost Factors
  4. Central Heat Cost Factors
  5. How Does The Central Air Installation Cost Compare To The Central Air Material Costs?
  6. How Does The Central Heater Installation Cost Compare To The Central Heater Material Costs?
  7. What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Central Air?
  8. What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Central Heating?
  9. Find A Central Air & Heater Contractor

How Much To Install Central Air?

While your central air cost will largely come down the size of your home, the average cost to install central air ranges between $2,500 and $5,000. However, if your home needs extensive ductwork, the price can go up.

  • The maximum cost reported for central AC installation is $5,000.
  • The minimum reported cost of central AC installation is $2,500.

How Much To Install Central Heating Systems?

Your central heating installation costs will also depend on the size of your home, what heater you choose to add and whether extensive ductwork needs to be done. However, the cost of a full central heating system ranges between $4,000 and $20,000. Just know, the maximum price includes extensive ductwork.

  • The maximum cost reported for central heat installation is $20,000.
  • The minimum reported cost of central heat installation is $4,000.

Central Heat And Air Cost

Central Air Cost Factors

As you saw with both systems, the cost to install central heat and air varies quite a bit. That’s because there are a few price factors that drastically affect your installation cost. The primary cost factors for any central air installation include:

  • Efficiency
  • Size
  • Features
  • Noise Level

To start, it’s a good idea to think about energy efficiency. By choosing a central AC unit that has as high of an efficiency rating as possible, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money in the long run. Efficiency ratings should be labeled with all units. While efficient units may cost more, going with an Energy Star-rated appliance is a great way to enjoy additional peace of mind.

Next, and perhaps just as important when it comes to central air costs, is the AC unit's size. A unit that is too large will have an easy time keeping the home cool, but will have a more difficult time removing humidity from the air. On the other hand, a unit that is too small will not be able to properly cool the home on hot days. Considering larger units cost more than smaller units, it pays to ask a local HVAC professional what size AC unit your central air system needs to hold.

Many AC units come with a number of special features that can further improve performance and efficiency. For example, homeowners may want to look for one that comes with a built-in filter light that will alert you when the air filter needs to be changed. Another popular feature to look for is a fan-only switch, which you can kick on at night to reduce energy costs even more. Of course, more features mean higher central air costs.

One of the greatest benefits of having a central AC unit installed is the noise level (or lack thereof). Compared to window AC units, central air systems are much quieter. Nevertheless, you should read reviews of various central air units to determine which ones have the best sound ratings, especially if the unit will be located close to a bedroom.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable about the costs associated with central AC installation, fortunately, there are ways to save. First, shop around to find the best deals. Comparing quotes among local cooling companies can help to cut costs. Furthermore, requesting a quote during a non-peak time of year, the fall or winter, can also help you save money. In most regions of the country, cooling companies are able to charge more during spring and summer due to high demand.

Central Heat Cost Factors

Much like central air, there are similar cost factors that affect the price of central heating. Again, you may not be able to control all cost factors, but knowing all beforehand will surely give you leg up as you research the best and most appropriate central heating system.

Central heat cost factors include:

  • Type of Heater
  • Efficiency & Size
  • Ductwork
  • Labor
  • Time of Year

First, unlike central air, you have a few options when it comes to central heating systems. We’ll jump into costs later, but you can choose from a furnace, boiler or heat pump. In general, furnaces are the most affordable option. However, your choice will largely come down to what your ducts allow or what was formerly in your home. Ask your heating contractor for the most appropriate choice.

As with most home improvement projects, the cost of a full central heating system can vary widely based on the size of the home. Most furnaces will last between 15 and 20 years. In choosing a furnace, property owners should consider heat output and efficiency. Heat output is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs, and the size of the furnace should be matched to the size of the home. A small home, for example, may not be well served by a high-BTU furnace. The furnace may heat the home too quickly and shut off for too long, resulting in inconsistent temperature levels.

Today's furnaces are rated 90% efficiency or better; it is not uncommon for a modern furnace to be rated 94 or 95% efficient. Compared to older models, which may be rated as low as 80% efficiency, this can mean significant savings in annual heating costs. Modern two- and three-stage furnaces increase efficiency even further by running at lower or higher capacity depending on the heating requirements of the area.

Next you have to consider ductwork. If new ductwork must be installed, project costs may increase by as much as $5,000 on a typical job. As you can see, ductwork has a profound effect on the cost of a full central heating system.

As for labor, heating contractors charge between $50 and $100 per hour. Electricians, who you also may need, charge upwards of $200 per hour depending on the area.

Finally, the best times of the year to install a central heating system are in the spring and summer months. Because of decreased demand in the warmer months, contractors may be available to perform work sooner and perhaps at lower prices. The installation of some energy-efficient heating systems may qualify you for a tax break, and most contractors can answer at least a few questions about the potential tax benefits associated with their systems.

How Much To Install Central Air

How Does The Central Air Installation Cost Compare To The Central Air Material Costs?

According to our air conditioner installation cost guide, most homeowners pay roughly $5,000 to install a new air conditioner. This price includes both materials and labor. Nevertheless, it pays to have a breakdown of the two cost categories.

First, know that a majority of your central air and unit cost will come from the unit itself. AC unit costs start at $2,000 and can actually exceed $10,000 for larger homes. As you saw recently, you need an appropriately-sized unit for your home. Otherwise, the AC will break down sooner than expected or your monthly energy costs will skyrocket. Therefore, you don’t have total control as to your AC unit material costs.

On the other hand, you have 100% control over whom you hire to install your central air unit. In fact, you can even DIY, despite our strong recommendation not to do so. If you do take our recommendation, expect to pay between $300 and $1,000 in labor costs to install central air. Furthermore, cooling contractors may charge an additional $50 to $200 for extra supplies and equipment.

How Does The Central Heater Installation Cost Compare To The Central Heater Material Costs?

Again, similar central air, your total central heat installation cost will largely come down to the heater and size of your home. You can’t change the amount of space your heater needs to service, but you can choose what type of heater to purchase. The following are the most popular central heating units and their average installation prices (including labor):

In order to reduce your central heat cost, always gather at least three heating quotes before hiring someone to perform the work. It’s important to get all warranties in writing. A new furnace installation will usually involve two warranties: a manufacturer's warranty covering the operation of the furnace itself and a contractor's warranty to cover the labor. Extended warranties may be available at an increased cost.

Central Heating Systems Cost

What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Central Air?

Beyond additional costs, most homeowners prefer central air over AC window units. Beyond doing a much better job at cooling the home faster, central air gives you much more control of the exact temperature, lets you set a schedule, is much quieter than window units and let’s you package it with heating systems.

However, the real pros and cons will depend on the system you install. The two common types of central AC units are:

  1. Split Systems
  2. Packaged Units

The split system is the most common. Most people are used to seeing this type in the backyards of homes. With split system units, most of the components are housed in a metal box outside of the home. However, there are some internal components as well. Split systems are ideal for cooling multiple rooms at once, but are not very energy efficient. Therefore, one pro is not having loud equipment in the home. At the same time, the con would be that those who use this might spend more money on cooling costs in the long run because of the lower energy efficiency.

A packaged unit, usually installed on the roof, is most commonly used on commercial buildings, but it is also an option for homeowners to consider. Often times, these units contain not only the air conditioning unit itself but also a furnace. An advantage of this unit is surely the cost. Packaged units are great for those looking to save money on the installation of a new heating and cooling system separately, since the unit is combined. However, one con is that these units are typically only available for larger homes due to their high power and capacity. Additionally, while they can be a good way to save money on a complete HVAC system, they’re still significantly more expensive than buying just a cooling system. Therefore, this may not be the best option for homeowners looking for short-term savings or those with smaller budgets.

What Are The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Central Heating?

Beyond the obvious of heating your home whenever you need, there are plenty of advantages to installing a central heating system. As you’ll see below, the pros surely outweigh the cons.

First, in terms of perks, heating the entire house or building from one unit makes things easier logistically, and the isolation of the heating unit from the living space is a bonus for some homeowners. The system can be used to provide hot water as well as climate control. Additionally, residents can adjust temperatures in different parts of the home by closing vents in ductwork or by using room or area-specific temperature controls. You can also set a schedule with central heating systems. Overall, central heating provides a reduced environmental impact.

One of the drawbacks of central heating is that it’s potentially expensive to install, especially in an older home. Depending on the type of unit installed, it can be noisy and cause problems if you’re highly allergic to dust. Additionally, certain fuels and equipment may require special permits, and there is limited flexibility in the event of changed heating requirements. During use, there is a time delay while heat is being transported from the heating unit to the living space.

Find A Central Air & Heater Contractor

As time evolves, not only are most homeowners installing central heat and air, but these proficient and technological-advanced systems are getting smarter and more efficient by the day. While they do bring a high upfront cost, their long-term benefits make it a no-brainer.

If you’re ready to replace your dated heating and cooling, ImproveNet can help. Find the best heating and cooling contractors here.

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Last updated on Mar 12, 2018

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