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How Much Does It Cost To Install Central Air?

Typical Range: $3,755 - $7,252

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Cost to Install Central Air

Central air conditioning costs $5,476 or between $3,755 and $7,252. The final price for the project depends on which unit you choose, the cost of installation and additional items such as ductwork repair. Extensive projects like large homes with complicated ductwork can cost upwards of $10,000 total.
Though this installation is not always complicated, it's best to work with an air conditioning contractor to ensure it's done correctly. Permits are usually required for this type of work and can be obtained by a state-licensed contractor. You should not attempt to install central air conditioning on your own since you need a license to handle the refrigerant chemicals (Freon) involved.

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National Average
$5,476
Typical Range
$3,755 - $7,252
Low End - High End
$1,750 - $10,600

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Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 16,271 HomeAdvisor members in .

AC Installation Cost

Average$5,476
Typical Range$3,755 and $7,252
Low End - High End$1,800 to $10,500

Central Air Conditioner Prices

On average, expect to pay between $1,500 and $4,000 for a central air conditioner. However, the price varies greatly depending on your needs. And installation costs can make the price soar quickly. To get an accurate idea of what you'll spend, determine the size of the unit you'll need. Then, look at different brands.
Various manufacturers produce cooling units, and there are pros and cons to each. So, consult with a professional about what you need and ask about additional features that may benefit your home. Here are some manufacturers and their average costs (in alphabetical order):
  • Aire-Flo: $1,700
  • Amana: $2,600
  • American Standard: $3,200
  • Armstrong: $2,000
  • Bryant: $2,200
  • Carrier: $3,200
  • Coleman: $1,700
  • Comfortmaker: $1,700
  • Frigidaire: $2,900
  • Gibson: $2,300
  • Goodman: $2,100
  • Heil: $2,600
  • Lennox: $3,400
  • Payne: $1,400
  • Rheem: $2,500
  • Ruud: $2,400
  • Tempstar: $1,800
  • Trane: $3,300
  • Whirlpool: $1,900
  • York: $2,800
Get an AC Unit Installed by The Best Pre-Screened Pros In Your Area.

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3-Ton AC Unit Installed Price

Installing a 3-ton AC unit averages $3,800. But this cost varies greatly and can be as high as $5,000 or more. Be sure to consult a pro to get the most accurate estimate for this project. Or, try out this AC size calculator below.

Cost of 4-Ton AC Unit Installed

Expect to pay about $4,200 to install a 4-ton AC unit. But different cost factors mean this project can cost as much as $5,000 or more. Only an experienced professional can give you an exact number for this project, so be sure to get in touch with a contractor for more information.

14 SEER AC Unit Cost

Installing a 14 SEER AC unit is between $3,000 and $6,000. But the higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is. So, this model could save you money over time.
Learn more about SEER ratings and old tax breaks below.

16 SEER AC Unit Cost

A 16 SEER air conditioner runs from $3,700 to $9,000 to install. Though more expensive, this model is more energy efficient than a 14 SEER unit. There's also an opportunity for a tax break in the future.

AC Installation Cost

Most homeowners report spending between $3,750 and $7,220 to install an air conditioner. This price is typical of a central AC installation, but there are many other kinds of cooling system.

The size of your home helps determine the type of air conditioning system you will need.

Types of AC Units

  • Window: installed in windows as a singular AC system
  • Split systems: either as mini-split (ductless) or central systems that are installed as inside and outside units
  • Central system: uses duct system that's usually combined with the heating system to cool a whole house
  • Portable units: comes as a split, hose or evaporative system for ease of movement around the house

Window AC Units

Window air conditioners cost less than central units, averaging $300. These systems generally suffice to keep a room cool on warm spring and summer days. They can bring added comfort for a reasonable price but are less powerful than a central air conditioner. If you have a bigger home with multiple rooms, you will probably need to have a larger system installed. Central air can cool several rooms at once, while window AC units usually only cover one or two rooms at a time.

Get the Best Price for Your AC Installation. Compare Quotes from Pre-Screened Pros.

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Air Conditioner Replacement Cost

The cost to replace a central air conditioner is about $5,000. However, this price varies depending on the size of your home and the difficulty of the project. It can cost as much as $12,500 to replace an AC unit. The labor required to remove and dispose of the old system adds to the price. The size of your home, brand of AC unit and ductwork complexity can all raise the cost as well.
If your AC is fairly new, you may rather pay the cost to repair your air conditioning unit. Most homeowners spend about $350 on repairs.

Central Air Installation Estimate

Make an informed decision about what kind of AC system you need before getting a unit installed or replaced. The type of system you choose determines a large percentage of your overall cost. For example, if you decide to have a split or central system installed, you will need to hire an air conditioning professional.
Here are some professionals that may be involved in your AC installation:
  • Air conditioning contractor: he or she performs an assessment to determine what kind of system you need and installs it
  • Assistant(s): additional team that helps with the wiring, ductwork and metal bracket mounting
In addition to the price of labor, pros will charge you for the materials involved in the installation - like the AC unit and chemicals. Check with your contractor to see whether you can cut costs by buying the air conditioning system yourself or using the existing heating system ductwork in your home.

Cost of Central Air for a 1,200 Square Foot House

The cost to install central air in a 1,200 square foot home sits between $3,000 and $4,000. Of course, this price varies based on the SEER rating of the unit, and whether or not the home requires ductwork installation or repair.

Getting a New AC Unit for Your House

There are a few factors in addition to load calculation, energy efficiency ratings and brand manufacturers that homeowners should consider before they invest in an air conditioning system. First is calculating the size and capacity you need for your home.

Air Conditioner Btu Per Square Foot

On average, you'll need about 18 Btu capacity per square foot. But anywhere from 14 to 26 Btu capacity per square foot is acceptable. Follow these steps to see how much Btu capacity you'll need
  1. Figure out the square footage of the room. For a square room, multiply length by width. For a triangular room, multiply length by width and divide by 2.
  2. There's a chart you can reference in stores that will tell you what size machine you will need. If you want a system for a whole house, it's a bit more complicated and will require professional assistance.
Btu Per Square Foot AC
Area to be Cooled (sq. ft.)Capacity (Btus per hour)
700 - 1,00018,000
1,000 - 1,20021,000
1,200 - 1,40023,000
1,400 - 1,50024,000
1,500 - 2,00030,000
2,000 - 2,50034,000
The first major factor in determining what kind of air conditioning system you'll need is the size of your home. They're measured in tons or the amount of heat they can remove from a home in one hour in British thermal units (Btus).
The larger your house, the more cooling power you'll need. However, bigger isn't better in every scenario. If the system is too large it will cycle on and off all the time, wasting energy and emitting a loud, disruptive sound. On the other hand, if the system is too small, it will run constantly and cool your house inefficiently.

AC Unit Size Calculator

The general rule is that every 500 or 600 square feet requires one ton of cooling. However, this calculation varies depending on your home and contractor.
Your contractor will do a load calculation to determine the proper central air conditioning unit for your home. This calculation accounts for the climate, size, shape and orientation of your home, as well as its square footage. A professional will also look at the insulation, windows, walls, floors and other materials that compose your home. He/she will then examine any leaks, seals and existing ducts or vents.
Pros Quickly Calculate the Perfect AC Size for Your Home.
Cooling professionals use a variety of computations to analyze the characteristics of your home air conditioner and determine how much air it will lose. Factoring in environmental considerations like geography and solar rays, professionals can decide which system will best cool your home. Many refer to load calculating as the Manual J methodology.
There are two types of Manual J load calculations:
  1. Whole House: Provides the load calculations for a whole house with an existing duct system.
  2. Room by Room: Used for calculating the loads in every room of a house, which contributes to determining individual duct sizes and layout of a duct system

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More Considerations

Need more information on cooling systems before you invest? While an AC professional has all the know-how about these systems, here are some facts you should know going into the installation project.

Adding Central Air to Forced Air Heat

Many central air conditioning systems use the furnace blower to distribute cool air through the home. If you do not have a central heating system installed, it is cost-effective to install a heating and air conditioning system at the same time. If you already have central heat, you can use the existing fans and duct system for the central air system.

Do you need ductwork?

Although most new homes have ducts and vents already in place, many older homes have old convection heating systems or baseboard heaters without ductwork. In such cases, you will need to install ducts and vents to provide the air conditioning with a flow system. This would be the time to explore upgrading the existing heating system as well, as it will be much cheaper to do together.

How's the insulation in your home?

If you have a well built and well insulated home, your heating and cooling systems will work more efficiently and save you money. If you have poor insulation, you will spend considerably more on utility bills. Explore the costs of new insulation or upgrading your old insulation as it might save you money in the long run.

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Tax Breaks

The government used to offer tax credits to incentivize homeowners to purchase energy-efficient home products. Energy-efficient air conditioning units must meet standards set by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). While this program is not currently active, it could return with changes in government initiatives. Check this EnergyStar page for the most recent news on tax breaks for AC installation.
To qualify for the old tax credit from the federal government, you had to save the manufacturer's certificate from your system. The IRS didn't require the certificate at the time you filed your federal tax forms, but they recommended keeping it with your records in case of an audit. It proved that you purchased a qualifying product. The government offered tax credits for:
  • Split-system air conditioners ($300) -- which had to have 15 SEER or 12.5 EER
  • Packaged air conditioners ($300) -- with 15 SEER or 12 EER

Determining Air Conditioning Unit Quality

Ask these questions during your central air installation to ensure its quality and optimum performance for years to come:
  • Is it sized correctly? The equipment must be the right size to provide the best performance for your home. That's why professionals measure your home and do load calculations.
  • Is the duct system right for the AC unit? Ducts that are damaged, leaking or missing in spots will affect performance. Your contractor will repair and install more ducts if needed, so everything works at its highest caliber.
  • How is the airflow? Airflow must be just right; otherwise, you could see an increase in your bill or hot spots in rooms of your home. A contractor can measure the volume and adjust ducts or vents for optimal airflow.
  • What about the refrigerant? Refrigerant is what cools the air flowing through your home while its liquid is consumed into the HVAC system. If there isn't enough, it could result in more energy consumed and more moisture in the air. The HVAC professional will check the charge of the refrigerant and adjust it if needed.

Central Air Conditioning Warranties

Any newly installed air conditioning unit will come with a manufacturer's warranty. The length will vary depending on the manufacturer. Warranties generally last from 5 to 15 years; it's safe to expect an average length of 10 years.
The manufacturer's warranty covers the equipment and parts in the machine. There is also the contractor's warranty, which covers the labor for AC repairs and additional work such as encasing the air conditioner in protective metal, wiring it to the home and so on.
Products with indoor air quality (IAQ) modifiers have a separate warranty that's less than that of a central AC unit, so keep that in mind when investing in such products. You may also invest in an extended warranty, which can cover:
  • Cost of replacement parts
  • Additional years for repair costs by a third party (i.e., no out of pocket expenses)
  • Coverage by the manufacturer
Extended warranties are expensive and generally cost more than maintenance. There are also strict limitations on the warranty that will likely require paying for repairs upfront and following up repeatedly for the reimbursement. You may also end up paying for a system you have replaced in less than 10 years if you move out of the home or upgrade.
Don't Void Your AC's Warranty. Hire The Best AC Installer In Your Area.

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DIY vs. Hiring an AC Installer

You cannot do a central air installation as a DIY project because it involves handling refrigerant, which cools the air. The Environmental Protection. Agency (EPA) must license professionals before they can handle this harmful chemical.
However, once installed, it is possible to do DIY maintenance on your air conditioner. You may have to purchase some cleaning materials and set aside some time for this task, but it could save money in the long run. Or, you could pay the cost to clean your ducts and vents professionally.

FAQs

What are EER and SEER Ratings?

SEER Ratings

An air conditioning system's SEER is especially important if you live in a climate that changes temperature dramatically. The SEER is determined by the cooling output during the winter divided by its electric input during the winter. The higher the rating, the more efficient it will be. In January of 2006, the U.S. put standards in place for cooling units which are still in effect today. They must have a minimum SEER of 13. So, if you live in a home with a system installed before the new standards went into effect, consider having it replaced. SEER 13 units increase home efficiency by 30 percent.

EER Ratings

An EER certifies the cooling efficiency of HVAC units. It's calculated by the rate of the cooling in British thermal units (Btus) per hour and divided by the rate of energy input in watts at a specific temperature. The calculation goes as BtuH/WATT at dry bulb (db) versus wet bulb (wb) temperatures. The optimal rating for a cooling unit is about 80db/67wb inside and 95db/75wb outside.

What is a British Thermal Unit?

British Thermal Units (or Btus) are the amount of energy needed to cool or heat up one pound of water by one Fahrenheit. It's used to measure heating and air conditioning units in Btu per hour. Homeowners can determine what size air conditioner they need by following the steps provided above.

What ton AC unit do I need?

You can consult with a pro to discover the ton AC unit size youÂ’ll need. Or, calculate AC size yourself.

What is the best AC unit?

The best cooling unit for your home will be the most energy efficient and the least expensive to run. Professionals can help you figure this out.

Does central air add value to a home?

Whether or not central air adds value to your home depends on your location. You probably won't recoup the entire cost for the installation, as it is an expensive project that isn't as flashy as something like a new deck. But this invisible upgrade can help you sell your home if you live in a hot climate. And many buyers are willing to pay a bit more for a working AC.

Is central air worth the cost?

Deciding if central air is worth the cost depends on your needs and local housing market. If you live in a hotter climate, it can definitely be worth the price. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable temperature, but air conditioning can even save lives during extreme heat waves. But in a milder zone without severe temperatures, window units, fans or the breeze from an open window could be adequate.

How long do AC units last? How often should you replace your air conditioner?

Most AC units last up to 15 years. But if you use it frequently and don't maintain it, the system could require replacing much sooner. You should replace your air conditioning once it is out of date or stops working properly.

How long does it take to install central air conditioning?

Depending on the project, it can take 1 to 5 or more days for a pro to install central air conditioning. AC replacements take more time, as do projects with extensive ductwork repairs or installations. This extra time can range anywhere from an additional day to another week!

Have More Questions? Ask a Local AC Installer.

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How do we get this data?

  1. Homeowners visit HomeAdvisor.com to find a top-rated pro to complete their home improvement project or repair.

  2. Once their projects are completed, the members log in to their accounts and complete a short cost survey.

  3. After compiling and organizing the data, we report it back to you.