An AC unit costs anywhere from $925-$9,680 to install, depending on the model, brand, size, energy efficiency and many other factors. Not including installation and labor costs, AC prices range from $778-$7,350.
AC unit cost:
|0.5 ton cooling||$768-$850|
|1 ton cooling||$880-$962|
|2.5 ton cooling||$1,590-$1,740|
|3 ton cooling||$1,760-$1,920|
|10 ton cooling||$2,540-$2,770|
|20 ton cooling||$4,540-$4,960|
|30 ton cooling||$6,720-$7,350|
Note: AC unit prices are for complete system units, cabinet mounted, with filters. Prices above do not include installation costs. 1 ton equals 12,000 BTUs.
How much you’ll spend on an air conditioning unit or central air system will be based on labor costs in your area, your home's size, if you decide to replace your entire HVAC system and other factors. Keep reading to find out how to estimate your AC installation costs.
What’s in this cost guide?
- AC replacement & installation cost
- AC replacement cost by type
- AC compressor cost
- Central air cost
- HVAC replacement cost
- AC installation cost factors
- AC service cost
- How to lower your AC costs
- How to choose an AC installer
- Find AC installers near you
- Video interview with a pro
Before installing an AC unit in your home, it’s important to research the installation costs and the prices for the actual units — which can vary by the AC type, manufacturer and retailer.
AC installation cost:
0.5 ton cooling
1 ton cooling
2.5 ton cooling
3 ton cooling
10 ton cooling
15 ton cooling
20 ton cooling
30 ton cooling
Note: 1 ton = 12,000 BTUs.
Whole-house ACs, packaged units, split systems, heat pumps and HVAC systems found at home improvement stores can vary in cost based on the manufacturer and brand (MRCOOL, Winchester, Goodman, Royalton, etc.), unit size, SEER rating, cooling capacity and more.
If you only need to replace certain components of your AC unit, keep in mind that some parts are more expensive than other. For example, a damaged fan may cost around $125 to replace. Circuit boards are a little more pricey, often costing around $215. The circuit board is essential to the function of your unit, so it has to be replaced right away.
Choosing an AC unit can be difficult for many homeowners, especially because prices can vary greatly. In many cases, homeowners consider installing a ductless mini-split system, heat pump system, window AC or portable AC. Here’s what you need to know about each type.
As its name implies, these systems require no ductwork. Mini-split systems cost $1,500-$2,000 per ton of cooling capacity, which is 30% more than central air without ductwork and twice the cost of window units, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).
Ductless mini-split systems are typically installed in the wall of a room, and they consist of one outdoor compressor or condenser and one indoor air-handling unit. They’re usually used to heat a single space or two adjoined spaces.
If you're concerned about energy efficiency, this system provides some perks when compared to central forced air systems. The ductwork in central forced air systems typically experiences energy losses, and these “duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for space conditioning, especially if the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic,” states the DOE.
A heat pump costs $1,365-$9,840 to install, on average. These pumps are useful because they’re often small and can be easily installed. They also provide heating and cooling. When you’re cooling a space, the pump pulls heat from the inside air and sends it to the air outside.
Heat pumps are typically split systems, but packaged systems are available as well.
Window AC units are more affordable than other types of systems. It typically costs several hundred dollars to buy and install a window AC.
If your goal is to heat one room instead of your whole house, a window AC could be your best option. Also, consider window AC units if your region enjoys mild summers, you don't mind the heat or your home naturally stays cool during heatwaves.
Like window air conditioners, portable air conditions can cost several hundred dollars or so. Its function resembles that of a window AC unit, but it won’t hang outside your window. This makes portable ACs more attractive to people who live in residences where the use of window ACs is prohibited. And the fact that these AC units can be transported from one space to another is a benefit for some homeowners and renters.
On average, central air costs $2,500, and most people between $1,500 and $3,500. On the high end, homeowners pay $7,235 for central air.
Cost to install central air:
|National average cost||$2,500|
|Average cost range||$1,500-$3,500|
|Low-end cost range||$50-$689|
|High-end cost range||$4,999-$7,235|
AC installation costs can also vary depending on what you need to get done in your home. For example, do you need new ductwork? If so, expect to pay anywhere from $852-$5,337.
The bigger the house, the more ducts that will need to be run, checked and sealed. The increased need for cooling power will cause the new AC unit to cost more, too. And there's more than one story in the house, running the ducts, pipes and wiring may add to the cost as well.
Older homes often don’t have existing ductwork because they weren’t designed for central AC. Therefore, to install an air conditioning unit, you might need a new system of ducts — and that can get expensive.
On the other hand, some units don’t need ductwork, so they can be installed without this added expense. Keep in mind that each installation is unique, and the complexity depends on the needs of the house and the desired location of the unit.
Packaged air conditioners vs. split systems
A packaged air conditioner combines heating and cooling and, unlike split systems, they’re enclosed in a single cabinet — which helps save space. These systems tend to cost less than split systems because they're easier to install.
In addition to packaged ACs, examples of other packaged HVAC systems include:
- Packaged heat pumps, which can heat and cool your home.
- Packaged dual fuel system, where the heat pump acts like an air conditioner, and the gas furnace goes to work when temperatures get too cold.
- Packaged gas/electric systems, which use a furnace and air conditioner.
A packaged system is useful for its versatility. It can be put on the roof or next to your home. But because the system has to sit outside, it’s fully exposed to the elements. Freezing water and outdoor debris can cause the system to malfunction. If something goes wrong, you may lose both your heating and cooling.
If your home doesn’t have an air conditioner, but there's a furnace, you might consider installing a split-system air conditioner. It’s the most common type of central air conditioner for residential homes — and usually the most affordable. With a split-system AC, you have an outdoor unit or cabinet containing the condenser and compressor. Inside, you have another cabinet with the air handler. The indoor unit can also contain a furnace or heat pump.
If you’re thinking about getting a split-system HVAC, here’s how these systems are configured:
- Furnace and air conditioner: Most HVAC systems use a gas furnace instead of an oil one.
- Furnace and heat pump: These are recommended for colder climates, and are also called “hybrid” or “dual fuel systems.”
- Air handler and heat pump: These are recommended for warmer climates, and are sometimes called “heat pump split systems.”
A split-system air conditioner provides effective heating and cooling while keeping part of the unit inside your home. It’s easier to service this section of the system, as well as protect it from the elements. However, you still have to depend on a series of wires and pipes that connect the various components. If any of these fail, the repairs can get expensive.
Is it worth replacing an air conditioner?
In many cases, it's worth replacing an air conditioner. For example, a new AC unit can help you save money on energy and cooling costs. Potential homebuyers will also want to ensure your home has functioning and energy-efficient HVAC system before buying.
If you're not sure if you should replace or repair your AC unit, take the following the steps:
- Get repair and replacement estimates. If the repair is minor, it's probably not worth it to replace your AC right away. In some cases, the cost of the repair will not be worth the cost of a new AC unit.
- Figure out how old your unit is. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, a central air conditioner lasts 7-15 years. If your system is older than that and it keeps malfunctioning, it may be time to consider replacing it.
- Does it need frequent repairs? Even if the repairs are small, they will add up over time — and that cost might be higher than the cost to replace your unit.
- Review your energy bills for spikes. This is a sign that your AC is not as efficient as it used to be. A repair may be needed, or you may need to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model.
After you install your new AC unit, you'll need to factor in the cost to service, clean and maintain your unit. On average, homeowners pay $60-$79 for central air conditioning maintenance and repairs.
|National average cost||$70|
|Average cost range||$60-$79|
There are a many ways you can save money while using your new AC unit or HVAC system. For example:
- Focus on energy efficiency. Only run your air conditioning system when you need to and utilize the thermostat. Running your AC unit when you’re not at home can waste significant money.
- Program your thermostat to turn on when you’re either at home or when you are on your way back from work, school or another place.
- Seal cracks and insulate your home. If your house lets in warm air from outside, you’re making your unit work harder than it should. This requires more electricity and, consequently, more money. Insulating your home and sealing cracks can help cut down on your AC’s workload.
- Change the filters. Clogged filters inhibit airflow, forcing the unit to work harder and expend more energy. Clogged filters can also damage your unit, so keeping them clean will help you save money on replacement parts as well.
Related content: The best HVAC maintenance tips.
How to hire an air conditioning professional
First, make sure the installer you choose has the proper license and credentials to install an air conditioner in your state. You should also read testimonials from past customers, and see if the installers received positive reviews for providing tips during the inspection, being punctual, exhibiting professionalism and cleaning up any mess that was created.
The best HVAC contractors are usually happy to provide free estimates or quotes for your home if you're planning on installing a new HVAC system or replacing an existing air conditioning system. But if your existing system is acting up, you might have to pay for a diagnostic call. Contact a few pros to ensure you pay a fair price.
Installing central AC can be a great way to add both value and comfort to your home. A central AC system helps you and your family stay cool. And if it’s a packaged, heat or split system that also provides heat, it can keep everyone cozy when temperatures drop. Look for an AC professional on Thumbtack today.
These are some frequently asked questions about central air systems, AC units and HVACs.
How much does it cost to replace a whole AC unit?
The cost to replace a whole AC unit will depend on the type of unit you want. Here are some cost estimates for AC unity and whole-house HVAC systems:
|Ductless mini-split||$1,500-$2,000 (per ton)|
How much is a new AC unit for a 1,500-, 1,600-, 2,000-, 2,500- and 3,000-square-foot house?
First, you'll need to figure out the appropriate size for your AC unit. An old rule of thumb was that an HVAC should provide 1 ton of cooling/12,000 BTUs for each 400 to 500 square feet. However, the DOE insists that you use the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual J to figure out the ideal size for your unit.
Typically, AC companies don't go by square footage to size an air conditioner unit. Instead, your contractor will take other factors into account, including: windows, doors, ceiling height, insulation and other details. Always ask your HVAC contractor to provide AC cost and size estimates for your home.
How long should an AC unit last?
A central air conditioner typically lasts 7-15 years. Here's how long other components of your HVAC system tend to last:
|Air exchanger||15 years|
|Evaporative Cooler||15-25 years|
|Heat Pump||10-15 years|
Can I just replace my outside AC unit?
Yes, you can replace just your outside unit — but this usually only works out if your AC unit is relatively new (just a few years old) and the warranty is still valid and allows you to find a compatible unit. However, if you're replacing an old outside AC unit, HVAC contractors will most likely recommend that you also replace your indoor AC unit. Here's why:
- Your indoor unit may not be compatible with your new outdoor AC unit. For example, SEER ratings maybe have changed since when you bought your system.
- A system with mismatched components may break down or lose their inefficiency.
- If your mismatched system breaks down, it will likely cost you more money in the long run.
In most cases, you'll want to replace your entire AC unit. If you still have questions about replacing your outside unit, contact an HVAC contractor in your area today.
Should I replace my 20-year old air conditioner?
Check with your contractor or technician. If your AC is older than 10-15 years, it may be time to upgrade and replace it.
Does homeowners insurance cover AC units?
You'll need to check your policy to find out if insurance covers your air conditioning unit. Typically, insurance will take care of damages caused by trees, fires and other perils. However, they usually don't cover normal wear and tear.
What is an HVAC, and how does it work?
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. An HVAC unit helps your home maintain a comfortable temperature level, thanks to its heating system and cooling system. These systems include many different components (AC unit, heat pump, boiler, furnace, fans, filters, etc.).
An HVAC system can do a good job of providing central air for your home. To install an HVAC system, you’ll need to get the right kind of unit — a packaged unit, split system or heat pump. You might also need a system of ducts and vents if you don’t have them already. And, you’ll also need to get a thermostat, which helps the system switch between providing cool air and heat.
What is the labor cost to install central air?
The labor cost to install a central air conditioning system will vary. It depends on the HVAC installer and your location.
How much does it cost to install central air without ductwork?
The national average cost to install a ductless air conditioner is between $1,500 and $2,000 per ton of cooling capacity.
Can I install central air myself?
To install central air, in most areas, you need a special license or certification. Unless you have that license, you can’t do it yourself. The specific license you need varies by state.
When looking for a professional who can do the job for you, make sure the HVAC installation pro has the appropriate license and credentials.
Is central air worth the cost?
It would be worth the cost if you want the comfort and convenience of having a whole-house system. Central AC in warmer areas is also valuable because many need it to maintain an adequate quality of life. If you live in a colder area where the summer temperatures rarely get above 80 degrees, it may not be worth the cost because you may not need it for the vast majority of the time.
Does central air add value to a home?
Yes. Having central air can increase the value of your home by as much as 10 percent, according to some experts. Even in homes where central air is rarely used, people considering buying a home value the extra convenience of having it available.
How long does it take to install an AC system?
If you're simply swapping out an existing unit — with no ductwork required — expect your installation to take about a day. If your installers need to replace ductwork, you're looking at, on average, a three- to a five-day job.
But keep in mind that more complicated jobs will add time. If you're installing a unit on your roof or if your home is three stories tall, that estimate could dramatically increase.
How long does HVAC installation take?
A typical residential HVAC installation takes between one and 14 days, depending on the complexity of the job.
"A 2.5-ton air conditioning unit typically costs between $8,000 to $15,000. Obviously, the more higher quality brand, the higher cost. But typically, they have better warranties. These units are typically going to cost a lot more upfront, but over time your energy bill is going to be lower. So overall, you end up saving money in the long run.
The average lifespan of an AC unit is between 20 and 25 years if maintained properly. AC units typically require maintenance every year, and it's not necessarily because they're going to break or they're not functioning properly — it's just to do preventative work so that you don't have problems down the road.
A client should never cut costs on permitting when it comes to AC units because it involves gas, it involves electrical and freon. All of these things could be very harmful, and so they want to make sure to always get it inspected by the city and have all of their permitting in place.
The typical payment schedule for an HVAC unit is 10% at the time of signing. We then asked for 50% of the balance at the time that we deliver the equipment and the remaining balance after we pass final inspection.
AC unit replacements typically require between two to three techs for the replacement, which can usually take about two to three days. Typically, the distributors have all of the materials on stock, and you're able to start a project next day if it was necessary.
For air conditioning, the busy season is during the summer, during the heat waves. However, it is probably better to start it sometime in early spring if you're planning a project so that you're not waiting for weeks to get an appointment.
I'm Jaime Delgado with Sustainable Living Builders, and you can find us on Thumbtack."
Additional source: National Home Repair & Remodeling Estimator