Cost Of Central Air Conditioning

How Much Does Central Air Conditioning Cost?

When the hot summer months approach and you find yourself standing in front of the fan to keep cool, you dream of having air conditioning to cool down your whole house. While air conditioning installation isn’t always complicated, it’s usually best to work with a licensed & insured HVAC contractor who will help to ensure it’s done correctly. Here is more information on air conditioner installation and finding the right model for your home: 

On average most homeowners invest between $3,979 and $11,180 to have air conditioning installed.

Your total cost for the job will depend on the type of system you choose.

The unit capacity, number of systems, the efficiency and the size of your home or office.

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

There are several types of systems, including:

  • Window units: installed in windows as a singular A/C system unit
  • 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

What are EER and SEER Ratings?

The best cooling unit for your home will be the most energy efficient and the least expensive to run. Home air conditioner professionals help determine this factor in their load calculations, but the next step is looking at the energy efficiency ratio (EER) and seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings of cooling units. Here’s what you need to know about these two units of efficiency.

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.

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 SEER rating, the more efficient it will be. Cooling units specifically must have a minimum SEER of 13 as of January 2006, according to U.S. standards, so if you live in a home with a system installed before then, consider having it replaced. SEER 13 units increase home efficiency by 30 percent.

Air Conditioning Installation Cost Factors

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:

Installing the Air Conditioning Unit

It’s important to have made an informed decision about an air conditioning system before initiating an installation, as this will determine a large percentage of your cost. If you decide to have a split or central system installed, you will need to hire a licensed and insured air conditioning professional to install the system.

You cannot do this installation as a DIY project because it involves handling refrigerant, which cools the air. Professionals must be licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they can handle this substance because it’s a harmful chemical. Installing an air conditioning system is an involved process.

Additional Questions and Considerations

Do you already have a central heating system?

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 (HVAC) 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 less expensive to do together.

How’s the insulation in your home?

If your home is well built and well insulated, 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.

Other Central Air Conditioning Facts

Determining Air Conditioning Unit Quality

When installing your air conditioning unit, ask the following questions 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 air conditioner performance for your home. That’s why professionals measure your home and do load calculations.
  • Is the duct system right for the air conditioning unit? Ducts that are damaged, leaking or missing some spots will affect the performance of your air conditioner. Your air conditioning 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? The 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 warranty’s length will vary depending on the manufacturer. Warranties generally last from five 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 A/C unit 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 A/C 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.