Cost to Install Central Air in Your Home

Central air conditioning provides cooled air for your home in the summer. Before you run out and buy a new system, you may have some questions like, "How much is it actually going to cost to install central air?" Use this guide to get an idea of where your money goes during air conditioning installations.

Why Should I Install Central Air?

You should install central air if you're sick of sweating throughout the summer. While you may be looking at what goes into an air conditioning installation project, you should consider what you're getting in return. Besides cooling down your house, central AC units offer the following benefits.

Central Air PerksReasons to Install Central Air

  • Convenience: A central air system stays connected to your thermostat throughout the year, so you don't have to keep adjusting the temperature all day. You can also get a multi-zone unit that can cool the whole house.
  • Quiet: Modern central air systems are much less noisy than wall or window air conditioners. The outdoor condenser unit is what makes all the noise because that's the part doing most of the work. When you're inside, you can barely hear the air conditioner blowing outside your house. You might even forget that your central AC is running.
  • Efficiency: In general, a central air conditioning system is more energy-efficient than window or wall air conditioners. A high seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) means that your AC unit saves energy as it produces cooled air. Investing in an eco-friendly air conditioner will allow you to save money on your electric bill.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: Central air conditioners free up window space to give you a beautiful view of your backyard. The cumbersome condenser unit is outside, so it doesn't distract from the decor inside the house. Your home will look cleaner with a central air conditioning unit.
  • Water resistance: The metal coils throughout a central air system are vulnerable to corrosion, but newer models come with materials that allow them to be water-resistant. Condenser units that stay outside can withstand heavy rains and natural condensation.
  • Versatility: Window air conditioners fit in the window, of course, but you can put a central air conditioning unit in an attic, crawl space or utility closet. You could also use your central air conditioning for both heating and cooling the house. These units are available in various sizes and energy-efficiency capacities, depending on your need for your living space.

Factors that Affect the Cost to Install Central Air in Your Home

It makes sense that the size of your unit will affect the installation price. The total cost to install central air depends on a couple of other factors, as well.

  • The time and season: In the summer, staying comfortable is on everyone's minds, and HVAC technicians know that. You're likely to pay a higher cost to install central air when it's hot out because contractors are busy and there's a higher demand for air conditioners. If you can, buy your central air conditioner in winter to save money.
  • Professional installation: While you can install DIY central air kits yourself, consider hiring a professional who understands the complexity of air conditioning installations. Installing a central air system in your home can be tricky. A reputable professional can save you money in the long run. Get a few estimates from different contractors before settling.
  • Pre-installation evaluation: Before the technician puts in your central air, they have to run an energy audit to figure out what size you need. They also check your house for air leaks and other issues that may strain AC systems, such as a lack of insulation. You can expect to pay about $250 for this assessment.
  • Ductwork assessment: During the evaluation, the technician can tell you whether your ducts are suitable for modern central air systems. If you need any structural changes to your house, including new ductwork, it could increase the project's cost. The average cost to install central air ductwork is $2,000. That includes labor, insulation, permits and materials.
  • Permits: In some areas, you need building permits to install air conditioning in your house. Check with your contractor before starting construction so that you don't have to pay any fines or have all of it taken out. Be aware that you will have to pay extra for these permits. If you need permits, those could cost you $1,200 and $2,000 depending on where you live.
Type of Central Air System to Purchase

What Kind of Unit Should I Get?

You can find a full central air system that accommodates your home's size and energy efficiency. Let the technician figure what size you need before purchasing it, because the wrong size could cost you extra money on your electric bill and do a poor job of regulating the temperature. You don't want to pay full cost to install central air with an improperly sized system!

System Factors

Consider these factors as you decide which central air conditioning unit to get:

  • Type of system: In general, central air conditioning is available as package units or split systems. A package unit features one massive cabinet that stores all the components you need to cool your house. Split systems have an outdoor and indoor component installed in the attic, utility closet or crawlspace. Both central air conditioning installations require ductwork. Both can cost anywhere between $3,777 and $7,426. Ductless mini-split systems can control multiple zones of the house at once. Depending on the space you need to cool, these systems could cost up to $14,500 to install.
  • Sizing and capacity of the unit: Choose the right-size central air conditioning system based on the square footage of your home. If it's undersized, it'll keep running and won't ever fully cool down your home. If it's oversized, it'll keep turning on and off, which adds wear and tear on it. Keep in mind that the size of the unit determines its price. For example, a three-ton unit could cost anywhere from $3,800 to $5,000 or more.
  • Energy-efficiency: While energy-efficient air conditioners have a higher upfront cost, they can save you money on your electric bill over time. If you install a modern energy-efficient unit, you may be eligible to receive a tax incentive or rebate from your energy company. Brand-new central air conditioners also comply with local government codes that require AC units to have a minimum SEER of 14.
  • Heating and cooling: To maximize your central AC unit cost, consider whether you should buy a heat pump that works as both a heater and an air conditioner. Believe it or not, heat pumps are less expensive than air conditioners. Central heating and cooling units cost between $700 and $2,800, while air conditioners cost between $1,700 and $3,300. Keep in mind that with an air conditioner that only produces cooled air, you'll also need to buy a furnace to warm your home in the winter.

Updating Your Central Air Conditioner

If your HVAC system is a decade or more old and you need to fix an expensive part, like a compressor or an evaporator coil, you should think about getting the whole thing replaced. If you have a heating and cooling system, you should upgrade both for better energy efficiency.

Replacement costs for your air conditioner should run about $5,000, with more complex updates climbing up to $12,000. Keep in mind that investing in a brand-new air conditioner will help you save 20 to 40% on your energy bill each month, and you'll also save money in maintenance costs over the next couple of years.

Replacement Factors

Here are some of the factors you should consider when you're figuring out the cost to install central air.

  • Adding ductwork: Any structural home improvements necessary install your central air conditioner will raise the total costs of the project. You may need new ductwork to accommodate your central air system, whether it's changing the size or installing new vents and registers. Ductwork can range in price, depending on the size of your space, the complexity of the ductwork design and the ducting material. You could pay less money by replacing your current central air conditioning system than re-configuring your home for a new unit.
  • Changing ductwork: If you need to replace your system with a modern design, you may have to increase the number of registers throughout the house. Before getting an estimate from the AC installer, make sure the technician inspects them to figure out if they'll accommodate your desired central air conditioning system. Add supply and return vents in each room of the house you'll need to cool. If you invest in a ductless mini-split system, you don't have to make any changes to your home, so you'll pay less money for your installation project.
  • Zones and controls: Central air systems are either multi-zone or one-room to help you accommodate the different cooling needs you have for each part of the house. For example, a kitchen would need more cooling than a bedroom. Consider where you produce the most heat throughout the house to determine which zones need AC units. Keep in mind that the more rooms you need to cool, the more you'll have to pay for your central air conditioning system.
Getting the Most Out of Your AC Unit

Getting the Most out of Your AC Unit

To maximize your investment, you should keep your AC clean and maintained throughout the year. Our team at Ingram's Water & Air offers lifetime phone support on all our products to help you take care of your new appliance. Whenever you have a question about one of our products, give us a call. We'll do our best to answer any question you have.

Quick Pro Tips

In general, here are some HVAC maintenance tips for protecting this new investment in your home.

  • Clean or replace the air filter: Air filters hold dust and other debris that make their way into the air conditioner. Once a month, check the air filter and clean it, and replace it if it's damaged.
  • Inspect and clean the ducts: Check the ductwork throughout your house for debris, damage or leaks. Also, clean around the vents with a vacuum to prevent dust from getting into your central air conditioning unit.
  • Examine the electrical components: Wires suffer from wear and tear for various reasons. Check the wiring and connections throughout the central air system and look for broken or frayed components. Unless you have experience with electricity, contact a professional to fix any issues that arise.
  • Clear away debris: Throughout the year, debris around the outdoor central air unit can affect how well it works. Over the summer, make sure weeds aren't growing around it, and clear fallen leaves in the autumn. You should also keep furniture and toys away from the registers inside your house. You must make sure the air flows properly.
  • Use your senses: You probably aren't an HVAC system expert. But, you can still use your sight, hearing and yes, even your sense of smell, to figure out if there's something wrong with it. If it looks broken or it's making weird noises, there's something wrong with it. If you smell body odor — well, you get the idea.
  • Hire an HVAC pro: We can help over the phone, but we can't see everything. A pro can protect your refrigerant lines, lubricate metal parts, unclog the drain lines, and keep an eye on your belts and pulleys.

Average Cost to Install Central Air

The average cost to install central air is $5,602, at a lower limit of $3,777 and an upper limit of $7,426. Shop for the best brand, size and energy efficiency for your living space to save money on the upfront cost of your installation. As you get estimates from various contractors, remember that the cheapest isn't always the best. Do your research and read the fine print of each assessment you receive.

The most expensive company might go the extra mile for you. That can actually save you time and money throughout the installation process. You should also keep in mind that what you'll get out of your central AC is worth much more than what you put into it. With a brand-new air conditioner, you'll get:

  • A cool house where you're not sweating all the time.
  • Cheaper electric bills with an energy-efficient central air conditioner.
  • Tax incentives and rebates.
  • A warranty to repair or replace your unit at free or a reduced cost.

Questions & Comments About the Cost to Install Central Air?

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