Replacing an air conditioner is a serious test for a family budget. If you do not want to fall into a financial trap, be sure to carefully plan your expenses. Keep in mind that the average cost of a new air conditioning unit calculated on the online calculator does not considers all the factors that determine the final amount. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, please consult Best Heating Cooling & Air experts before the repair: we will calculate the exact cost of replacing an air conditioner and give you a tip how to protect yourself from overpayments!
Central air conditioner prices by brand
Brand reputation is one of the key factors affecting the cost of new air conditioning unit for home, with some companies listed higher than others. To help you be acquainted with the prices, we have provided a table with tariffs for standard 2.5 kW air conditioners with a heat exchanger from different manufacturers as of 2022.
Cost of air conditioner replacement
The type of air conditioning system also affects the new home air conditioning unit cost: the most budget option is a low-power portable air conditioner that does not require installation, and installing a window air conditioner will cost a little more. The middle price segment is represented by standard HVAC systems, air source heat pumps and mini split systems. The cost of installing a central unit depends on the amount of installation work: laying of air ducts almost doubles the cost.
Factors in calculating the cost of a central air conditioner
Central air conditioning is the most popular zone cooling technology: an air conditioning unit is built into a central air duct that distributes air to different rooms. The more complex the installation, the higher the cost for a new air conditioning unit; you should also consider the type, size and brand of the air conditioner, the house footage and SEER.
Installation work is one of the biggest expensive items when planning an air conditioner replacement budget: if you can find the exact same replacement model and you can get by without remodeling the air ducts, you can hit $2,500-$7,500. In other cases, for the installation of communications, you have to pay up to 2500-3600 dollars, after which the total amount reaches 6000-12000 dollars, and even more in old houses. When retrofitting the old systems, worn pipe insulation has to be replaced on frequent occasions, which adds additional $3,000 to a contractor’s bill.
The continental climate of Colorado requires cooling in the summer and heating in the winter, so a heating equipment is also installed in addition to an air conditioner. Installing a HVAC system costs between $4,800 and $9,400; in warmer regions, the air conditioning will be sufficient: inexpensive window and portable air conditioners successfully cope with air cooling in one room, and a channelless split system is suitable for cooling a small house.
For high-quality air cooling, it is not necessary to choose the most powerful air conditioner: the tonnage of a unit must be commensurate with the floor space. For air cooling on an area of 1 sq.f., 18 BTU are required, therefore, to calculate the power of an air conditioner, the room footage should be multiplied by 18; for buildings with high ceilings, the 1.25 ratio is introduced. Then, the product must be divided by 12,000, and you will find out what tonnage you need: for most houses with an area of 1400-1800 sq.f., the optimal capacity of an air conditioner is 2.5-3 tons.
Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) characterizes the efficiency of an air conditioner: the higher the SEER value, the more expensive the air conditioner, but in the long run, the operation of the apparatus is cheaper. The optimal SEER indicators for home air conditioning systems are from 16 to 18; the operation of air conditioners with SEER less than 13 is impractical.
The optimal cost of installing central air conditioners in a temperate climate is from 2.5 to 6 dollars per sq.f.; an air conditioner for a building of 1200 sq. feet costs from 2500 to 6000 dollars, depending on SEER. For the warm climate, you will need a high-power air conditioner; in large houses with an area of more than 3000 sq.f., two air condensers are installed.
A well-known brand raises the cost of an air conditioner, but does not promise the better quality: local companies with average prices can produce equipment not worse than that of elite brands. With sufficient knowledge of the market, it is easy to choose a high quality and inexpensive air conditioner: a good climate control system cannot be extremely cheap, but it does not have to be insanely expensive either.
Additional costs and considerations
It is easiest to calculate the cost of installing a central air conditioner from scratch; if you need to improve the old system or mount a new one based on old communications, you should expect additional costs. A surcharge is charged for dismantling and electrical-installation works, installation of controls, cleaning the system of mold and asbestos, as well as modifications to the system in connection with the addition of new air-conditioned rooms and changes in the height of the ceilings in a building.
Zones and controls
For air conditioning in rooms with different microclimate parameters of large houses, multi-zone systems with thermostatic control are suitable – when distributing the airflow, the air temperature in the rooms is considered. The more zones and controls, the higher the cost of an air conditioning system, but the additional costs are compensated by increased comfort.
When installing a central air conditioner, the electrical installation is conducted in an integrated way with power supply from a 240 V network, the current strength is selected according to the power of a central unit and varies from 15 to 60 Amperes. The average cost of electrical work is $90; in case of unstable power supply, it is recommended to install a voltage stabilizer – this prevents many breakdowns and extends the life of the equipment.
Removing existing HVAC system
The dismantling of old systems is not particularly difficult and, in some cases, is free of charge, and for the removal of more complex systems, you will need to pay extra from $25 to $200. The amount of the surcharge depends on the service life of the equipment; the older the system, the more expensive the dismantling works; as a rule, after the removal of the old equipment, the air ducts are reconstructed for the new system.
In case of redevelopment of a house, for example, when installing a vaulted ceiling, adding new rooms or allocating new rooms, an air conditioning system will have to be rebuilt. In some cases, it is enough to add one more duct to the central channel, with larger reconstructions; the system will need to be changed completely.
Testing and mold removal
Worn-out air ducts are often affected by mold, which poses a threat to health, provokes allergies and respiratory diseases. To find out if the installation needs sanitation, a system testing is performed; fungicides are selected with the consideration of properties of the materials from which the air channels are made; for example, for cleaning air ducts made of fiber optics and polymers, the gentlest cleaning agents are selected.
In the process of cleaning the system, the mold must not enter the air, thus, profile organizations with special equipment, licenses and permits should be engaged in cleaning the air ducts. To prevent mold growth, you must change the filters in time and rinse an air conditioner, and after washing – dry thoroughly the structural elements before assembly.
Testing and asbestos removal
During the construction of buildings built in the 1970s, building materials containing asbestos are the carcinogenic substance that breaks down into microscopic fibers and pollutes the air, could have been used. A huge amount of asbestos fibers accumulates in the air ducts, which are removed by using a special equipment; to test the system for asbestos content and clean the air ducts, please make use of the services of a specialized company.
Permits and possible fines
HVAC contractors’ activities are regulated at the municipal and federal levels, and the contractors charge $115 to $340 for permits. The companies that employ masters and engineers with specialized education and licenses have the permission to perform the installation of air conditioning systems.
For the safe maintenance of old-generation air conditioners, where freon compounds are used as a refrigerant, a special permit is required. Violations of HVAC installation techniques and unauthorized installation of an air conditioner can result in a $25 to $125 fine for a homeowner.
The warranty for an air conditioner from most manufacturers is comparable to the life of the unit, the warranty for different parts reaches 20 years. In some cases, the warranty covers installation works, but buying and installing an air conditioner with an extended warranty are more expensive than standard lifetime repairs.
Cost of central air conditioner: types of air conditioning equipment
For the arrangement of a central HVAC system in a residential house, two options are suggested: a central air conditioner with an air duct can be adapted to install heating equipment. For conditioning individual rooms without laying air ducts, a mini split system is suitable, and which goes well with previously installed heating installations.
Central air conditioning system
Central air conditioning systems collect exhaust air from the premises, purify and cool the air masses, and then redistribute the air throughout the territory. Installation of a central HVAC system is not particularly difficult – the amount of communications and electrical installation is minimal; the service costs $3810-7480.
Channelless split system
The channelless split system consists of three modules: a condenser and compressor units are located outside; an evaporator, which is installed indoors, can also be used for heating. Installing a split system does not require laying air ducts in walls and in an attic; the installation will cost from $2,000 to $14,000, depending on the number of air-conditioned zones.
Cost of central air conditioner: Do I need a new central air conditioner?
It will take an average of $1,200 to $4,500 to install a central air conditioner, plus for the device itself – a rather big amount and does not inspire enthusiasm, but if the device has served for more than a decade, replacing the equipment is a matter of time. If savings allow, it is easier to replace the air conditioner right now, without waiting for the system to fail, for which there are good reasons:
- the energy efficiency of new air conditioners is 20–40% higher than that of models manufactured before 2006;
- flexible compact pipelines of modern systems are organically integrated into the interior and are more reliably protected from leaks than metal air ducts;
- extended possibilities of local microclimate control.
- reduction of installation time to 1-2 days without installing air ducts and up to 7-10 days with the reconstruction of a pipeline.
Age of central air conditioner
The average lifespan of central air conditioning systems is 10-15 years, and with high quality and timely maintenance, the equipment will last longer. After 12 years of device service, air conditioning repairs are usually not economically feasible, and original components may be discontinued.
Noise and dust
The constant dustiness in a room and the noise of a switched air conditioner make it clear that the air conditioning system is either very worn out or needs to be cleaned. The noise from the air conditioning equipment can also indicate insufficient flow passage or heat exchanger wear in an indoor unit, which can be replaced for $240-$420.
Higher utility bills
Sudden increase in electric power bills for no apparent reason can be triggered by an air conditioner malfunction, which the system compensates for with increased fan operation. With a strong wear of a fan motor, the repair is ineffective; to restore thermal comfort, you will have to change the central unit.
Leaks and condensate formation in air ducts lead to dampness and create favorable conditions for mold growth. A leak is easy to deal with if the cause is a clogged filter or drain; if errors are made during the installation of a refrigerant line, reconstruction or replacement of an air duct will be required.
If after the warranty period an air conditioner often breaks down, you should think about replacing the device, especially if an expensive part has failed – a compressor or a heat exchanger. Multiply the total repair costs since the system was installed to estimate the cost of repairs: if the repair cost is over $5,000, it’s time to replace the system.
In hot regions, replacing a worn or faulty air conditioning system increases the resale value of a home. In cooler climates, the financial payoff is less obvious, but it can help you attract motivated buyers and secure a better deal.
Home improvements and additions
Before starting a major overhaul, you should find out if the capacity of the previously installed equipment for air conditioning and heating the house after the restructuring is enough. BHC&Air specialists will perform all the necessary calculations by using a special program and select a rational reconstruction method.
Cost of central air conditioner: do it yourself or hire a professional
Individual installing a climate system by bypassing the law is not the best way to save money, even if you manage to avoid fines. To fix the mistakes of unprofessional installers, you will pay an amount many times higher than the cost of new central air conditioning unit with installation – on average, from $3870 to $7150 for a standard model.
How to save money on the cost of a central air conditioner
The cost of replacing an air conditioner will significantly decrease if you participate in the government’s program of reimbursement of costs for the introduction of an energy-saving climate technology through a tax deduction or a preferential loan. You can also reduce the new central air conditioning unit cost by choosing a convenient time for repairs – HVAC contractors’ services in the fall and winter are much cheaper than in the high season, and if you are lucky, you can negotiate a nice seasonal discount.
Another proven way to save money is to find a reliable local contractor with affordable prices and convenient subscriber service schemes for climate equipment. BHC&Air will organize the replacement and maintenance of an air conditioner on favorable terms – we will select branded resource-saving equipment at an affordable price, install an energy-efficient system in the shortest possible time and keep the equipment at its peak!