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Air Conditioning Cost

Air Conditioning Cost

National average
$2,500
(ductless A/C and labor for a 2,000 sq.ft. zone)
Low: $350

(window A/C unit for 440 sq.ft. zone)

High: $7,200

(central A/C and labor for 1,000 sq.ft. multi-zones)

Cost to install air conditioning varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from air-conditioning and heating contractors in your city.

The average cost of installing air conditioning is $2,500.

In this guide

Cost Factors
Types of Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning Size/capacity
Brands
Labor
Maintenance
Energy Efficiency
Enhancements and Improvement Costs
Additional Considerations and Costs
FAQ

How Much Does It Cost to Install Air Conditioning?

You really don’t realize how important air conditioning is until it's not available anymore. Air conditioners are responsible for a lot of our indoor comfort, especially during the summer when the temperatures outside rise. More importantly, though, air conditioners keep people safe from heat exhaustion and other heat-related problems.

Air conditioners are usually installed by HVAC specialists. The average cost of installing air conditioning is $1,000-$3,000. For a new ductless air conditioning system that covers about 2,000 square feet, homeowners can expect to pay an average of $2,500.

Air Conditioning Installation

Air conditioning installation costs
National average cost$2,500
Average range$1,000 - $3,000
Minimum cost$350
Maximum cost$7,200

Cost Factors

Several factors determine how much your air conditioning installation will cost. For example, while some air conditioning systems only require installation for the A/C unit itself, central air conditioning will require ductwork installation if your home doesn't already have ductwork installed. Ductwork is a series of tubes that run throughout the home and are connected to the HVAC system, carrying the cooled air from your air conditioning unit throughout the house. Ductwork installation is one of the main reasons why central air conditioning is the most expensive A/C installation option. It's a complex process that necessarily involves boring into walls. It adds an average of $1,000 to $5,000 to the cost.

Next, consider the square footage of the space that needs to be cooled. The more square footage, the more powerful your air conditioning unit will need to be. The more powerful units are, of course, more expensive than less powerful options.

Types of Air Conditioning

There are a few types of air conditioning that you can choose from, and your choice will impact how much you end up paying for installation.

Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning generates cool air and then distributes that air throughout a home or building using ductwork. This is the most expensive and complex option at up to $7,200 with installation. However, it's also the most efficient choice.

Window Units

A window unit is installed on a window sill 1. It pulls air in from outside, cools it, and pushes it indoors. This type of air conditioning is best for small rooms. Window units are the least expensive choice, partly because they're the only option that can be installed without professional help. Homeowners usually spend around $350 with installation.

Splits

These are also called ductless air conditioning units. These units were designed for houses that were originally built without air conditioning, so a lot of older homes have split air conditioners. With a split air conditioner, the unit is installed into the side of a house, with half of the unit on the inside and half on the outside. Just like window units, splits work by pulling air in from the outside and cooling it before it enters the home. This is the mid-range price option at about $2,500 with installation.

Air Conditioning Size/capacity

Choosing the right air conditioning unit will make a big difference in your home's overall comfort. Cooling capacity is measured by British Thermal Units, or BTUs. BTUs measure energy. One BTU is enough to heat or cool a pound of water by one degree. The more square footage a space has, the more BTUs are required to keep that space heated or cooled. Energy Star recommends choosing a unit with the appropropriate amount of BTU capacity. Some people assume that a higher BTU capacity is better, no matter the size of the room, but if a unit's BTU capacity is too high it can waste energy and leave too much humidity in the room. You can determine your ideal BTU capacity based on the square footage of the room(s) you want to cool.

Square feet to be cooledBTUs recommended
100 up to 1505,000
250 up to 3007,000
400 up to 45010,000
700 up to 1,00018,000
1,000 up to 1,20021,000
1,500 up to 2,00030,000
2,000 up to 2,50034,000


Square footage isn't the only factor you should consider, though. You should keep several other things in mind when calculating your BTU needs. First, consider the climate in your state. If you live in a state that gets a lot of heat and humidity, you may require a more powerful than average unit for your square footage. A room with a lot of windows may require more BTU capacity because of potential heat loss. Furthermore, consider the height of your ceilings or whether or not you're cooling a multi-story space. Remember that hot air rises, so these factors can make spaces more difficult to cool. Energy Star also recommends using the following considerations:

  • Add 10% more A/C capacity for a sunny room.
  • Add 600 BTU/h per person more than 2 that occupy the space.
  • Add 4000 BTU/h than required for room size in the kitchen.

To get the most precise measurements, your air conditioning contractor will start by making a manual J calculation, or a load calculation, to determine how much BTU capacity your space really needs.

Brands

You can choose from several air conditioning brands. Below are a few of the most common ones and their characteristics. These brands all offer a range of products, so keep in mind that the prices mentioned are averages. Of course, there are a lot of air conditioning brands for you to choose from, so talk to your air conditioner installer about your options. Your installer can make recommendations based on your home size, the climate where you live, and other factors.

BrandCharacteristicsPrice
Carrier

Central and Ductless units available

Durable

Energy efficient units

Up to 60,000 BTUh (central)

Up to 24,000 BTUh (ductless)

$6,525 (central)

$2,700 (ductless)
Trane

Only central A/C

Durable

Quiet

Proven to work well in spite of high heat and other weather conditions

$7,000
Lennox

Central and Mini-Split

Durable

Wide Product Range

Up to 60,000 BTUh (central)

Upt to 36,000 BTUh (mini-split)

$3,350 (central)

$1,300 (mini split)
Maytag

Central

Durable

Lots of A/C product options

Higher than average warranty length (12 years)

Up to 60,000 BTUh

$2,437


Labor

HVAC specialists install air conditioning units. They charge an average of $85 to $95 per hour. For many unit installation projects, a specialist can finish the job in 8 hours or less. However, with ductwork installation the project can take several days. Ductwork costs an average of $2,000 for a 2,000 square foot home. Air conditioning installation often requires specialized training and experience. You can install a window unit without professional help, but other unit types should be left to the professionals.

Maintenance

You can keep your air conditioning unit in its best shape by keeping up with regular maintenance. A/C units require yearly maintenance to keep running as they should. A/C maintenance services include cleaning, lubrication, debris removal, and air filter replacement. Regular maintenance requires knowledge of the unit parts, so it's best to use a professional maintenance service for this yearly upkeep.

Energy Efficiency

You can save money on your energy costs by using an energy efficient air conditioning unit. Check out EER and SEER 2 ratings to see which units will provide the most efficiency. According to Energy Star, EER stands for “energy efficiency ratio,” and it measures how efficiently an air conditioning unit works when the outdoor temperature is 95 degrees fahrenheit. SEER 2 stands for “seasonal energy efficiency rating 2,” and it measures how efficiently a unit works over a season. Both measurements are good indicators of energy efficiency. Products that have the Energy Star label have good scores in both areas. If you see a product with a light blue “Energy Star” marking, then you'll know that unit is a good choice from an efficiency perspective.

Enhancements and Improvement Costs

Insulation

You can improve your air conditioner's efficiency by making sure it has good insulation. Ask your HVAC specialist about their insulation options. The insulation itself can cost up to $15 for panel installation or $1-$3 per pipe cover for foam pipe installation, which will be added to the overall cost of your A/C.

Additional Considerations and Costs

There are several things you should keep in mind when it comes to air conditioner installation.

  • Licenses and permits. Make sure that your HVAC technician has a license to install air conditioning units. Licenses are required because A/C installation involves handling refrigerants. You’ll also likely need permits to install any new A/C system, whether or not your new system includes ductwork. This is how the law makes sure that your home is up to code, however, this law varies by state, so check your state’s permit laws.
  • DIY. Don't try to install a central A/C unit on your own. Only professionals should handle this project. You may install a window unit by yourself, though, because window unit installation doesn’t require a professional license or the handling of refrigerants. Nevertheless, even for a window unit, it’s always a good idea to seek professional installation. This way, you can make sure that the project goes well.
  • Travel fee. The contractor may charge extra if you live outside of their service area, including travel time in their hourly labor costs.
  • Hidden circuit installation. Labor costs may rise in case of a hidden circuit installation in a finished environment. If your installer has to remove structural pieces to reach a circuit to power the A/C, that process can add time to the labor process, thus increasing the cost. If the installer is unequipped for this part of the job, they may hire a laborer or subcontractor.
  • Ductwork. Ductwork repair or installation is the most complicated part of the process. If your home requires ductwork installation or repair to your A/C system, you'll pay more than you would for a simpler installation. Ductwork installation costs an average of $2,000.
  • Alternatives. A portable AC unit may be a viable alternative if ductwork isn't an option. These units range in price from $200 to $750.
  • Rebates and subsidies. Look for rebates and subsidies for energy-efficient models. These can help you save some money. The government offers these options as incentives for people to choose energy-efficient options rather than energy-guzzling options.
  • Warranty. Your A/C unit's warranty can protect you from high repair costs in case something goes wrong with your unit. Many A/C units come with a ten year warranty, but this number can vary, so take a look at the fine print before you commit.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to install air conditioning?

It can cost anywhere from $350 for a window unit to $7,200 for central air conditioning. The average is $2,500,which is what homeowners can expect to pay for a ductless air conditioning system.

  • How much does an air conditioner cost for a 2,000 sq.ft. home?

Central A/C for a 2,000 sq.ft. home can cost up to $14,400. Ductless systems for a home this size can cost up to $5,800, and window units can cost roughly $1,500.

  • How much should a 3 ton A/C unit cost installed?

On average, it can cost around $5,550. That includes the cost of the unit itself and labor costs for installation.

  • How much does it cost to replace the HVAC system?

Between $10,000 and $14,000. Replacing an entire HVAC system is more labor intensive than a simple A/C unit installation. It takes more time, which means extra labor costs.

  • How much does it cost to install different heating and cooling systems?

Separate heating and cooling systems can cost up to $8,000 for the heating system and up to $7,200 for the cooling system.

  • What are the top factors that affect the cost of your HVAC installation?

The amount of ductwork you need, the materials that you use for your ductwork, and your location all play a big part in the cost of HVAC installation.

  • Can you negotiate your HVAC installation costs with contractors?

Yes, you can negotiate to try to get the best deal possible. You can also get estimates from multiple contractors to see which one offers the best pricing.

  • What are the top brands of HVAC systems?

Carrier, Trane, Lennox, and Maytag are some of the top HVAC brands.

  • How do you find a local reliable cooling and heating installer?

Start by using a search engine, and then look for reviews to narrow down your choices. You can also ask friends and neighbors who have used an HVAC service whether they'd recommend the contractor that they used.

  • Can I install my own central A/C?

No. Central A/C installation requires a license, special skills, and training. Don't attempt to install a central A/C unit without a professional.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Sill: The lowest horizontal support of a building, typically made of wood, placed on the foundation, on the ground, or below ground level to protect the building slab and secure framing
2 Seasonal energy efficiency rating: (Also known as Seer) An acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, measure of heat pump and air conditioning efficiency (as defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute in its AHRI 210/240 standard).

Cost to install air conditioning varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

White air conditioner

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Akron, OH
-6%
Alamogordo, NM
-38%
Albuquerque, NM
-14%
Amarillo, TX
-15%
Arvada, CO
-3%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Bakersfield, CA
-6%
Bishop, TX
-35%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Canton, OH
-8%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Cincinnati, OH
+6%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Corpus Christi, TX
+4%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Denver, CO
+1%
Detroit, MI
+16%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Eugene, OR
-11%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Fort Worth, TX
+6%
Fremont, CA
+35%
Harrisburg, PA
+2%
Hinckley, OH
+7%
Houston, TX
+24%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
La Place, LA
+30%
Lansdowne, PA
+26%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Littleton, CO
+2%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Milwaukee, WI
+12%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Modesto, CA
-12%
Monroe, UT
-48%
New York, NY
+77%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Oceanside, CA
+8%
Oklahoma City, OK
-12%
Orlando, FL
+2%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Pittsburgh, PA
+9%
Portland, OR
+11%
Richmond, VA
+4%
Riverside, CA
+13%
Labor cost in your zip code
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