Central Air Conditioning Installation Cost

How much does it cost to install central air conditioning?

Central air conditioning installations can be done in many ways and will vary according to building size and the availability of some pre-existing systems in the home. For example, homes with forced hot air heating will have the duct work necessary for a fast and easy installation, when the project involves the running of ducts however the prices climb significantly.

Installing a central air conditioner costs on average $2650, although it can cost as much as $15,000. This installation cannot be considered a "DIY" project, and it is traditional for a homeowner to hire a contractor for the job.

Cost breakdown

For a central air conditioning installation, the basic points of payment include:

  • Contractor - this will be the person who performs the "manual J" assessment of the home to determine the appropriate size for the unit(s). This might also be the individual who installs the actual a/c unit.
  • Subcontractor - this might be the licensed individual to perform electrical service (if the HVAC contractor is not a licensed electrician), or it could be the individual(s) who run ductwork and handle the many materials.
  • Labor - if the contractor or subcontractor do not complete all of the installation work on their own, there will usually be at least one laborer hired to assist.
  • Material - from the a/c Freon 1 refrigerant, the tanks, recovering machine, and the nitrogen, the costs associated with a central air conditioner involve many materials.

Additional considerations and costs

Total costs for a central air conditioning system will depend upon the size of the home, the number of windows, the quality of the insulation, and the tonnage and SEER 2 rating of the unit selected for installation as well.

  • SEER 2 is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating 2 of the machine, and the higher the base number, the better the results. The Federal minimum rating in the United States is 10, and most contractors will not usually install anything less than 13. Generally, a contractor will work with the buyer to ensure they purchase the best system for their budget.
  • Tonnage is the amount of heat that the unit can remove from the space in an hour's time, and a single ton equates to 12K BTU per hour.

Sizing the home and selecting the central a/c unit is best done by a qualified and licensed professional. If, however, the owner would like to formulate a "rough estimate" for themselves in advance of requesting help from a contractor they can follow the U.S. Department of Energy recommendation to assess their home on several levels. This would include the square footage of the windows, the sealing of leaks (as this can reduce heating and cooling costs by 20%), the overall insulation, the condition of existing ducts, the amount of shade falling on the house, and the layout or air flow within the home too. Such a complex assessment will take time and commitment, but can spare the owner the risk of paying for a central a/c installation that is too large or small.

Generally, the average units are from three to six tons and sized at 36K to 72K BTUs. These do not include heating units, nor do they take into consideration upcoming adjustments in the use of Freon 1 products. The Environmental Protection Agency is going to shift policies in order to cease the use of Freon 1 completely by the year 2020, which means a modern buyer will also need to consider the use of alternative refrigerants such as R4-10A just now entering the markets.

The wisest course of action is to work with a licensed contractor who can accurately determine the appropriate system for the home. Always request references, obtain information about warranties, and seek at least three bids before selecting the provider.


Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know. See full cheat sheet.

Freon: A brand name for the types of refrigerant commonly used in air conditioning systems. It is also often used as simply another word for "refrigerant" [+]

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). [+]

Typical costs

$7,200

(2000 sq.ft. home)

Low: $2650
High: $15,000

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

Alternatives
Cost

Air Conditioning - Install
$350 - $7,200

Related
Cost

$1,000 - $6,000
Electric Fired - Install
$2,500 - $8,000
Oil Fired - Install
$2,800 - $8,000
Propane Gas - Install
$25 - $650
Boiler - Repair
$150 - $200
$650 - $45,000
Fireplace - Install
$300 - $1,400
Firepit - Install
$2,000 - $7,000
Furnace - Install
$1,500 - $5,500
Electric - Install
$3,000 - $10,000
Natural Gas - Install
$2,000 - $7,000
Oil - Install
$2,500 - $8,000
Propane - Install
$750 - $2,500
Furnace - Repair
$6,000 - $14,000
Gas Central Heater - Install
$2,000 - $20,000
Heat Pump - Install
$7,500 - $7,500
Geothermal - Install
$15 - $1,700
Heat Pump - Repair
$6,000 - $14,000
$150 - $8,200
Ventilation - Install
$12 - $650
Attic Fan - Install
$70 - $800
Bathroom Fan - Install
$110 - $3,225
Ceiling Fan - Install
$100 - $890
Central Humidifier - Install
$150 - $500
Dryer Vent - Install
$1,050 - $5,150
Ductwork - Install
$200 - $900
Duct Vent - Clean
$600 - $6,000
Evaporative Cooler - Install
$783 - $1,500
Window - Install
$55 - $540
$50 - $700
Thermostat - Install

Labor cost by city and zipcode

Compared to national average
Amarillo, TX
-15%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baton Rouge, LA
+19%
Birmingham, AL
+6%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Corpus Christi, TX
+4%
Dayton, OH
-7%
Detroit, MI
+16%
Fort Worth, TX
+6%
Hollywood, FL
0%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Long Beach, CA
+16%
Memphis, TN
+11%
Milpitas, CA
+33%
Naples, FL
-3%
New York, NY
+77%
Orlando, FL
+2%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Pompano Beach, FL
+2%
Richmond, TX
+63%
Anderson, SC
-23%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Bayonne, NJ
+23%
Broken Arrow, OK
-17%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Columbia, SC
-10%
Concord, CA
+30%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Denver, CO
+1%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Freehold, NJ
+32%
Houston, TX
+24%
Jersey City, NJ
+23%
Lawton, OK
-38%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Miami, FL
+1%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Nashville, TN
+21%
Newport News, VA
-12%
Pearland, TX
+16%
Pittsburgh, PA
+9%
Portland, OR
+11%
Saint Paul, MN
+20%
Labor cost in your zipcode