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Central Air Conditioning Installation Cost

Central Air Conditioning Installation Cost

National average
$7,000
(new installation of a 3-ton unit with a 16-SEER rating and new ducts)
Low: $3,000

(change out of a 3-ton unit with a 13-SEER rating with existing ducts)

High: $15,000

(new installation of a 3-ton unit with a 21-SEER rating, new ducts, and customizations)

Cost to install central 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 to install central air conditioning is $7,000.

In this guide

AC Unit Costs by Type
Manual J Calculation
Average AC Unit Costs by Size or Capacity
Central AC Prices by Efficiency
Central AC Prices by Brand
Labor Costs to Install Central AC
How Much Does It Cost for an AC Unit in a 2,000 Sq.ft. Home?
Air Conditioner Replacement Cost
Air Conditioner Btus Per Square Foot
Adding Central Air to Forced Air Heat
Enhancements
Additional Considerations
FAQs

How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air Conditioning?

If you live in an area that experiences hot weather at any time during the year, you may want to invest in a central air conditioning unit. Central air uses a single unit to cool the entire house. It comes in different styles and has a wide cost range, depending on whether you are replacing a system or installing a new system with ducts, the size of your home, your climate, and how efficient the model you choose is. For a 2,000 sq.ft. home with existing ducts that are more than 15 years old, installing a completely new system has an average cost range of $5,000 to $12,000, with most homeowners paying around $7,000 for the unit and installation of a 3-ton, split system unit with a SEER rating of 16 and new ductwork.

New AC Unit Cost

Central Air Conditioning Installation Costs
National average cost$7,000
Average range$5,000 - $12,000​
Minimum cost $3,000
Maximum cost $15,000


AC Unit Costs by Type

Air conditioners come in several types and systems. Some work better for one home than another, depending on the age, climate, and whether you have existing ducts.

AC unit costs by type

AC unit costs by type


AC Unit TypeAverage Cost, Unit Only
Split System$2,000
Heat Pump$3,000
Ductless Mini Split$3,500
Packaged System$4,000


Split AC Cost

If you already have a furnace and ducts in your home and just want to add air conditioning, a split system is the most economical way to do so. This has two components, an outside condensing unit and an evaporator and fan, which sit on top of your furnace and use its air handler and ducts. If your furnace is fairly new and your ducts are less than 15 years old, this is a good way to install AC and save. If you do not already have a furnace and ducts or need a new furnace and your ducts need replacing, you may want to opt for an all-in-one package to cut down on installation and additional parts. The average cost of the unit is around $2,000.

AC Heat Pump Cost

If you live in an area that sees cold but not freezing winters, a heat pump can be a good choice. Heat pumps are all-in-one heating and air conditioning units. In the summer, they collect heat from inside your home and transfer it outdoors. In the winter, they collect heat from the outdoors and bring it inside. They do not work well in very cold climates, however, and are better for more moderate winters. Most central systems still require ducts to work. The average cost of the unit is around $3,000.

Ductless Mini Split Cost

The ductless mini split system is a good solution for homes that do not have ductwork already. They consist of two pieces - the outdoor compressor and the indoor air handler - that are connected via tubes. You can have multiple zones to cool your entire home or use a single zone for large, open floor plans. They work best in open spaces and can be a good choice for homes with plaster walls and original woodwork where you do not want to install ductwork. They cost around $3,500.

HVAC Package Unit Prices

If you do not already have a furnace or your furnace is older and needs replacing, consider using a packaged system that incorporates all the components of the HVAC system into one outdoor unit. These use ducts but have some of the easiest installation because it is one unit, rather than piecing together different components. They cost around $4,000 for the unit.

Manual J Calculation

To determine the cost of your new air conditioner, you first need to know the size of the unit that will work best in your home. Most technicians use your home’s square footage to determine the right size unit for your property using the Manual J calculation, which determines the heating and cooling load of a home. It takes into account the property size, insulation, climate, and how much direct sunlight your home gets. It can also be performed as part of an energy audit to find any air leaks your home may have. This calculation is done by a tool published by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America to determine the right size of HVAC equipment.

By taking these different components into consideration, your technician determines which size unit will work for your home. This helps you avoid purchasing a unit that is too large, which may use more energy than is necessary and will not remove adequate humidity from the air. It also prevents you from buying a unit that is too small and uses more energy, while not cooling the air adequately for your home.

Average AC Unit Costs by Size or Capacity

The unit size plays a big part in determining the final cost. The larger your home, the larger the unit you need to cool it:

TonsBTUsAverage Cost
1.5 tons18,000 BTUs$800 - $1,000
2 tons24,000 BTUs$1,200 - $1,500
2.5 tons30,000 BTUs$1,500 - $1,800
3 tons36,000 BTUs$1,800 - $2,200
3.4 tons42,000 BTUs$2,500 - $2,800
4 tons48,000 BTUs$3,000 - $3,500
5 tons60,000 BTUs$3,500 - $5,000


Cost of a 2 Ton AC Unit Installed

Many factors influence the cost of a 2-ton AC unit and installation, including efficiency and whether this is a replacement or installation with new ducts. A change out, meaning only replacing the unit, costs around $2,800 - $3,000, while a complete installation costs about $4,000.

Cost of a 3 Ton AC Unit Installed

Several variables influence the cost of a 3-ton AC unit and installation, including whether this is a change out or an installation with new ducts. A change out costs around $3,000 to $3,500, while a complete installation with ducts is about $5,000.

Cost of a 4 Ton AC Unit Installed

The cost of a 4-ton AC unit installation varies depending on the SEER rating and whether this is a change out installation. A change out is around $3,500 to $4,000 installed, while the cost of a complete installation with ducts is about $6,000.

Cost of a 5 Ton AC Unit Installed

The cost of a 5-ton AC unit installation varies depending on factors like the SEER rating and installation type. A change out installation is around $4,000 to $5,000, while a complete installation with ducts is about $7,000.

Central AC Prices by Efficiency

The efficiency of your unit or how much of the energy it converts to heating or cooling your home impacts its costs, with more-efficient units having higher prices than less-efficient units. Each unit is labeled with a SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The higher the SEER rating, the lower the energy costs, but the higher the initial cost.


Average AC unit costs by size or capacity

Central AC prices by efficiency


SEEREfficiencyAverage Cost
13 - 14Standard$1,500 - $3,000
15 -16High$2,000 - $4,000
17 - 18High$2,500 - $5,000
19 - 21Super high$3,000 - $6,000
22 - 24Highest$5,000 - $7,000


13 Seer AC Unit Cost

13 is the lowest SEER rating available. It has starting costs of around $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the tonnage and type of unit.

14 Seer AC Unit Cost

14 is generally one of the most used and standard SEER ratings for AC units. It has starting costs of between $1,500 and $3,000, depending on the brand, tonnage, and type of unit.

15 Seer AC Unit Cost

A unit with a 15-SEER rating is at the bottom of the high-efficiency category, with starting costs of about $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the size and brand.

16 Seer AC Unit Cost

16 is one of the more recommended SEER ratings for homeowners who want a more efficient unit but do not want to pay too much up front. Starting costs are between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the size and type.

17 Seer AC Unit Cost

A 17 SEER AC unit is considered high-efficiency and a good unit for those living in climates that are slightly warmer than average. Costs start at between $2,500 and $5,000 on average, depending on the type and size.

18 Seer AC Unit Costs

18 SEER units are also considered high-efficiency and good for climates that are slightly warmer than average. They cost between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on the unit type and size.

19 Seer AC Unit Costs

A unit with a rating of 19 is considered very high-efficiency and is typically recommended for hot climates or moderately hot climates in households that have many occupants. Starting costs are between $3,000 and $6,000, depending on size.

20 Seer AC Unit Costs

Units with ratings of 20 SEER are generally only recommended for very hot climates. 20 is considered to be a very high-efficiency unit and has starting costs of between $3,000 and $6,000, depending on the unit size.

21 Seer AC Unit Costs

21 SEER is one of the highest recommended ratings for residential use, mostly in extremely hot climates and only if you plan on living in the home long-term to make up the cost difference. Their starting costs are about $5,000.

Central AC Prices by Brand

The air conditioner brand can play a big role in how much you pay. Some brands use the same coils and internal parts but have much higher or lower prices than other brands. This can be due to things like longevity or name recognition. Other brands have higher-quality parts, resulting in a higher-quality product. Always do your research before purchasing because prices do not always mean a product is better or worse than the others.

BrandAverage Cost for 3-Ton Unit
Heil$2,000 - $3,000
Rheem$2,000 - $3,000
Lennox$2,000 - $4,000
Trane$2,000 - $4,000
American Standard$2,500 - $3,000
Goodman$3,000 - $4,000
Amana$3,000 - $5,000
Bryant$4,000 - $5,000
Carrier$4,000 - $5,000
York$4,000 - $6,000


Labor Costs to Install Central AC

The cost to install central air conditioning is based on several factors, including whether this is a split system or a packaged system, and whether the ducts also need to be replaced or installed. For installations that only replace the AC unit, labor costs will be lower than with an installation where the ducts need to be replaced.

The estimated labor cost is usually around $400 - $800 for installing just the AC with an additional cost of around $1,300 in labor for installing new ducts. This makes the total labor cost around $1,700 to $2,100 in a full installation, out of the $7,000 total.


High efficiency modern central AC outside an apartment complex


How Much Does It Cost for an AC Unit in a 2,000 Sq.ft. Home?

Many factors influence the final cost of an AC unit for a 2,000 sq.ft. home. Some brands can handle this much space with 3 tons, while others require 3.5 or 4 tons. If you live in a very hot climate, you may need a 5-ton unit for a home this size. In addition, the brand and the SEER rating of the unit also impact the final cost of the unit and installation. The average cost of a new split system AC unit with new ducts in a 2,000 sq.ft. home is around $7,000.

Air Conditioner Replacement Cost

If your ducts are less than 15 years old or in otherwise good condition, you can do what is known as a change out installation, which means replacing just the air conditioner and not the rest of the system. This has a much lower cost, with an average of around $5,000 for a 2,000 sq.ft. home.

This type of installation, however, only happens in roughly 15% - 20% of all installations because most of the time the ducts are not in good enough condition to support the new air conditioner, and a full installation is needed.

Air Conditioner Btus Per Square Foot

The amount of BTUs you need for your home is partially calculated by the square footage. This is the rate at which your air conditioner can cool the air in one hour. The more square footage your home has, the higher the BTUs needed to cool it. The climate impacts the number of BTUs, with hotter climates requiring more BTUs than colder climates.

Area to Be Cooled (sq.ft.​)

Minimum BTUs Needed per Hour
700 - 1,000 sq.ft.18,000 BTUs
1,000 - 1,200 sq.ft.21,000 BTUs
1,200 - 1,400 sq.ft.23,000 BTUs
1,400 - 1,500 sq.ft.24,000 BTUs
1,500 - 2,000 sq.ft.30,000 BTUs
2,000 - 2,500 sq.ft.34,000 BTUs
2,500 - 3,000 sq.ft.40,000 BTUs
3,000 - 3,500 sq.ft.46,000 BTUs


Adding Central Air to Forced Air Heat

If you already have forced hot air in your home, it is fairly easy to add central air conditioning using a split system. In this system, the condensing unit is outside, and the evaporator and coil are installed on top of your furnace, using its air exchanger and existing ductwork. This has a lower cost starting at around $2,000 installed, provided you do not need to replace the furnace or the ducts for the system to function.

Enhancements

Energy Audit

An energy audit takes a comprehensive look at your home and energy usage, finding ways to improve it so that you can save money. Doing so before having central air installed can help you reduce your future energy costs. It has an average cost of around $250.

Ductwork

Most homes have ducts installed that you can use. However, if your ducts are older than 15 years or no ducts are installed, you may need to add them. This has a cost of around $2,000 on average.

Old AC Removal

Most companies remove your old unit at no charge, but some have a fee for removal or disposal. This ranges from $25 to $200, depending on the unit’s age.

Additional Considerations

  • Heating and cooling systems work most efficiently in well-insulated homes, which saves you money. Poorly insulated homes result in higher energy bills.
  • Your HVAC system must be properly sized to your home to provide the best performance. This is why professionals need to measure and make calculations before you purchase a system.
  • Airflow needs to be airtight. Otherwise, your bills may be higher, or you may have hot or cold spots in your home. Contractors measure for volume and adjust ducts and vents as needed for optimal airflow.
  • Your HVAC system uses refrigerant to cool the air in your home. If your system does not have enough, it could result in higher energy bills and increased humidity. Your HVAC contractor can check the charge on the refrigerant and adjust as needed.
  • Newly installed air conditioners come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which varies in length depending on the brand. This typically ranges from 5 - 15 years with an average of 10.
  • If you have a small home or family or are only home for a few hours a day, a ductless system may work better for you, with lower install and energy bills.
  • You may get the lowest price on installation by installing during the winter months when HVAC professionals are less busy.
  • Install window AC units to cool a small area of your home if needed. These are sized to your square footage like a larger unit.
  • Portable air conditioning units can also be used to make certain rooms more comfortable. They utilize a split system to cool individual spaces without ducts.
  • Wall air conditioning units are another choice for cooling small spaces. These go through the wall, rather than sit in a window but operate much the same way.
  • You may need a permit or to have the system inspected after installation. Check with your local town or city hall to find out more.

FAQs

  • How much does it cost to install central air in a 2,000-square-foot house?

This depends on the system type, SEER rating, and whether you have usable existing ducts. The average cost to install central AC is around $7,000.

  • Does central AC add value to a home?

Yes, central AC adds value to most homes, particularly in hot climates.

  • How often should you replace your air conditioner?

Most air conditioners last anywhere from 10 - 20 years, with 15 years being about average.

  • How long does it take to install central air conditioning?

This depends on the system and unit size but takes 1 - 3 days on average.

  • What is the labor cost to install central air?

This depends on the size and type of system and whether you also have ducts installed. It could be $400 - $2,300 in labor.

  • Can I install central air myself?

This is not a good project for DIY and should be done by a licensed professional to ensure it is done correctly.​​

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

Exterior Air Conditioning Installation

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%
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%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Pittsburgh, PA
+9%
Pompano Beach, FL
+2%
Portland, OR
+11%
Redmond, OR
-14%
Labor cost in your zip code
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