The Price of Central Air Conditioning and Three Ways to Save
On average, central air costs $3,000 to $7,000. Hire the correct contractor, install during the off-season, and take advantage of rebates or tax credits to save money.
When all you have to keep you cool is a fan, summer warms up quickly. Central air conditioning may be able to address all of your perspiration concerns, but the cost may be prohibitive.
According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of installing central air conditioning, including the unit, ranges from roughly $3,000 to over $7,000 on average. However, the cost varies greatly based on where you reside, the sort of system you require, and the state of your existing air ducts.
What factors influence the price of central air conditioning installation?
The cost of an air conditioner is merely a portion of the overall cost of installing central air. You’ll also need to pay for a pre-installation inspection, possible air duct installation or modification, and the work to be done by a qualified heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist.
Evaluation prior to installation
According to an HVAC company in New York, a Manual J load estimate is the first step in appropriate installation. Contractors use this equation to determine how much heat your home absorbs throughout the day and what size air conditioner you’ll need to keep it cool.
The load calculation should ideally be included in a home energy assessment. This inspection uncovers air leaks and other problems that raise the cost of running an air conditioner. Although an energy audit can be costly, your utility company may offer reductions or refunds.
Design and ductwork
Following the Manual J load estimate, your contractor should inspect the air conditioner’s supporting systems, particularly the ductwork, to confirm they can handle central air.
Existing ducts often can’t manage the airflow of a modern air conditioner. There may also be insufficient space in your home to run a refrigerant line to the outside, as well as room for an air conditioner coil and suitably sized vents.
Any additions or alterations required to fit the new system will almost certainly increase the total cost of central air conditioning installation, but they will save you money on energy bills and keep your rooms cool.
The central air conditioning system
After you’ve assessed your home’s performance and support systems, it’s time to choose an air conditioner. You can choose from the following types, depending on the size and structure of your home:
- Split-system air conditioners
- Packaged central air conditioning systems
- Heat pumps are used to generate heat
A central air unit’s price varies depending on its size as well as its type. The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured in tons; home systems typically range from 1.5 to 5 tons. Bigger isn’t necessarily better; the load estimate discussed before should be used to select the size of your air conditioner.
Don’t pick an air conditioner solely on the basis of its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER rating. Although a high SEER air conditioner costs more, it will still waste energy if it is badly placed or if your home is full of leaks, according to Minnick. So, before recommending a unit, make sure your contractor assesses the home’s performance.
Labor and installation
According to Todd Washam, director of industry and external relations at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, or ACCA, the size and location of an HVAC contractor have an impact on the cost of installing central air conditioning. However, don’t get too caught up in locating the lowest bidder.
“It won’t be fast if it’s nice and inexpensive. And it won’t be good if it’s quick and cheap,” Washam argues.
According to the Energy Star website of the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly half of all HVAC systems are built incorrectly, lowering their efficiency by up to 30%. So spending the time and money to locate an HVAC contractor who does it well is worthwhile.
To locate a reputable HVAC contractor, follow these steps:
- Check out online reviews and ask your friends for recommendations.
- On the ACCA website, you can look for contractors (and use this handy checklist to guide the conversations)
- At least three separate companies’ estimations should be compared.
- Inquire about their qualifications and standards frequently
3 cost-cutting ideas for central air conditioning installation
1. Determine your cooling requirements
Consider a ductless mini-split air conditioning system if you’re an empty nester or just home at night. These systems include an outside compressor and condenser as well as indoor blower vents that may be mounted on nearly any external wall.
While ductless systems are not technically central air, they can be an efficient way to cool certain zones inside a bigger home, such as a TV room or bedroom, according to Fuentes.
2. Get the timing right
Washam claims that HVAC contractors are always busy during the hottest and coldest months. Because employees aren’t as busy during the off-seasons – spring and fall — you can get a better deal or a faster turnaround time.
3. Look for tax advantages and refunds on equipment
Financial incentives are used by local governments, utility companies, and manufacturers to encourage the use of high-efficiency air conditioners. Find money-saving opportunities in your ZIP code by using the Energy Star rebate finder.