An air conditioner (AC) is a boon for those sweltering summer months. We know it can be hard to put a price on comfort but if you’re contemplating installing air conditioning in your house, you need to know what the central air unit cost will be. 

The reason central air conditioner prices matter is because they can easily account for more than half of your electric bill. If you’re concerned about your home renovation cost, you might want to estimate how much you’re paying for your air conditioning.

What is the average cost of installing a central air conditioner?

The average cost to install central air conditioning, including the AC unit cost, ranges from around $3,000 to $7,000, or more. 

However, one cannot put a finger on the exact cost. There are many factors that affect the cost of your AC unit and its installation. It could be your home’s square footage, the popularity of the brand, the SEER rating you choose, the condition of your existing air ducts, the complexity of installation, your zip code, and even time of the year.

Factors affecting central air conditioner prices

Apart from paying the price of an air conditioning unit, you’ll also need to pay for a pre-installation evaluation, installation of the air duct or its repair work, and hiring a qualified AC installer. Let’s explore some of these cost factors in detail to help you make an informed decision about your air conditioning installation.

Pre-installation inspection

The first step of evaluation in an AC installation is the load calculation. An HVAC contractor will assess how much heat your house gains throughout the day and the right size of air conditioner to keep your home cool.

Apart from this, he can identify air leaks, the condition of ductwork, and other issues that increase the cost to run an air conditioner. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars on this inspection. But, it will be worth the money; a professional help goes a long way in ensuring that your air conditioning system is perfect.

Estimate the cost of replacing your AC conditioner with our tool!


It’s very important to check the systems on which an air conditioner relies on. The ductwork needs to be fit enough to handle central air.

What’s more, your home may not have proper vents or air conditioner coil for the installation. It may even lack space to run a refrigerant line to the exterior.

Needless to say, any upgrade will increase the total cost to install central air conditioning. For instance, if you do need ductwork, costs can go as high as $7,000 to $15,000. In case you need to repair your old, leaky ducts, that would mean adding an extra $1,000 to $3,000 to the total expense.

Central air unit cost

Selecting the right air conditioning unit is important. Depending on the size and structure of your home, you’ll choose from the following types:

  • Ductless, mini-split air conditioner

Cost: $1,300 to $4,500

A ductless air conditioner installation is easy but not recommended as a DIY project. This energy efficient split system has two major working parts — an outdoor compressor or condenser and an indoor handling unit. Both the components are connected through the insulated conduit.

And, you can customize the number of handlers according to your requirements. What’s more, homeowners can easily control the temperature with each room having its own thermostat. 

Compared to a window unit, this HVAC system looks neater and doesn’t even block the beautiful view from your window.

  • Heat pumps

Cost: $500 – $8,000

In summer, such a heat pump will pull heat from your home and distribute it outdoors. While during winter, it pulls heat from the outside environment and distributes it into your home.

There are many advantages of using heat pumps. The cost of running such a system is much lower than other air conditioning options. It effectively reduces carbon emissions and requires less maintenance. 

  • Packaged central air conditioner

Cost: $500 – $8,000

Packaged central air conditioner

Though a packaged air conditioner is more suitable for commercial buildings, it can be used at homes too. The best part about this compact, pre-assembled cooling system is that the evaporator, condenser, and compressor come in a single body.

Its working is simple — ducts that run exterior walls or roof draw air from inside the house and return cooled air indoors. A perfect solution for homes with limited indoor space, this type of AC is easy to store outside a house. You can place it on a roof or a concrete slab near the foundation. 

Air conditioner size

The central air unit cost also varies by size. Residential systems are generally available in 1.5- to 5-ton capacities. Bigger the size, the more is the total installation cost. 

SEER rating

An air conditioner with a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio or SEER rating costs more. But, it’s best to invest in a unit with a higher rating. An energy-efficient unit can save you a good amount of money on your air conditioning and heating energy bill costs. 

For instance, an air conditioner having a 16 SEER rating could save you more than $400 annually!

SEER ratings can range from 13 SEER to 24 SEER.  The average price for a standard AC unit with 13 to 14 SEER rating will cost you around $2,780 for total unit installation. A unit with a maximum efficiency of  24 SEER rating will cost around $6,800 for the installation. 

Installation and labor cost

An HVAC contractor’s business size and location affect the cost to install central air conditioning. 

Depending on those factors, there could be a significant difference of hundreds of dollars per month in air conditioning costs. 

Tips on how to save energy 

If your air conditioner is old and inefficient, it’s a sensible idea to upgrade to a new, modern unit. Even with a newer model, you need to ensure that you’re not wasting more energy than required. 

Here are some effective tips to regulate your air conditioning costs:

  • If you live alone or are only home at night, consider the energy efficient ductless mini-split AC. 
  • Make sure the AC installation and insulation has been properly done.
  • Choose the right British thermal unit (BTU) for your room size — ensuring the most energy-efficient cooling system.
  • Use reflective window shades or curtains in sun-facing rooms during the day.
  • Get your air conditioner tuned up before each cooling season to make sure it’s running at its peak efficiency.
  • Replace or clean the air filter regularly.
  • Look for discounts on new units during off-seasons. You will benefit from the faster turnaround time because the AC installers aren’t as busy.
  • Look for equipment rebates, financial incentives, and tax credits during a purchase.

Last thoughts

We hope our central air conditioner cost guide helps you select the best cooling option for your home. Whether you’re buying an HVAC system for your new house or are replacing an old existing one, it’s important to have an idea about central air conditioner prices.

Read more: Types of air conditioners

How Much Does a Central Air Unit Cost to Install? was last modified: May 26th, 2022 by Ramona Sinha
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