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How Much Does a Central AC Unit Cost to Install

Central air conditioners come in 4 types and each type has its own installation cost. The installation cost of a central air conditioner depends on multiple factors like available space, power needed, budget, accessories, etc.

How Much Does a Central AC Unit Cost to Install

Before you use a new air conditioner, it is necessary to know which type of central air conditioning system works for you and what the overall installation costs are. On average, they cost around $5,651 to install, with smaller units being around $3,800 and larger ones are $7,500.

Before I discuss other factors that contribute to the overall price, let’s look at the different types of central units on the market.

Types Of AC Units

Types Of AC Units

Before you make a decision on installing a central air conditioner and calculate its overall price, it’s crucial to consider all the options. Irrespective of the type of air conditioning system, all of them fall under two categories: central systems and individual units. The most common types of air conditioning systems are:

1. Window AC Units

Window air conditioning units are a type of air conditioner that is usually compact and can be placed mainly near windows, or in a window frame. Typically, a window AC unit pulls the hot and humid air from the room, into the system, and blows it out of your home. 

Window ACs comprise two components, the part that blows out the hot air from your home and the fan that blows cool air into your home. 

Considering their compact size, these units cannot cool down a larger room in a short period of time. However, if you own a smaller room, or particularly, a single room, a window AC unit can be beneficial. 

Apart from being used on its own, these units can be used alongside a central AC unit. This can be done if certain parts of your home are hotter than the others, or if the climate is extremely warm. 

2. Portable AC Units

If you have space limitations, building restrictions, or are always on the move, getting a window AC or central air conditioner might not be the best option. This is where portable AC units come into play. 

Portable units are much more affordable in terms of installation and overall maintenance. They are also highly energy efficient and consume only minimal power when compared to traditional systems. 

These powerful devices pull the hot and humid air from the atmosphere into the unit, which is then cooled and let out into the room. Additionally, warm air and excess moisture is absorbed into the air conditioning unit and pushed out the window through a hose. They are also easy to install and require little to no physical effort. 

However, what makes them unique is their portability. If you live in mild climates where you only need the AC unit for a couple of weeks, a portable AC unit can be ideal. Not only is it easy to move around, but can also be stored away conveniently. 

3. Ductless Split Air Conditioning System

A ductless split system includes two components, an outdoor AC unit and an indoor unit. The indoor split system AC unit is usually mounted onto the wall and dissipates cold air into your living space without any ductwork. 

This particular system is called the single-zone system and is designed to heat or cool one specific area of your home. Outdoor units, on the other hand, are placed in a way that reduces the noise that comes from patios or other outdoor spaces. 

These devices allow you to enjoy hot or cold air in a room without needing any connective ductwork. Additionally, these systems do not have any complicated maintenance. 

The biggest advantage of ductless split HVAC systems is their ease of installation. When your home lacks ductwork, installing new ones can be quite expensive. Ductless ACs eliminate this issue and allow you to install mini units without any hassle. 

4. Central Air System

Central air units have a series of connective ductwork that allows them to circulate cool air. These supply ducts and registers carry the cool air from the central air conditioner to the living space. Once the air in the room becomes slightly warm, it is pulled back into the central AC unit and passes through the ducts and registers. 

There are two types of central AC units; a split system or a packaged unit. The split central air system contains a compressor, fan, blower, an outdoor heat exchanger and an indoor heat exchanger. Certain split systems may contain heat pumps or a furnace. 

The latter, on the other hand, have all the components located in a singular cabinet. This cabinet is usually placed on a concrete slab or the roof of the house. Typically, a packaged central air conditioning system is used for small scale commercial buildings. 

Cost Of Central AC Per Square Foot

The installation charges of a central air conditioning system depends on a wide range of costs and are affected by factors like the size of the system, efficiency and duct installation. Typically, a brand new AC unit costs around $2.90 and $7.20 per square foot for a home located in a region with moderate climate. 

However, the costs can double or triple if you live in a warm or humid environment. This is because hot regions require the central air conditioner to perform with an above-average efficiency, which then results in the costs being much higher. 

Standard climates such as zone 2 or above, may not necessarily need as much efficiency but zone 1 areas may have higher costs based on the insulation levels. 

It’s also important to note that an 800 square feet home can have extremely similar costs to a 900 square feet home. This is because, even though there is a difference of 100 square feet, it is not significant enough for a larger installation or AC unit size. 

However, if you own a 1,200 square feet home, the cost of installation would be much higher considering that you will need a larger unit. The most common size is that of 2,000 square feet and its cost is considered to be the average cost for central AC unit installation. 

In case you have ducts that are already installed within your home, the cost to install central AC will be considerably low. But if you need additional ducts added, upgraded ducts or new ones installed, the costs can go up significantly. 

Listed below is a table of various home sizes and its average central air installation costs. 

Home SizeAverage Cost
800 sq. ft.$2,320 - $5,760
1,000 sq. ft.$2,900 - $ 7,200
1,200 sq. ft.$3,480 - $ 8,640
1,500 sq. ft.$4,350 - $10,800
2,000 sq. ft.$5,800 - $ 14,400
2,500 sq. ft.$ 7,250 - $ 18,000
3,000 sq. ft.$ 8,700 - $ 21,600
35,00 sq. ft.$10,150 - $ 25, 200

Cost Of Central Air Conditioning Unit By Size

The size of the central AC unit plays a major role in determining what the final cost would be. A large home will require a bigger central air conditioner and vice-versa. There are several factors that can influence the size of the AC unit such as, the amount of sun exposure your home gets, insulation, and the age of existing ducts. 

I have seen, the average size most homes require is around 3 and 3.4 tons, whereas larger homes may require 4 or above. Similar to cost per square foot, when the AC unit size increases, the cost of the overall installation becomes higher.

For example, the average cost of a 2 ton central air system will be significantly lower than the cost of a 3 ton central air system. 

5 ton systems are available on the market, but they are rarely opted for. Since they are oversized for most residential homes, they are ideally used in large scale commercial buildings. Unless your home needs extreme cooling, these AC unit sizes are not commonly found in residential buildings. 

If you wish to simply replace an existing central air conditioning unit, the cost can be significantly lower than that of installing a new one. However, if you require any duct replacement or changing other central air conditioner components, the costs can fall on the higher end. 

Listed below is a table comprising the most common central air unit sizes along with their average cost of installation. 

Unit SizeCost For MaterialsCost For Installation
1.5 tons$2,400 - $4,250$3,650 - $6,250
2 tons$3,000 - $5,500$4,250- $7,500
2.5 tons$3,300 - $6,000$4,500 - $8000
3 tons$3,800 - $7,150$5000 - $9,150
3.5 tons$4,250 - $7,700$5,450 - $9,700
4 tons$5,750 - $9,600$6,950 - $11,600
5 tons$6,600 - $12,000$7,800 - $14,000

Cost Of Central Air Conditioning Units By Type

Central air units can cool down your entire house even if you have just one unit. The cold air passes through several connective ducts that are attached to the vents, and into your home. 

These central AC units come in two types; split and package units. The former is the most commonly found in most homes while the latter is used in smaller spaces and costs higher to set up. 

Both these types of central air systems can efficiently cool your living space, but they have varying installation charges and purchasing costs. Additionally, you can combine your furnace and air conditioner in smaller residences, as this takes up very little space. 

Listed below are the average costs for the three types of central air conditioning systems with their most common AC unit sizes.

Unit TypeAverage Cost
Split System$3,800 - $7,700
Packaged AC System$4,000 - $8,500
Packaged HVAC$9,200 - $10,800

1. Cost Of Split AC

The average cost of a split AC system ranges anywhere between $3800 and $7,700. This type of AC system is ideal if you already own a furnace and ducts and simply wish to install an air conditioner. 

These split ACs have three components, a fan - an outside condensing AC unit and an evaporator. All components sit on top of the furnace and make use of its ducts as well as the air handler. 

Since the evaporator and fan are located outside the living area, these units function silently compared to other air conditioning unit types. If you own a new furnace and ducts that are less than 15 years old, opting for this type of AC unit can save you installation costs. 

In the event that you do not own a furnace or have older ducts, opting for an all-in-one package might be ideal to cut down installation charges. 

2. Cost Of Packaged AC

The average cost of packaged ac units ranges from $4,000 to $8,500. This type of unit is much less commonly used when compared to the others, but still a feasible option if you already own a furnace and wish to add just air conditioning. 

It is also ideal if you have space limitations since this AC unit sits outside instead of being two pieces being connected by a tube. And similar to a split system, they make use of ducts but take up much less space as compared to the former. 

The only downside is that this particular type requires much more maintenance since it is fully installed outside. In case a single component becomes ruined, the entire cooling system might need replacing as repairs are complicated. 

3. Cost Of HVAC Units

The average cost of an HVAC unit ranges from $9,200 to $10,800. These machines comprise a furnace as well as an air conditioner in a single unit. In case you own a furnace that is old or needs replacing, investing in a HVAC package system will be beneficial. They also make use of ducts, but the installation process is fairly easy. 

Central AC Unit Cost to Install

Cost Of Central AC Units By Brand

The brand of the air conditioner plays a major role in the overall installation costs. Though certain brands make use of the same technology they are priced higher or lower than other brands. Factors such as longevity or the brand's goodwill can influence the price of the product. 

Some brands use only high-quality parts, which then results in a hike in the price of the unit. Make sure you conduct ample research before you use a product as higher price does not always equate to higher quality. Listed below are the average AC unit costs from the most common brands on the market. 

BrandAverage Cost
Amana$3,600 - $6,000
Rheem$3,650 - $6,450
Goodman$3,800 - $6,650
Trane$3,900 - $7,000
Bryant$4,000 - $7000
Lennox$4000 - $7,150
Carrier$4,000 - $7,700
Heil$4000 - $9,000
York$4,000 - $9,000
American Standard$4,400 - $7,000

Cost Of Central AC Units By Efficiency

The efficiency of the central air unit or how much power it consumes to heat or cool your room influences its cost. Units that are highly efficient will usually be priced higher whereas units with low efficiency will be priced lower. 

Earlier, units had a SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. A higher SEER rating often means that the overall energy costs were lower but the initial AC unit costs would be higher. 

However, in 2023, the whole industry has decided to switch things up and use a more relevant and accurate measuring system known as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2 or SEER2. But to make things easier, most air conditioner manufacturers list both the previous and new SEER rating on their systems.

The right SEER rating that is needed for your home depends on factors such as your energy consumption and climate. Average SEER ratings are usually sufficient for more colder regions where the use of AC is limited to only a few weeks in a year. 

In hotter regions, an extremely high SEER rating might be required to stay cool and cut down energy costs. Listed below are the average cost of units based on their varying efficiency levels. 

SEER/SEER2EfficiencyAverage Cost
14/13.4Standard (North)$1,725 - $3,600
15/14.3Standard (South/Southwest)$2,300 - $4,800
16/15.3High$2,875 - $6,000
17/16.2High$3,450 - $6,600
18/17.2High$4,100 - $7,800
19/18.1Super High$4,600 - $8,400
20/19.1Super High$5,750 - $9,600
21/20Super High$6,325 - $10,800

Factors That Affect Central Air Conditioning Unit Cost

1. Installation

The overall cost to install central air conditioning vary from one unit to another. If you already own a functional ductwork system, installing a new central AC unit will be affordable. 

However, if you need the whole package, as in a new ductwork installation as well as new air conditioner, the average AC unit costs can be pretty high. The unit in itself, is an additional expense and might vary depending on the brand and type. 

2. System Type

Generally, air conditioners come in two types but for the majority of the regions, a central air unit is the most common choice. These units are usually designed to accommodate heating and cooling systems and often make a full HVAC system. 


If you only need an air conditioning unit, you can opt for a ductless split air conditioner that does the job efficiently. Similarly, if you live in colder regions where the use of an AC is limited, investing in a window AC would be more effective.

 Considering you move around a lot and do not need a permanently fixed air conditioning AC system, using a portable cooling AC system would be ideal. 

3. System Size

When it comes to air conditioners, a bigger unit doesn’t necessarily mean a better unit. Central units are available in various sizes from 1.5 tons to 5 tons. A simple way to find out the right size of a central AC unit for your home is to multiply the square feet of your home by 18. 

This is because on an average, it takes around 18 BTUs (British Thermal Units) to cool down a square foot of space. In case your home has a higher ceiling, multiply the number by 1.25. Once you derive the number, divide it by 12,000 to get the right amount of tonnage needed for your home. 

For instance, let’s say a home is 2,000 square feet and would need around 34,000 BTUs to cool the room entirely. When you divide 36,000 by 12,000, you get 3. This means your 2,000 square foot home would need an air conditioning unit that is 3 tons. 

Make sure that you calculate accurately because if the unit is too large or small for your home, it can become inefficient. If you have more doubts regarding the size, contacting a technician to inspect your home and recommend the right size would be beneficial. 

4. SEER Rating

SEER ( Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) contributes significantly to the overall price of an air conditioning unit. The rating reflects how well a particular system would perform throughout the entire season. 

Typically, units that have a higher SEER rating might cost a lot more than ones with a lower SEER rating. But despite the high costs, units that have a higher rating would last longer with lower operational costs.

On average, all central units are required to have at least a SEER rating of 13. 

5. Home Size

The overall size of your home is a major factor that affects the cost to install central air conditioners. If you plan to install central air conditioners during the summer, it can cost you more since the units need to perform above average efficiency. If it performs similar to any other day, it can result in the device being burnt out quickly. 

Similarly, if you own a larger home, you need a more powerful unit that can cool larger areas. These units can also be more expensive than other smaller alternatives. 

6. Brand

Most well known brands may use the same internal parts as other lesser known brands. However, their customer service, or product longevity might contribute to the higher prices. Consulting your local HVAC company can help you know more about the most popular brands and which ones suit best your needs. 
Central AC Unit Cost to Install

Additional Factors To Consider

At certain times homeowners need to replace or revamp their existing air conditioning systems. In such cases, the overall cost is heavily dependent on the following situations and you need to consider these uncommon factors: 

1. Zones and Controls

If you own a larger home, opting for a multiple-zone air conditioner would be the most effective option as it guarantees even heat distribution. 

Certain rooms in your home can be exposed to excessive sunlight and might retain heat for prolonged periods. In such cases, cooling down these areas at regular intervals with the help of a zone system prevents other rooms becoming excessively cold. 

When you add more controls and zones, it may contribute to an increase in the price, but makes your home much more comfortable at the end of the day. 

2. Ductwork Repair

When you already own ductwork, the old system can be slightly inefficient in handling the improved and increased airflow of the new AC unit. In such cases, the entire ductwork may need to be replaced with an air handler that is more compatible. 

Another reason that your ductwork may need replacing or repair is when the room does not cool as efficiently as it did before. This is usually a sign of a leaky ductwork, where the cold air flows out into the duct rather than your home. 

Furthermore, ductwork can age with time and cause problems with the cooling system. Contacting a professional to inspect your ductwork regularly or when you suspect that there is a problem would be helpful. 

3. Plumbing

Adding a new AC unit  to the home means that new plumbing lines have to be installed. This is because most, if not all units require a drain line to carry the condensation that developed from the air handler. 

When there is an efficient drainage system, it minimizes the risk of water damage. Getting a new plumbing line installed can add to the overall cost, but would save you from repair costs that may arise in the future due to improper drainage. 

4. Electrical Work

The central air unit needs electricity from a dedicated, hard-wired outlet or circuit, for which a standard 240V connection is used. In terms of power, based on the size of the air conditioner, it will require energy approximately ranging anywhere between 15 and 60 amps. 

Make sure to consult a licensed electrician to install a central air conditioning circuit and make adjustments to update your existing circuit breaker. 

6. Existing HVAC Systems Removal

It is fairly easy to remove an existing HVAC unit and most companies provide the service for free when a new AC unit is being installed. The average fee of AC disposal ranges from $25 to $200, depending on the age of the system and the professionals’ fee. 

Upgrading and removing ductwork, on the other hand, can be costlier since it is a more time-consuming task. 

7. Home Modifications

If you make changes to your home such as the addition of a new room, or change the ceiling height, the entire central air conditioning system should be upgraded. Newer vents and ductwork can be installed at a minimum cost, but a larger home may also call for a larger unit to cool efficiently. 

When your home is being renovated, make sure to contact a professional who can determine if the existing unit would be adequate for your new living space. 

8. Mold Testing And Removal

Though not a common issue, at certain times mold can form in contaminated and aged ductwork. This is especially harmful because air passes through these ducts and into your room, where you will be breathing in mold infested air. Apart from several health concerns, mold is also damaging for the ductwork and the air conditioner itself. 

If you suspect any mold growth within your ductwork, contact a specialist company who can conduct appropriate testing and clean the mold. Make sure you don’t try DIY cleaning as improper cleaning can result in damaging the HVAC and fiberglass ductwork. So, only allow a professional technician to do the job. 

Cost To Install Central Air Conditioning Systems Yourself

Though it is possible to install central air conditioners on your own, it is highly recommended that you do not do so. Central air conditioning installation is a complicated task and requires expertise and special skills to ensure that the job is performed correctly. 

To handle the refrigerant that comes with the units, you will need to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The safest option is to contact a licensed professional and have them do the installation work in the right way. 

If you’ve never owned a central AC, you may have to install a new breaker into the electrical panel, run wires through the foundation, link new ductwork to the existing HVAC system, etc. Additionally, you would have to finish and frame the areas where ductwork is required, and mount the unit onto metal brackets or a concrete pad. 

This is a rather complex project and it would be best if not done by yourself. 

Central AC Unit Cost to Install

Final Words

Cooling down on a summer day shouldn’t cost you your entire paycheck, and if you make the right choices, it won’t. Central air units are highly efficient but their cost of installation can be affected by various factors. 

If you take the above-mentioned points into consideration, comparing your options and choosing the right unit will be an easy task. Make sure that you contact a professional before you make these decisions, especially if you’re unsure about what type of unit would work best for you.