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How Much Does an Air Conditioner Cost? A Breakdown of AC Prices and Installation Cost Guide

Illustrative image of air conditioning cost for prices of ac and installation costs guide

When temperatures rise, you need a reliable way to keep your home cool and comfortable. From small window units starting at just under $200 to split ductless units that can cost up to $1,000 or higher, there are several different types of air conditioning systems on the market designed for different needs and preferences.

Whether you are looking to buy a new ac, repair or install an air conditioner, in this air conditioning cost guide, we provide details on air conditioner costs, types of units, repairs, and an explanation of what goes into the price of AC systems.

The price of air conditioning units varies due to a range of factors, including cooling area size, energy efficiency, and whether your home can allow for ductwork.

Though air conditioning units can pose a hefty homeowner expense, some home warranty companies may cover part of the installation.

Air Conditioner Unit Prices (AC unit cost)

The price of a standard AC unit ranges from $1,000 to $10,000 and above. When shopping for a new AC unit, it’s important to keep in mind that the price you pay for a new air conditioner unit depends on the type of unit you decide to purchase.

Below is a brief overview of several AC unit types and their prices currently available for home installation.

Split Air Conditioning: $1,800-$7,000

A split air conditioning system consists of an outside condensing unit, or condenser, and an evaporative coil inside the home. These two components are connected via copper tubes that transfer refrigerant chemicals from one piece to the other.

Is a Split AC unit right for you?

If you’re looking for an AC unit that offers high energy efficiency, low-cost repairs, and routine maintenance, then this unit type is optimal.

Packaged Central Air: $2,650-$15,000

Unlike split AC units, packaged central air systems contain all the parts of the cooling system within one piece of equipment.

Usually smaller than split AC systems, packaged central air is more amenable to small spaces and can even be mounted on your roof. However, packaged central air conditioning units are less energy efficient than split AC units.

Heat Pumps: $2,000-$8,000

Despite its name, a heat pump does more than keep your home warm during the colder months.

When it’s hot outside, a heat pump works to move warm air from inside your home to the outdoors. Since these units move heat rather than generate it, they can typically heat and cool much more efficiently than other air conditioner types.

When should you use a heat pump?

A heat pump unit type of air conditioning is best suited for those living in regions with mild winters and hot summers.

Ductless Mini Split: $1,000-$3,900

Ideal for homes with no existing ductwork and for those looking to cool only portions of a home, ductless mini-split air conditioner units typically consist of two parts: a rectangular, wall-mounted indoor unit and an exterior compressor. These units can be easily installed and allow for more flexibility with cooling off the rooms you think require the most attention.

Ductless mini-split units are more cost-effective if used for select rooms, but central air conditioning is more affordable for cooling your entire home.


Air Conditioner Cost by Type

TypeUnit CostAc Installation Cost
Window AC unit$150–$750Plug and use
Portable air conditioner$100–$500+Plug and use
Ductless mini-split$1,000–$5,500$500–$2,000
Central air conditioner$1,200–$4,500$1,200–$2,200
Dual fuel$2,800–$5,500$1,300–$2,500
Geothermal$3,000–$6,000$10,000–$30,000

AC Installation and Labor Costs

The average labor and installation cost of an air conditioner ranges from $6,000 to $17,000 or more. The amount you’ll have to spend on installation and labor costs when investing in a new air conditioning unit depends on various factors and the type of service you need.

Full Replacement: $9,200-$12,300

A full-replacement installation consists of replacing your complete air conditioning system, including ductwork. Though you may already have ductwork and an AC unit in place, this type of installation is needed when you’re doing a total revamp of your cooling system.

Change-out: $6,000-$8,800

A change-out installation includes installing only the HVAC components but not the ductwork. This is the least expensive type of air conditioning system installation and should only be done if you are certain your ductwork is in proper working order.

Full Installation: $13,100-$17,000

A full installation takes place when you’re having an entirely new system of cooling installed within your home that did not exist there before. Installation and labor costs are higher, as this type of installation requires more hours of labor.

Ductwork averages $12-$20 per foot to set up on your home’s second floor or $24-$38 per foot to set up inside your walls.


Factors that Affect Installation Costs

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to air conditioner installation prices. Rather, there are several factors to consider when calculating your home’s AC installation costs:

  • Type of AC unit you purchase: units come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own distinct challenges for installation. The type of unit you select can impact how much it costs to install your new AC system.
  • Unit size and cooling capacity: larger units typically require more labor and time to install properly, and therefore may fetch higher installation fees
  • Seasonal energy efficiency ratio rating (SEER), which measures how efficiently the system cools the home
  • Add-on features, such as air-purifying and humidification systems
  • The current condition of your vents and ductwork
  • The zoning/layout of the rooms to be cooled

Be sure to check to see if a new air conditioning installation is covered by your home warranty when making your purchase. If this is the case, you may end up saving a lot when the time comes to install your system.

Expert Tips to Save on Air Conditioner Installation Costs

From settling on the right AC system for your home to shopping around and ordering your installation during the right season, there are several ways you can cut costs and prepare for the future while having your unit installed.

Replace or fix

It costs more to have an entirely new system installed, but if you’re looking to replace your AC unit in the near future, a full replacement is worth it in the long term. Rather than paying to fix a malfunctioning unit intermittently, it may be smarter to go ahead and replace the whole unit to help cut long-term costs. Keep in mind that the average lifespan of an AC unit is 10 years.

Purchase a good quality unit

When deciding on the right air conditioning unit for your home, it may be tempting to go the cheapest route. However, choosing a unit simply because its upfront costs are lower may cause trouble in the long run. Invest in a high-efficiency unit, so you can save money over time, even if it costs more upfront.

Shop around for different air conditioning contractors

Before settling on a specific air conditioning contractor, call around and speak to the specialists. Read reviews and check the company’s credibility on websites like the Better Business Bureau.

Check for leaks

Have your air conditioning installer use industry tools to check for leaks in your duct system during installation. This way, your unit will run as efficiently as possible from the beginning.

Have your unit installed in the off-season

You’re more likely to find special promotions and deals on air conditioning unit installations when it’s not the peak summer season. Consider replacing your air conditioner in the winter, and you might find some great discounts.

Conclusion

Having an efficient, well-running air conditioning system is crucial for your comfort and convenience, especially for those living in hot and humid regions.

Though AC units and their installation costs are substantial, the investment can be worth it, and there’s a good chance you may even find some good deals by shopping around and buying during the off-season. Whether you need to cool one room in your house or your entire home, there are a variety of air conditioning units on the market to fit every need.

References and Resources

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