AC Costs: Factors that Impact the Cost of a New Central AC System

By Lyle Weischwill | Oct. 10, 2016 4:35 pm PST

Get Cool: Factors that Impact the Cost of a New Central AC System

Get Cool: Factors that Impact the Cost of a New Central AC System

After multiple nights of poor sleep on top of the covers, trying to beat the heat, you probably asked yourself, “What would it cost to install central AC?” There are many factors that affect the scope and cost of such a valuable upgrade, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. We’re here to help.

Here are the most important elements of central AC installation that determine how much a new unit will cost.

Home Size

Square footage is a strong indicator of which AC unit size is most appropriate for your home. Air conditioners vary in size based on how much heat, or how many BTUs (British thermal units), each model can extract from a home. For example, a one-ton AC unit withdraws 12,000 BTUs, a three-ton unit removes 36,000 BTUs, and so on. A 1,600 square-foot home would be served best by a two and a half-ton unit.

Existing HVAC System

The presence and condition of an existing duct system can impact the total cost. Most modern homes are AC-ready, but older homes may require ductwork. Existing ducts might be too small, worn or under-insulated, risking excessive noise during operation or higher energy bills. The cost of adding a new duct system often matches the cost of a new AC unit, which can double the overall cost of installation.


Going the DIY route is a bit unrealistic for most homeowners. AC Installation is complex. It involves running wires – including high-voltage ones – adding circuit breakers, and stabilizing the AC unit on the ground next to the house, not to mention potentially adding a new duct system. Contractors are qualified to determine the most appropriate equipment sizes for a given house, which ensures the entire air conditioning system is properly installed for efficient and dependable operation. Homeowners should expect to pay a few hundred dollars for labor, or twice as much if duct installation is also required.

Features and Other Considerations

Other variables can affect the cost of AC installation, but most upfront upgrades factor directly into reducing future energy costs. For example, units with a higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating initially cost more than lower-rated models, but they save more money over time. In some states, higher SEER models may also qualify you for tax credits. Furthermore, if a contractor determines a home lacks a fully functional thermostat or sufficient insulation around the duct system, homeowners may be better off choosing upgrades.

Adding or replacing a central AC system can make you more comfortable and shave money off your electric bill. The idea is even more appealing during the hottest months of the year. Contact a Sears AC repair professional for a free in-home consultation before you’re hit by the next heat wave.

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