Ashburn, VA

How Much Does A New Air Conditioning Unit Cost To Install?

$3,350 – $5,912

Installing air conditioning costs between $3,350 and $5,912 with most homeowners reporting spending $4,631 on average. This price is typical of installing a new AC unit to your forced air furnace. Other options include single window units or portable units for $234 to $700 or ductless mini splits for $660 to $4,500. Get free estimates from AC installers near you.

How Much Does Air Conditioning Cost?

Installing air conditioning costs between $3,350 and $5,912 with most homeowners reporting spending $4,631 on average. This price is typical of installing a new AC unit to your forced air furnace. Other options include single window units or portable units for $234 to $700 or ductless mini splits for $660 to $4,500. Your total cost depends on the type and size of air conditioning system you need.

Cost To Install New AC Unit Chart

Air Conditioner Cost
National Average Cost $4,631
Minimum Cost $2,426
Maximum Cost $8,900
Average Range $3,350 to $5,912

Table Of Contents

  1. Cost To Install Central Air
  2. Cost Of New AC Unit
  3. Air Conditioner Installation Cost Factors
  4. What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?
  5. Tax Breaks, Rebates, and Warranties
  6. Finding Your AC Installer
  7. AC Installation Companies Near Me

How Much Does It Cost To Install Central Air?

Homeowners spend between $660 and $4,600 to install central air conditioning. The final cost depends on the type of unit, if additional ductwork is required, and the professional's inspection and installation rates. If you have existing ductwork that needs repair, expect to add $1,000 to $3,000. If ductwork needs to be installed, your total price can go up to $8,900.

Air Conditioner Replacement Cost

The average cost to replace an air conditioner is $4,631. Central AC replacement depends on if existing ductwork is in place, what type of unit will be installed, and the size of the AC unit in tons. For a window central air conditioner, you can expect to pay around $350, while a ductless mini split system costs $1,200 on average.

Air Conditioner Replacement Cost Chart

Cost To Replace AC Unit
Central Air Installation Cost Installation Time
Use existing ductwork $3,350–$5,900 16–20 hours
Install new ductwork $5,900–$8,900 3–5 days
Alternative Options to Central Air
Window or Portable Unit $234–$700 1 day
Ductless Mini Split $660–$4,500 1 day

The cost for central air conditioner installation in your home can’t be listed in exact amounts without an HVAC contractor coming to your home and inspecting the heating system and the existing ductwork. As with any home improvement project, many variables affect the cost to install central air.

Central Air Conditioner Installation Units Different Sizes By Ton

  • Use existing ductwork – To add a central air conditioning unit to your existing heating system using the existing ductwork, it should cost about $6,000–$8,000.
  • Install new ductwork – To replace your existing AC unit and install new ductwork, it should cost between $8,900 and $12,300.
  • Install a new HVAC heating and AC unit – Almost every new home comes with central heat and air, and sometimes you need to replace both at the same time in older homes. Recommended if your furnace is over 15 years old.
  • Window, Portable, or Ductless Options – If your budget doesn’t allow you to install central air, other options include single window units or portable units for $234–$700 or ductless mini split AC units for $660–$4,500, but these might not be powerful enough for large rooms.

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Cost To Add Central Air To Existing Forced Air Furnace

This will include the remote condenser and pad, coils, cabinet, refrigeration tubing, a new thermostat, electric wiring, and electrical connection.

Average AC Unit Prices By Size Chart

Air Conditioner Installation Cost By Ton
Size of AC Unit Square Footage Cooled Average US Cost Installed
2 Ton Up to 1,000 SF $3,350
3 Ton Up to 1,600 SF $4,600
4 Ton Up to 1,900 SF $4,900
5 Ton More than 2,000 SF $5,900

Cost To Install Central Air With No Existing Ductwork

Your ductwork must be wide enough and insulated enough to support your new air conditioner. The total cost to install new, flexible, insulated ductwork in a 1,500 square foot home is about $2,000–$3,000. Also, add the cost of a new wall, floor, or ceiling work needed.

On average, ductwork costs $110 to remove, $12 to $20 per foot to install on the second floor, and $24 to $38 per foot to install in walls. Add $1.90 per square foot of surface for insulation.

New Central Air Conditioning Installation For Both Heat and Air Unit

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Average Cost Of New AC Unit

The average cost of a new AC unit is between $1,200 and $1,800. The final price depends on the size of the unit, ductwork needed, and installation labor rates. There is a wide variety of prices in air conditioning units, enabling you to choose to match your budget.

Average Cost Of New AC Unit Chart

In general, you can add 40% to the cost of your new central air unit to get the installed price. If you have existing ductwork, this is an excellent time to get it inspected.

Central Air Unit Cost

Here are some of the more popular AC unit brands and their average price:

Average Cost Of New AC Unit
AC Unit Brand Average Cost
Aire-Flo $1,500
Amana $1,217
American Standard $1,655
Armstrong $1,598
Bryant $1,207
Carrier $1,678
Coleman $1,595
Goodman $1,076
Heil $1,277
Lennox $1,737
Rheem $1,213
Ruud $1,213
Payne $1,395
Trane $1,693
York $1,403

New Black AC Unit Installed For Central Air Conditioning

When you’re purchasing a new AC unit for your home, look for Energy Star® and Energy Guide labels. Units with an Energy Star® label are 15% more efficient than those without a label, and installing one can get you a tax break and possibly a rebate.

How Long Do AC Units Last?

The lifespan of a central air conditioning unit is considered to be 15–20 years, and today’s air conditioners are more energy efficient than models made even 5 years ago, so it makes financial sense to replace or upgrade your unit if it’s five years old or older. The best central air conditioner you can buy today will use 30–50% less energy than one purchased in 1975 while delivering the same amount of cooling.

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Central Heat And Air Unit Cost By Ton

If your furnace is over 15 years old, the only way to ensure that your new air conditioning system performs at its rated efficiency is to replace your heating system at the same time. Here are the average prices installed for central heat and air units:

AC Unit Cost By Ton
Size of Central Heat and Air Units MBtu (1 Thousand BTUs) Cost Installed
2 ton 71 heating $4,050
3 ton 89 heating $4,600
5 ton 107 heating $6,400
Add for SEER 16 compressor Plus 30%
Add for SEER 16–20 variable speed Plus 50%
“If you purchase a new energy-efficient air conditioner but connect it to an older furnace and blower motor, your system will not perform to its rated efficiency.” — EnergyStar.gov

Ductless Mini Split AC Cost

If you only need to add cold air to one room, consider installing a ductless mini split which is a small heating and cooling system with an outdoor compressor/condenser, and an indoor air-handling unit. Depending on the size and model, typical costs are between $660 and $4,500.

Ductless Mini Split AC Unit

Window AC Unit Cost

An alternative is a portable AC unit that can vent the air through a window, but some of these can take up a lot of valuable floor space. If you need one that’s less than 8000 BTU for 200 square feet or less it will cost between $234 and $550, or if you need one between 8000 and 14000 BTU for 200 square feet or larger expect to spend $280 to $700.

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Air Conditioner Installation Cost Factors

The main factors that come into play when choosing your central air unit are the home size in BTUs, the unit load calculation, EER and SEER ratings, labor costs, and if it's a single-stage or two-stage cooling system.

EER and SEER ratings are methods of measuring the energy efficiency of an HVAC system.

Labor Cost To Install Central Air Conditioning

Installation labor costs about $75 per hour or 40% of the total installation cost, so if it takes an average of 18 hours to install your 2-ton AC unit and the bids coming in are for $3,350, about $1,350 of your total cost will be for labor.

AC BTUs Per Square Foot

BTU stands for British Thermal Units, and it’s defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In air conditioning terms, it’s the amount of heat that an air conditioning system can eliminate from your home at 100% efficiency.

To find the exact BTUs your AC unit will produce, you have to multiply the input BTU by the efficiency % to see the output BTU. Homes typically require 30 to 60 BTUs per square foot.*

New Air Conditioning Unit Load Calculation

Load calculating is referred to as the Manual J calculation and should be performed by the HVAC contractor before giving an installation or unit cost for air conditioning. If your contractor says they know the size of air conditioning unit you need based on experience or on square footage alone, move to another contractor. As with measuring the size of a unit needed based on BTUs, determining the correct size of unit for your home also depends on the unit load—how much cold air it will lose by room.

On average, every 500 to 600 square feet requires one ton of cooling.

Manual J Load Calculation

The manual J calculation depends on:

  1. How much insulation is in your attic and walls, and the R-value of the insulation
  2. What type of doors and windows you have, and where they are placed
  3. How your home is oriented to the sun—the more room that sits in the shade, the lower the cooling needs.
  4. Ceiling height—higher ceilinged rooms require more cooling power.
  5. The number of people living in your home—the average human puts off 250 BTUs.

If your home is adequately insulated for the area in which you live, your central air conditioning will be able to work as it should. Think about upgrading your insulation if you don’t have a “tight” house, as it will let you use an AC unit more efficiently, thus lessening the size of unit needed and lowering the cost of energy bills.

If you’re planning to replace the ductwork, it’s recommended to perform a room-by-room Manual J calculation, as it’s more accurate than performing a whole house Manual J calculation.

New AC Unit Installation For Energy Efficiency And Central Air

EER Ratings

EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. The energy efficiency of central air conditioning units is measured by the number of BTUs the temperature drops per hour divided by the inputting watts in a set range of conditions. As mentioned above, a BTU is a traditional unit of heat; it is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The typical set conditions are outdoor temps of 95°F and an indoor temp of 80°F with 50% humidity, which is why most people don’t use this measurement much anymore.

SEER Ratings

A SEER rating stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER rating of a unit is the cooling output at varying temperatures during the cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. Basically, SEER provides more data based on how the EER performs in different temps. The higher the unit's SEER rating, the more energy efficient it is. [1] A unit’s SEER rating can be found on the yellow Energy Guide tag affixed to all appliances.

Keep in mind that the SEER rating is calculated using the same set of temperatures across the board. The average summer temperature to arrive at the SEER rating is 83 degrees, so to arrive at the correct SEER rating for your area, subtract 2 points for every 10 degrees over 83. The minimum SEER rating has to be at least 13 for all new air conditioning units manufactured in the United States.

Even the best SEER and EER ratings can be diminished by improper installation, insulation, and location of the unit.

Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage Air Conditioner

A two-stage cooling system means your air conditioning unit will operate at two different levels—one at about 80% capacity for days that are not stifling hot but still uncomfortably warm, and then 100% capacity for the stifling days.

  • Single-stage means the AC unit only has one level of operation—on or off. If you set your thermostat to 78 degrees, the unit will come on when the room reaches 78 degrees and go off when it goes below 78 degrees.
  • The two-stage cooling system is more energy efficient, using full capacity energy only when needed.

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What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?

It’s important to figure out the right size unit because a unit that is too small will run continuously, use more energy, and won’t keep your home cool enough for comfortable living.

A unit that is too large will cost more upfront and will use more electricity to run. It will come on and go off so fast, it won’t reduce the humidity in a room, so rooms may end up feeling cold and clammy. A bigger air conditioner won’t be energy efficient, so buying the biggest air conditioner there is could actually end up giving you a hotter house.

BTU Calculation For Air Conditioning

Depending on what zone you are located in, the standard rule of thumb is 30 to 40 BTUs per square foot in warm climates, 40 to 50 BTUs in mild climates, and 50 to 60 BTUs in cold climates.

What Size AC Do I Need? - AC Unit Size Map - BTUs Per Square Foot

How Many Tons Of Air Conditioning Per Square Foot?

These days most contractors use software to make accurate calculations, but it is possible to get a rough idea of what size unit your home will need by using this formula to calculate the tons of AC required per square foot:

Required Tons = Square Feet × 2512,000 - 0.5

Even using the formula can give you a wrong number; for instance, if you live in a hot climate where you use the air conditioning nearly every day, you’ll need to add the 0.5 instead of subtracting it. This is why it’s important to let the professional do this kind of calculation.

AC Unit Size Calculator

Here are the recommended AC unit sizes in tons calculated based on the average square footage of a home in each climate zone: [4]

AC Unit Size Calculator
  ZONE 1 ZONE 2 ZONE 3 ZONE 4 ZONE 5
1.5 Tons 600–900 sf 600–950 sf 600–1000 sf 700–1050 sf 700–1100 sf
2 Tons 901–1200 sf 951–1250 sf 1001–1300 sf 1051–1350 sf 1101–1400 sf
2.5 Tons 1201–1500 sf 1251–1550 sf 1301–1600 sf 1351–1600 sf 1401–1650 sf
3 Tons 1501–1800 sf 1501–1850 sf 1601–1900 sf 1601–2000 sf 1651–2100 sf
3.5 Tons 1801–2100 sf 1851–2150 sf 1901–2200 sf 2001–2250 sf 2101–2300 sf
4 Tons 2101–2400 sf 2151–2500 sf 2201–2600 sf 2251–2700 sf 2301–2700 sf
5 Tons 2401–3000 sf 2501–3100 sf 2601–3200 sf 2751–3300 sf 2701–3300 sf

Most online HVAC load calculators will factor in which climate zone you are in to give you the most accurate BTU number for your home, but they don’t factor in your home’s insulation or other factors.

For instance, if your home is two story, “it will place less of a load on the system in the downstairs floor because the second floor acts as additional insulation... The less insulated and more windows within the environment, the more likely you will experience greater air and heat loss.” [4]

Central Air Conditioning Units With Different BTUs and SEER Ratings

Keep in mind that a customized calculation by an AC installation professional who has been out to your home will give the most accurate and useful prediction. Some example calculations based on climate zone and home size are as follows:

Zone 1 - Warmest

Home 1

  • 30,000 output/effective BTUs
  • 1,300 sqft home
  • No basement or crawlspace
  • 1 floor
  • Basic insulation
  • Desired indoor heat 70° F

Home 2

  • 48,000 output/effective BTUs
  • 2,600 sqft home
  • No basement or crawlspace
  • 2 floors
  • Outstanding insulation
  • Desired indoor heat 70° F

Zone 5 - Coldest

Home 3

  • 24,000 output/effective BTUs
  • 1,300 sqft home
  • No basement or crawlspace
  • 1 floor
  • Basic insulation
  • Desired indoor heat 70° F

Home 4

  • 42,000 output/effective BTUs
  • 2,600 sqft home
  • No basement or crawlspace
  • 2 floors
  • Outstanding insulation
  • Desired indoor heat 70° F

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Tax Breaks, Rebates, and Warranties

Tax Breaks and Rebates

Residential energy efficiency tax credit has been extended through December 31, 2021, and feature a gradual step down in the credit value.

A typical tax credit amount is $300. Requirements are:

  • Split Systems – SEER >= 16, EER >= 13
  • Package systems – SEER >= 14, EER >= 12
“Air conditioners recognized as ENERGY STAR Most Efficient meet the requirements for this tax credit. To verify tax credit eligibility, ask your HVAC contractor to provide the Manufacturer Certification Statement for the equipment you plan to purchase.” [3]

Rebates are also offered on many air conditioners. See if your local energy providers offer a rebate in your area.

Central Air Conditioning Warranties

A warranty will cover air conditioning components that fail due to manufacturer defect, for a certain length of time. Different companies include different lengths of warranties. The company will pay for the replacement part, but you may be responsible for the labor cost. Some warranties run 5–10 years.

Because the lifespan of an air conditioner is 15–20 years, you may wish to purchase the extended warranty.

Another warranty that may be available to you is the one from your HVAC installer. Sometimes they will offer a warranty on labor, maintenance, and installation.

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Finding Your AC Installer

Installing a new AC unit can cool your house quickly and save on your existing central air costs considerably for as little as $2,426. It can be installed within 2–5 days, and you’ll be able to enjoy your home during every hot summer to come.

Get free estimates on HomeGuide from trusted air conditioning companies:

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_energy_efficiency_ratio

[2] https://asm-air.com/hvac/hvac-installation-cost/

[3] https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits/2017_non_business_energy_property_tax_credits

[4] https://hvacdirect.com/sizing-air-conditioner-and-heater.html

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