Get Estimates From HVAC Specialists Near You

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Central Air Conditioner?

on 08/28/2023 | Reading time: 10 minutes
Image by Freepik

Central air conditioning is vital in maintaining a comfortable environment, especially during extreme weather conditions. However, the installation cost can vary based on multiple factors.

Types of Central Air Conditioners

  Description and functionality General cost range
Split systems These systems have separate indoor and outdoor units. The indoor unit houses the evaporator coil. The outdoor unit has both the compressor and condenser coil. $2,500 - $7,500, including installation
Packaged systems These systems combine the compressor, condenser, and evaporator into one unit, typically installed outside $3,000 - $8,000, including installation

Factors Affecting Installation Costs

  1. Size and Capacity
    • For every 1,000 sq ft, you need roughly 24,000 BTUs. However, the cost increases with capacity.
    • 2,000-3,000 BTU: $1,500-$2,500
    • 3,000-4,000 BTU: $2,500-$3,500
  2. Efficiency and SEER Rating
    • Higher SEER ratings often mean higher upfront costs but can lead to long-term energy savings.
    • 13-15 SEER: $2,000-$3,500
    • 16-20 SEER: $3,500-$5,000
  3. Labor Costs
    • Typically, labor can range from $50-$100 per hour, depending on the region and complexity.
    • Simple installation: $500-$1,000
    • Complex installation: $1,000-$2,500
  4. Existing Infrastructure
    • Retrofitting can be costly, especially if ductwork is needed.
    • New ductwork: $1,500-$5,000
  5. Brands and Models
    • Popular brands like Carrier or Trane might have a premium price tag compared to lesser-known brands.

Additional Costs

  1. Ductwork Installation and Repair
    • New ductwork: $1,500-$5,000
    • Repair: $500-$2,000
  2. Electrical Work
    • Some homes need electrical upgrades, especially if they're older.
    • Upgrades: $500-$2,000
  3. Permits and Inspections
    • Depending on local regulations, permits can range from $50-$500.

Potential Rebates and Incentives

Several incentives can offset the initial costs:

  • Federal tax credits can return up to 10% of the price for energy-efficient models.
  • Some states offer rebates ranging from $100-$500.
  • Many local utility providers give rebates when you install energy-efficient systems.

Maintenance and Long-term Costs

  • Yearly servicing: $100-$250
  • Repairs vary greatly but can range from $150-$1,000 based on the complexity.

Tips to Save on Installation Costs

  1. Consider installing during off-seasons when demand is lower.
  2. Obtain multiple quotes from professionals to compare.
  3. Look for brand promotions or discounts.

Calculating the Cost to Install a Central Air Conditioner

To determine the total cost of installing a central air conditioner, consider the following components:

1. Equipment Cost:

Equipment Cost = Base Price of AC Unit + (Cost per BTU x Total BTUs)

2. Labor Cost:

Labor Cost = Hourly Rate x Total Hours of Installation

3. Ductwork Cost (if necessary):

Ductwork Cost = Material Cost + (Hourly Rate x Hours for Ductwork Installation)

4. Additional Electrical Work:

Electrical Cost = Material Cost for Electrical + (Hourly Rate x Hours for Electrical Work)

5. Permits and Inspection Fees:

Permit Cost = Flat Rate or Percentage of Project Cost

6. Possible Rebates or Incentives:

Rebate Savings = Total Rebates and Incentives

7. Total Cost

To get the total cost, sum up each component:

Total Cost = Equipment Cost + Labor Cost + Ductwork Cost + Electrical Cost + Permit Cost - Rebate Savings

This formula serves as a basic structure for estimating the installation cost of a central air conditioner. Adjustments may be needed based on specific scenarios or additional factors.

FAQ: Installing a Central Air Conditioner

1. How do I know what size or capacity of central air conditioner I need?

The size you'll need often depends on the square footage of your home. For every 1,000 sq ft, you need approximately 24,000 BTUs. A professional HVAC technician can provide a precise assessment.

2. What is SEER, and why does it matter?

SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It measures the efficiency of your air conditioner. A more excellent SEER rating indicates enhanced efficiency, potentially resulting in long-term energy savings, but usually comes with a higher upfront price.

3. Can I install a central air conditioner myself to save money?

While DIY installations might seem cost-effective, air conditioner installations can be complex and require specialized tools and knowledge. We recommend using a professional to ensure correct and safe installation.

4. I already have ductwork in place. Will this reduce the cost of installation?

Having pre-existing ductwork in decent shape can notably lower the expense. However, ensuring the ductwork is properly inspected and cleaned is essential.

5. Are there any ongoing costs after installation?

Yes, regular maintenance, such as annual servicing and potential repairs, can incur costs. However, consistent maintenance can prolong the unit's life and ensure it runs efficiently.

6. How long does it take to install a central air conditioner?

The time can vary based on the complexity of the installation. For straightforward installations, it might take a day. However, it could extend to several days if ductwork or electrical work is needed.

7. How can I ensure my central air conditioner runs efficiently?

Regular maintenance is vital. Replace or clean filters every 1-3 months, schedule annual professional check-ups and ensure the area around the outdoor unit remains clear of debris.

8. Are there any rebates or incentives available for installing energy-efficient units?

Yes, many local utilities, states, and even federal programs offer rebates or incentives for installing energy-efficient models. It's good to check with local authorities or utility providers.

9. Can I install a central air conditioner in an older home?

Yes, you can retrofit older homes with central air. However, the process might be more complex and costly due to potential requirements for ductwork and electrical upgrades.

10. How long does a central air conditioner typically last?

With proper maintenance, a central air conditioner can last between 12-15 years, sometimes longer, depending on the model and usage.

This FAQ section covers the most common queries. However, always consult a local HVAC professional for specific questions about your circumstances.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating AC Installation Companies

1. Licensing and Certification

  • Are you licensed and insured to operate in this state/area?
  • Could you share feedback or endorsements from previous clients?
  • What certifications do your technicians hold?

2. Experience and Expertise

  • How many years have you been in the AC installation business?
  • Have you handled installations for homes or properties similar to mine?
  • How do you stay updated on the latest technology and best practices?

3. Equipment and Brands

  • What brands or models do you recommend or specialize in?
  • Do you provide a warranty for the units you install?
  • Can you source energy-efficient models? Are there associated rebates or incentives?

4. Costs and Estimates

  • Please give a comprehensive written quotation for the installation.
  • Are there any hidden fees or potential additional costs?
  • Do you have payment plans or financing arrangements available?

5. Installation Process

  • How long will the installation process take?
  • Will there be any disruptions to my daily routine during installation?
  • How do you handle unforeseen challenges or complications during installation?

6. Maintenance and Aftercare

  • Do you offer maintenance packages or service contracts after installation?
  • How do I contact you if there's an issue with the unit after installation?
  • What is the process for claiming warranty services, if needed?

7. Safety and Protocols

  • How do you ensure the safety of your technicians and my property during installation?
  • Do you have procedures in place for any damages or mishaps?
  • (If relevant, especially in times of health concerns) What health and safety protocols do you follow when working inside homes?

8. Availability and Scheduling

  • How soon can you start the installation?
  • Do you have a backlog of installations or any potential scheduling conflicts?
  • If there are delays, how do you communicate with your clients?

9. Environmental Concerns

  • How do you dispose of old equipment or materials from my property?
  • Do you offer any eco-friendly or sustainable installation options?
  • Can you help with optimizing the system for both comfort and energy efficiency?

10. Company's Track Record

  • Have you ever faced significant complaints or legal actions related to your services?
  • How do you handle customer disputes or dissatisfaction?
  • Can I see case studies or before-and-after examples of your past installations?

These questions will help homeowners and property managers decide when to select an AC installation company. The responses will give insight into the company's professionalism, reliability, and suitability for your specific needs.


Investing in a central air conditioner is about upfront costs and long-term comfort and savings. Balancing initial investment with long-term benefits can lead to optimized expenses and comfort.

The opinions articulated in this piece are the guest author's and may not necessarily align with those of Crackerjack. Find more about staff authors of Crackerjack

About the author
Fancy House LLC
Fancy House LLC is a seasoned contractor and a prolific writer in the field of home improvement. With their extensive experience and expertise, they have earned a reputation for delivering exceptional results in construction projects of all scales. As a writer, they share their knowledge through well-researched articles that offer practical tips, advice, and inspiration to homeowners and DIY enthusiasts. With a friendly demeanor and a commitment to quality, Fancy House LLC is a trusted contractor who consistently delivers outstanding home improvement services and informative content.

Our Pricing Methodology

At Crackerjack, we assist many people each year with their projects. Our process involves collecting estimates from local professionals and conducting our own research, which we use to provide you with valuable price information. Please note that the prices provided in the current article are for informational purposes only and may change at any time. To receive a personalized cost estimate for your specific project, we recommend contacting a professional in your area.

How it works

Instantly get matched with top-rated professionals.

Post a project or find a pro

We'll connect you with the best local businesses and freelancers near you. Just choose your service category and where you're located. Expedite the process by adding more criteria to your search.

Hire Pro

Find a Pro. Receive quotes within short period of time from local businesses and freelancers. Review their quotes and portfolios. Talk to the ones who stand out, and hire the right one for your project.

Share your experience

Leave verified reviews for great work and help promote the pros who go above and beyond.