What is the average cost to install air conditioning?
The average cost of installing air conditioning ranges between $3,300 and $6,000. Most homeowners spend around $4,600.
The total cost varies depending on the size and type of AC or HVAC unit you choose – and there are several options on the market today. When it comes to installing central air conditioning, for example, you can expect to pay between $660 and $4,800.
And if additional ductwork or an inspection by an HVAC contractor is required, installation rates will go higher. Repairing existing ductwork will add about $1,000 to $3,000 to the total cost. For new ductwork installation, the price can go up to $9,000.
We highly recommend getting professional installation. Typically, an HVAC contractor performs a load calculation for your house and tells you the exact size of the air conditioner you need.
How do air conditioning installation costs vary?
The actual unit is a small part of the total cost to install air conditioning. The type of AC or HVAC unit you choose, the labor and material involved in the process, the complexity of work, among other factors, will all affect the average price of the installation.
A pre-installation evaluation, air duct repair or installation, zoning system, and hiring a qualified expert in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, will also make a difference on the overall pricing.
Another important factor affecting the price tag is where you live. In high-income cities such as New York, Miami, and San Francisco, the labor and material costs for the installation will be higher.
Types of air conditioning
- 1. Window air conditioner
As the name suggests, this compact unit is installed in a window. Such an appliance is a perfect choice for cooling just one room. It functions by pushing the warm air out of a room and blowing cool air into it.
The cooling takes place at the front while the absorbed heat is released through the outdoor part of the unit. An adjustable louver controls the direction of airflow for increased comfort.
- One of the most popular AC options
- Easily available in the market
- Makes relatively little noise while working
- Has medium energy efficiency
- Water drains out easily without requiring extra piping
- Can adequately cool a room up to 650 sq ft
- Permanently blocks a window and outside view
- The design is rather bulky
- Installation is tricky without exterior support
- Removing the unit can be a hassle
- Requires a trained professional for installation
- May pose a security risk
- 2. Through-the-wall air conditioner
A through-the-wall air conditioner is installed flush with a wall for a streamlined appearance.
Generally, there are no venting mechanisms on the housing, which might otherwise lower its cooling efficiency.
Therefore, these air conditioners have higher cooling capacities and weigh slightly more when compared to window ACs.
- Relatively affordable
- Does not block a window or view
- Better cooling capacity than window ACs with more BTUs
- No installation of ducts and joints required
- Very difficult to remove once installed
- Tedious installation and insulation, requiring a lot of work.
- An ill-fitted AC could allow wind to blow into the home
- 3. Portable air conditioners
A portable air conditioner cools air and then directs it back into the room. It then vents any warm air outside through an exhaust hose installed in a window.
Designed to cool only one room, the best part is that such devices need absolutely no installation. These versatile and affordable cooling systems are perfect for smaller living areas.
- No installation required
- Easily moved from one room to another
- Budget friendly
- Generally a noisier cooling option
- Cooling a room may take more time
- Usually come with water tanks that need regular cleaning
- Heavier models can be difficult to move around
- May be inadequate for very large rooms
- 4. Ductless, mini-split air conditioner
These split systems work quietly and have high energy efficiency. They also look neat, are flexible and provide cooling as well as heating.
Such appliances have two major working parts – an outdoor compressor or condenser and an indoor handling unit. Both the components are connected through the insulated conduit. And you can easily control the temperature and customize the number of handlers to suit your requirements.
- Technically advanced
- Relatively easy installation
- Less prone to air leakage and security problems
- Neat, quieter and less visible
- One of the most energy-efficient options
- Provides both cooling and heating
- Installation is not a DIY project
- May cost 30% more to run than central air conditioning
- Maintenance and repair costs are high
- 5. Central air conditioning
Central air conditioning is the most common type of cooling system and is perfect for larger homes. It’s known for its ability to cool any living space efficiently.
It circulates cool air through supply and return ducts. Once the air becomes warm, it then circulates it back to the air conditioner through these ducts.
Installing a central air conditioning system requires a lot of planning. Or else you may end up with lower efficiency and higher utility bills.
- Best option to cool an entire house
- Newer models come with smart thermostats
- Known to improve the air quality of a home
- Gives both cooling and heating options
- Uniformity in temperature control can be difficult
- Generates higher energy bills
- Requires regular duct maintenance
A heat pump works by pulling heat from the outside air or ground to warm your home or pulling heat out of your house to cool it.
In other words, in the summer a heat pump will pull heat from your home and distribute it outdoors. During the winter, it will pull heat from the outside environment and distribute it into your home.
- Lower running costs
- Requires less maintenance
- Effectively reduces carbon emissions
- Long lifespan
- Installation is not easy
- High upfront cost
- Requires special planning permissions and permits
- Not an ideal solution for extreme climates
- 7. Packaged central air conditioner
A packaged air conditioner is more suitable for commercial buildings but can be easily used in homes too. Since the evaporator, condenser and compressor come in a single body, you get a smart-looking, compact unit.
Storage is not a problem as you can place it on the roof or a concrete slab near your foundation. Its works simply – ducts that run through exterior walls or roof draw air from inside the house and return cooled air indoors.
- Neat and compact
- Ideal for homes with limited indoor space
- All parts come pre-assembled
- Easy installation
- More suitable for hotels and offices
- Has to be installed outside of the house
- Prone to leakages
- Tends to deteriorate over time due to exposure to rain and wind
Tips for choosing the most cost-effective air-conditioning units
- An air conditioner’s efficiency is rated by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Opt for a higher SEER rating for greater energy efficiency, which translates to lower greenhouse emissions and monthly electric bills.
- Check the yellow Energy Star ratings on units.
- Choose the right British thermal unit (BTU) for your room size to ensure you choose the most energy-efficient cooling system.