How much does an A/C compressor cost?

ac-compressor

 

Are you wondering if the hefty quote an HVAC technician gave you for a new A/C compressor is accurate? Unfortunately, it probably is. 

A/C compressors are expensive. They’re complex machines, and they take a long time to install.

The air conditioner compressor is a key component in your A/C system — the heart of the outdoor A/C unit. It processes your system’s refrigerant so heat can be expelled from the home. If the compressor stops working, you’ll notice inadequate cooling or even warm air blowing when your A/C is on.

Warm air coming from your A/C is no good.

An HVAC technician can diagnose this problem and identify why your HVAC system isn’t cooling your home.

If the compressor does turn out to be the issue, you may have a pricey project on your hands. But there are ways you can save money. Let’s start by looking at A/C compressor costs.

According to HomeAdvisor’s trusted statistics on today’s typical A/C compressor price, you can start your research with these averages:

  • Central air compressor cost: $500 to $1,480
  • Mini-split compressor cost: $375 to $625
  • Window unit compressor cost: $100 to $200

While this article focuses on central A/C compressors, our guidance can be applied to mini-splits and window units as well.

Factors that will determine your A/C compressor replacement cost include the type of compressor, brand, size (tonnage and BTU), your location, the current season and any warranty coverage.

The compressor’s price isn’t the only cost to think about. Labor expenses are another major cost. We detail the average cost of a new A/C compressor, plus HVAC labor costs, so you can make the best decision for your A/C repair.

 

How long do A/C compressors last?

The compressor in a central A/C unit will last an average of 12-15 years, depending on how well it’s maintained. Poor maintenance can make the compressor work harder, leading to premature failure.

Factors that strain an A/C compressor and shorten its lifespan include:

  • Refrigerant leaks. If your A/C unit is leaking refrigerant, that leads to low refrigerant levels and strains your compressor. Keep tabs on refrigerant levels, so you can repair any issues promptly.
  • Dirty coils. Your condenser coils and evaporator coils will get dirty over time. By routinely cleaning them, you can help your compressor release heat without hindrance.
  • Dirty air filters. When the filters are left dirty, the compressor has to work harder to cool your home through that grime. Cleaning filters can help your compressor work well.
  • Low oil lubrication. A/C compressors need to stay lubricated. If yours is low on oil, have your HVAC technician add oil at your next maintenance visit.
  • Electrical problems. Electrical issues in an A/C unit don’t always appear as a failure right away. A damaged wire, for example, could release harmful acids into your system and damage the compressor slowly. Avoid this by having an HVAC expert regularly inspect your air conditioner for electrical problems.
  • Suction line issues. Blocked suction lines, or lines that are the wrong size for your system, can cause the compressor to overheat. An HVAC technician can take care of this to prevent damages.

 

Should you repair or replace an A/C compressor?

By the time you realize there’s a problem with your air conditioner’s compressor, it’s likely that the part is beyond repair. If you’re lucky and your compressor only has a minor issue, you might be able to save money on the repair cost.

Your HVAC technician could replace a smaller part within the compressor, for example, for a lot less money — especially if your unit is still under warranty.

Compressor parts that might need replacement include:

  • Gaskets
  • Compressor plug
  • Solenoid coil
  • Compressor valve
  • Fittings, leads and lugs
  • Wiring harness
  • Start capacitor
  • Crankcase heater
  • Motor pulley

Refrigerant leak repair and replacement could also save your compressor if your HVAC tech determines that’s the problem.

However, when a compressor hasn’t been maintained, or something has gone completely wrong and the part is shot, the question becomes, should you replace only the compressor or buy a whole new A/C unit?

The main factor to consider is the age of your unit. 

If the unit is fairly new — less than five years old — the compressor shouldn’t be failing in the first place. Check your manufacturer’s warranty and find out if you qualify for a free compressor replacement. If you’re eligible, then replacing the compressor is probably the most cost-effective solution, even if you’re responsible for labor costs.

If your A/C unit is older than five years or past its warranty, weigh the costs of replacing the compressor with replacing the entire unit. You may be able to replace the compressor for less than a whole new air conditioner, but putting a new compressor into a worn-down unit might leave you with a failing unit soon anyway.

How can you decide if it’s worth replacing the compressor?

Estimate the total cost of your A/C compressor replacement (parts + labor) with the total cost of a complete unit replacement (parts + labor).

With these numbers in front of you, also consider how upgrading your A/C unit could save you money with improved energy-efficiency in the long run.

 

What impacts the cost of an A/C compressor replacement?

Remember these variables when estimating the cost to replace the compressor in your central air conditioner: 

  • Warranty coverage. If your compressor is still under warranty, the manufacturer should replace the part for free. Labor costs might not be included.
  • Type of compressor. There are three main types of home A/C compressors. In order of increasing cost, there are single-stage compressors, two-stage compressors and variable-speed compressors. You’ll need to determine which compressor type your unit requires.
  • Product brand. Different brands have different price points. Your HVAC contractor might help you save money by showing you compressors from generic brands or alternative brands that are compatible with your A/C unit. Several different A/C manufacturers are owned by the same parent corporations, so their parts are often interchangeable. Ask your HVAC tech about interchanging Goodman/Amana, American Standard/Trane, Rheem/Ruud, Coleman/York and Standard/Mitsubishi compressors.
  • Compressor size. The larger your outdoor unit is, the larger your compressor needs to be, and larger compressors cost more. Compressor and A/C unit sizes are measured by tonnage (how much air it can cool) and BTUs (how much heat it can remove per hour). Home renovation experts over at This Old House say that on the low end, a small 1.5-ton compressor (18,000 BTU) costs $800-$1,400. On the high end, a large, 5-ton compressor (60,000 BTU) costs $1,800-$3,000.
  • Current season. If you need A/C work done during the summer, there’s a good chance you’ll pay more than you would during cooler seasons. Waiting until fall or winter might help you save money.

 

A/C compressor installation cost

When you need to replace your compressor, about half the cost will be for labor. Labor costs are based on these variables:

  • Contractor rates. HVAC contractor rates typically range from $50 to $150 per hour.
  • Number of technicians. Your contractor may need help to complete your compressor replacement.
  • Time required for the job. Your HVAC repair tech will start with a diagnostic inspection, which takes 1-2 hours. From there, the replacement takes an average of 4-6 hours.
  • Source of new parts. Your contractor may charge extra for travel expenses if your new A/C compressor has to be picked up from a parts distributor, rather than the inventory in their truck.

 

Can you replace an A/C compressor yourself?

Replacing an A/C compressor is not a DIY job. It takes advanced electrical and HVAC mechanical skills that most everyday homeowners don’t have. The project also requires special equipment, which is expensive and not worth buying for a one-time DIY job.

It’s best to leave your compressor replacement to a pro. They have the skills and equipment to restore your air conditioner properly.

 

A/C units are covered under your Cinch warranty

Whether your A/C compressor can be replaced or you need a new air conditioning unit, the costs can add up quickly.

That is, if you don't have coverage.

Home air conditioning systems are covered under the Built-in Systems plan and the Complete Home plan by Cinch Home Services.

When you sign up, you get a reliable home warranty that covers your entire A/C system, plus other built-in home systems, like your plumbing, electrical system, water heater, heat pump and more. 

Any time your system breaks down, a qualified Cinch service technician will be there to offer repairs or replacements with a new unit.

Request an instant quote for a Cinch warranty today and find out how you can save on home system repairs.

Are you wondering how much it costs to replace an A/C compressor? Discover the average cost of a new A/C compressor, plus labor costs and your repair options.