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How much does an air conditioner cost and what are your options?

air-conditioner-cost

 

If you’re looking to install an air conditioner, it’s probably because you want something to help you stay cool in the sweltering summer heat. But there are more benefits to having an air conditioner in your home than keeping you refreshed.

The most important health benefit of air conditioning is reducing your home’s humidity. This is because humidity creates damp conditions that can lead to mold. High humidity is also the reason behind dust mites, heatstroke and dehydration. So, although there are other ways to cool your home, air conditioning is the best method to prevent high humidity. Cool, right? 

In this guide, we’ll help you choose the right A/C system for your home and offer a solution on how to maintain it so you can get the longest life and best performance possible from your appliance.

 

How much does it cost to replace an air conditioner?

According to HomeAdvisor, most homeowners pay $387 in A/C repair costs, typically ranging from $168 and $610 for common fixes to blowers, valves or a system recharge. Although, prices can vary depending on the difficulty and complexity of the project. Large A/Cs may also cost more to repair because replacement parts cost more. 

The fee depends on the issue, cost of labor and the A/C unit’s warranty status. Keep in mind that manufacturer warranties typically cover the cost of replacement parts, but not labor charges. HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technicians charge around $75 to $150 per hour for labor. 

This is why having a home warranty plan is helpful because most home warranties cover the HVAC system. 

On the other hand, the average replacement cost for air-conditioning systems is $7,000, with a typical range of $5,000 to $10,000.

The price tag is based on the unit size (in tons), seasonal efficiency rating (EER or SEER rating) and brand. If you’re installing central air conditioning with new ductwork, it would cost around $6,000 to $12,000.

 

Types of air conditioners

Let’s review the most common options for air conditioners available for residences and their average costs. 

Central air conditioning

A central air conditioner is a single unit installed either on the roof or side of your home. It cools down your home through the ductwork. Installing central air conditioning typically costs between $3,800 and $7,586, with an average cost of $5,690. Your total cost depends on the size of your home, the unit you choose and its SEER rating.

A central air system is a great option for homeowners looking for a permanent installation that cools the entire house. This type of air system might cost more than other options to install, but most units last for 10 to 15 years, which is cost-efficient for homes with more square footage. 

Window A/C unit

A window unit is a single device that plugs into a wall. The components of the air unit fit into a small metal box that extends outside the window. These models have an average cost of $150 to $500

Their cooling capacity can only cool one or two rooms, but window air conditioners are affordable and have low energy consumption. 

Ductless mini split

Ductless mini-split units come in two pieces: a wall-mounted interior unit and an exterior compressor. The indoor unit has blowers and connects to the compressor through tubes. These systems allow you to cool individual rooms at different temperatures rather than setting one temperature for the entire home. This is why mini-split systems can be much more efficient than central air.

A ductless mini-split A/C unit costs $2,000 to $14,500 on average. This air system is a great choice for homes that don’t have the ductwork to run central air. It’s also the better option for houses where retrofitting ductwork can be expensive or complicated. 

Geothermal

Geothermal systems provide renewable energy for heating and air conditioning. They have a metal coil that goes from your house deep into the earth. In the winter, these coils extract heat from the ground and send it into your home. In the summer, they collect heat from your home and send it back into the earth.

Geothermal units run on fairly new technology and are expensive to install. The national average for geothermal air-conditioning installations ranges from $12,000 to $38,000 for a complete system. The price depends on the size and how complicated it is to place underground.

Homeowners can also claim the geothermal energy tax credit to reduce their total cost. These high-efficiency systems use 25% to 65% less energy and electricity than conventional systems and last twice as long.

Dual fuel

A dual-fuel heating system is a hybrid system that comes with an electric heat pump and a gas furnace. With a dual-fuel heat pump, you get the best of both worlds: a heating or cooling system when you need it. It switches between the two devices, depending on the season and temperature, to efficiently and effectively heat and cool your home all year long.

The average cost to install a heat pump is $5,700, typically ranging from $4,068 to $7,160 depending on the size and type you need. These units are designed for cold climates and ideal for homes with ductwork already installed. They’re also energy-efficient and sustainable.

Air-conditioner costs by type

According to HomeAdvisor, these are the average unit and installation costs for the following types of air conditioners. 

 Type of air conditioner  Unit Cost  A/C Installation Cost
 Central air conditioning  $2,500 - $6,200  $500 - $2,500
 Window A/C units  $150 - $500  $0 - $300
 Ductless mini splits  $1,300 - $10,000  $2,000 - $8,000
 Geothermal system  $5,000 - $16,000  $7,000 - $22,000
 Hybrid system  $2,500 - $5,500  $1,000 - $5,000

 

How do you know if you should replace your air conditioner?

There are telltale signs when it’s time to replace your air conditioner. If your A/C constantly needs regular repairs, it’s probably time to invest in a new system. Also, look out for the following:

  • A/C is more than 15 years old. Central air conditioners typically last 10 to 15 years. You may be able to stretch that out if you live in an area with a colder climate or if you’re typically away for the summer. However, if your system is older than 15 years, it’s probably time for a new one. To see the date when your A/C was manufactured, check the nameplate on the condenser unit. You can also look up the serial number online or check the installation date to get this information. 
  • It needs frequent repairs. Frequent repairs not only cost you money but also time because you have to be there every time a technician comes to check or service the unit. The rule of thumb is to replace if the repair charges are at least half the cost of a new A/C. You can also use the $5,000 rule. It says to multiply the cost of the repair by your A/C’s age, and if the amount is more than $5,000, technicians recommend that you invest in a new system. 
  • A/C uses R-22. R-22, also known as Freon, used to be the most common air-conditioning refrigerant. However, scientists have found that it depletes the ozone layer. So, it’s being phased out. After 2020, only recovered, recycled or reclaimed supplies of R-22 will be available. This means it’s going to get expensive to service A/C units that use R-22. Aside from the cost, you’d probably want to replace your A/C unit so you don’t contribute to harming the ozone layer.
  • A/C is making weird sounds. Make sure you don’t ignore this warning sign because it could mean that you have an insufficient duct system. It means the duct system is too small for your home and the system is struggling. At any rate, if your A/C is more than 10 to 15 years old and making weird sounds, it’s probably time to invest in a new air system. 
  • A/C isn’t working the same. Common signs that it’s time to replace your A/C include weak airflow, blowing warm air, moisture where it shouldn’t be and smelly ductwork. Have a professional inspect your unit because it may need a tuneup, cleaning or refrigerant leak repair. Depending on the repair cost and the age of your A/C, you can decide or the technician can advise you whether it’s best to replace it. 

 

How often should you replace your air conditioner?

Since the typical life span of an air conditioner unit is 10 to 15 years, expect to replace it within that time. You may be able to stretch it a few years if you’ve kept up maintenance through the years — but don’t wait too long to replace it. As parts wear out, they get harder and more expensive to repair. 

At the same time, if you live in an area with temperatures higher than 75 degrees F for more than six months, you probably use your air conditioner twice as much as people who live in colder places. Hence, you might need to replace your air conditioner sooner. Remember: If you use something twice as much, it will also wear out twice as fast.

How often should you replace the filter on your air conditioner?

How often you change the filter on your A/C depends on the type of filter you use. The two main types of filters are fiberglass air filters and pleated air filters.

Fiberglass air filters need to be changed every 30 days. This type of filter is more affordable, but it’s less efficient at catching dust and particles in the air.

On the other hand, pleated air filters can last up to 90 days. These are more expensive because they last longer and are more effective at capturing particles. 

 

What to look for when buying a new air-conditioning unit

With so many air conditioners on the market, it’s best to know what you’re looking for so you don’t get overwhelmed. In this section, we’ll discuss what to look for when buying a new air-conditioning unit. 

  • Unit size and capacity. The size of A/C units is measured in British thermal units (Btu) or tons. You must get a new A/C unit with the right capacity for the size of your home because a unit that’s too small won’t be able to cool your house. If you get a unit that’s bigger than you need, you’ll pay more for no reason. A larger A/C will not cool your space faster and better. It cools the air faster than it can remove the humidity, so the air turns damp and clammy.
  • Efficiency. Efficiency is expressed as a seasonal energy efficiency ratio or SEER. Higher SEER ratings mean better efficiency. Air conditioners with a higher SEER are typically more expensive, but lower energy costs tend to balance that over time. Look for the blue ENERGY STAR® certification to guide you on the most efficient air units. This certification means that this particular unit has met or exceeded higher efficiency standards than other similar models.
  • Cost. Air-conditioning costs vary largely depending on the type you want to get for your home. Window models and portable units are affordable, while central air conditioners cost more. And there are additional costs, like for labor. So, consider your budget and your needs when you’re canvassing. Look for rebates and energy-saving features to offset the costs.
  • Noise. Noise would be a big consideration, especially if you’re getting a window unit. These models make extra noise and might vibrate against the windowsill. So, definitely think about how that would affect your lifestyle.
  • Safety. Of course, safety is important. If you’re buying a central air-conditioner unit, a contractor has to install it. Ask for a recommendation from friends and family to make sure you’re hiring trustworthy HVAC contractors. If you’re buying a window A/C unit, make sure you understand how to secure it properly. You don’t want it to become a hazard for you or others. 
  • Features. When looking for a new A/C unit, narrow down your options with the features that matter to you most. Some models come with energy-saving modes to help lower your energy bills. Some have convenience features, like timers and sleep modes, that can help reduce energy consumption. You may want units with programmable thermostats and remote controls as well. 

 

What to keep in mind after replacing an air conditioner

New air conditioners on the market today are more sophisticated and energy-efficient than ever. However, you may still run into unexpected problems or repairs after replacing an A/C unit. Improper installation of a central air conditioner can result in leaky ducts and weak airflow. The amount of refrigerant in the system may not match the manufacturer’s specifications. 

Things may happen that could leave you paying for costly repairs. That’s where home warranty plans can help. Home protection plans offer protection from costly surprises like air-conditioner repair costs. With Cinch Home Services, you can cover repairs or replacement services for major appliances and systems in your home. Enroll today knowing you’ll have peace of mind because you have a plan and partner you can rely on when unexpected covered home costs happen.

 

Frequently asked questions

As a homeowner, you probably have questions when replacing your air conditioner. Knowing the answers to questions, such as whether you can DIY the installation of your new A/C, can help you make better decisions — and maybe stay out of trouble. Get the answers to frequently asked questions below.

Can I install my own air conditioner?

You can install window air-conditioning units. However, ideally, central A/C units should be installed by experienced professionals. Check the rules and regulations where you live because you may need a permit to install a new unit. 

Furthermore, in many places, the law doesn’t even allow you to install new central air unless you’re certified. Since most manufacturers require HVAC installations to be done by licensed technicians, doing it yourself may void the warranty. 

Which air conditioner is the most efficient?

If your home has existing ductwork, central air conditioning is the most efficient and least expensive option.

It is the most comprehensive way to cool your home because it distributes cooled air through ductwork in each room. Also, all the components are located outside of the house.

Even if you don’t have existing ductwork, central air is still the cheaper option, whether you’re comparing it to geothermal or mini-split systems. The mini-split systems only cool one or two rooms per unit. And if you like to cool the whole house, you need more units — which can get expensive quickly. 

You could go with a dual-fuel system, but they’re also mainly designed for areas with colder climates. If you do live in an area with lower temperatures, then you have an option between central air conditioning and dual fuel for cost and function.

Which air conditioner is the most cost-effective?

The most cost-effective air conditioner depends on your budget, home size and lifestyle. For instance, if you live in an apartment, you’re probably better off buying a window unit. If you have the budget and expect to live in your current home for decades, take your pick between central air, hybrid and geothermal systems. 

 

Protect your home from costly A/C unit repairs with a Cinch warranty

Having air conditioning is certainly a perk. It cools you down and keeps you refreshed, especially during sweltering summer days. Air conditioners also reduce your home’s humidity and lessen dust mites, which helps lower instances of asthma.

Like all major appliances in your house, your HVAC system should be well maintained to ensure full efficiency for years to come. But maintenance and repairs can be costly. That’s where a home warranty can help. 

A home warranty is a renewable home service plan that covers your major appliances and built-in systems when they stop working due to normal wear and tear. It makes maintaining and enjoying your home simple and easy.

With affordable monthly payments, you can get coverage for your dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, dryer and plumbing. A Cinch home warranty also covers HVAC units, including ductwork. Get your instant quote today! 

 

Find out how much air-conditioner units cost and how to choose the right one for your home.