How To Retrofit Air Conditioning in Your Home (Even When You Think It’s Not Possible)

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated November 23, 2021
Modern living room with kitchen and AC
Dariusz Jarzabek -


  • You’ll need to install ductwork first if your home doesn’t have any to use central air

  • It costs about $3,800 to $7,500 to install central air

  • Ductless AC units are another option worth considering

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For homeowners without the privilege of central air conditioning, the summer months can get pretty toasty. If you’ve had about all you can bear of window units and fans, it’s time to consider retrofitting AC in your home.

Ductwork or no ductwork, central air is within reach—and it’s maybe even a bit gentler on your wallet than you may think. Here’s what to do if you’re thinking about installing air conditioning in your home.

How Much Does it Cost to Install Central Air?

It costs between $3,800 and $7,500 to install central air. Costs vary depending on the size of your home and the type of air conditioning unit. When installing central air, it’s a good idea to consider updating your heating system at the same time, since it will be cheaper than doing it separately.

It typically takes between one and five days to install central air. The process is quicker if you already have ductwork in place.

Air Conditioning Options for Homes Without Ductwork (and Older Homes)

Woman holding remote controller directed on the air conditioner
starush -

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of installing ductwork throughout your home, you might consider a ductless AC or mini-split system. A ductless AC consists of an outdoor compressor and wall units mounted in rooms of your choosing. It’s a good choice for structures whose walls are too thin to support ductwork or for individual rooms that need extra cooling, such as a recent addition.

Other Air Conditioning Options

If you’re not ready to splurge for central air, other air conditioning options are available. Window units are a great choice for only cooling certain rooms, like bedrooms or offices. Ventless portable air conditioners are another option worth considering.

Can I Install Central Air Myself?

In general, it’s not a good idea for homeowners to install central air themselves. The process of installing ductwork can be complicated and labor-intensive, so it’s best to get a heating and cooling company near you involved to discuss your options.

Key Factors To Consider When Choosing an AC Solution

When choosing an air conditioner, things to keep in mind include size, cost, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). You should also decide between a mini-split system and a whole home central air system.

  • Size: The larger your home is, the larger the AC unit you’ll need to keep it cool throughout. Air conditioning units are measured in tons, which refers to the amount of heat they remove per hour.

  • Cost: Mini-split or ductless air conditioning units are more energy efficient, which results in lower utility bills, but they tend to be more expensive to install than central air.

  • SEER: The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio measures how efficient an air conditioning system is. Energy efficient system can help save you money. To further save on energy costs, you should get your air conditioner serviced, change the filters regularly, and utilize window and shade coverings to lower the temperature in your home.

  • Maintenance: No matter what kind of air conditioning system you choose, it’s a good idea to address any problems with your air conditioner as soon as they arise. Proper preventative maintenance can help to prolong your AC’s life for as long as possible.

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