How Much Does a New AC Unit Cost to Install?

Normal range: $3,881 - $7,897

The average homeowner spends around $5,853 to install new air conditioning, but costs range from $3,881 to $7,897, depending on the unit's size and type.

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Kelly Weimert
Written by Kelly Weimert
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated October 14, 2022
Senior man cooling off with drink of water
Photo: Halfpoint / Shutterstock

A new AC unit costs $5,853 on average, though most homeowners will pay between $3,881 and $7,897. In the hot summer months, having an AC unit isn’t just a luxury—it’s a lifesaver. If your cooling system isn’t working at its best, upgrading your AC unit or even installing one for the first time can be a game-changer. Newer central AC units are quieter and more energy efficient than older models, which can help you lower monthly energy bills.

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How we get this data
Normal range for U.S.
$3,881 - $7,897
  • Average
  • $5,853
  • Low end
  • $1,500
  • high end
  • $12,000
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Cost Factors for Installing a New Air Conditioning Unit

Factors like air conditioner type, size, ductwork, and local contractor fees will impact the cost of a new AC unit. 

Size of the Air Conditioning Unit

The first step in installing a new air conditioning unit is determining what size you'll need. You don't want one without sufficient power to cool your home, and getting an air conditioner that's too big can be pricey and less comfortable.

AC units are measured in tons, which refers to the amount of heat they can remove from a home in one hour. A 1-ton unit, for example, can remove 12,000 British thermal units (BTUs), while a 3-ton system will remove 36,000 BTUs. The larger your house, the more cooling power you'll need. The general rule is that you'll need one ton of cooling for every 500 or 600 square feet.

"Many people are tempted to buy larger units for faster cooling," says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and a general contractor based in Raleigh, NC. "But the result can be higher electric bills, inconsistent cooling, higher humidity and, in some cases, mold. Your HVAC contractor will calculate the exact size unit for your living space."

However, many other variables factor into which size air conditioner will work best in your home. For example, a basement is naturally cooler than first- or second-floor rooms. Rooms with high ceilings also require more air conditioning or the addition of ceiling fans to better circulate air.

Hiring an AC Contractor

You'll want to ensure a crucial task like this is done correctly, so avoid wasting time (and potential injuries) and ask an experienced local AC installation pro for a free quote on your system. This way, you can enjoy your home in ultimate comfort without worrying about the potential problems and costs involved in improperly installing a unit. 

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)

The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) is also a critical factor. This ratio measures an AC unit's total cooling output in BTU during a season, divided by its total electric energy input. The higher the resulting number, the better. Currently, all units sold are over 13 SEER, and some can perform at up to 27 SEER.

The advantages of improved SEER ratings are lowered energy costs and cooling times, but they come with a corresponding cost increase for the new unit and installation. If your hot weather season isn't particularly long, the increased price may not be worth it. But if you need to replace a broken AC unit with a new one anyway, this might be something to keep in mind to help offset your energy bills long term.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a New AC Unit by Type?

HVAC pro repairing A/C unit outside
Photo: JP WALLET / Shutterstock

Depending on your living situation and budget, there are a variety of AC systems to consider. Higher-priced units usually offer better energy efficiency and longer life spans than less expensive systems, but not always. Before deciding which type of AC unit is right for you, it's helpful to consider overall costs. 

Central Air Conditioning System

Central air conditioning systems cool air at a central location then distribute it throughout the home via fans and ductwork. These systems usually last between 10 and 20 years and cost between $3,800 and $7,500 to install. 

Ductless Split System

Ductless split systems comprise an indoor air handling unit and an outdoor air compressor connected by a conduit. The indoor unit pulls in warm air before blowing it back out as cool air, all without the need for ducts. Benefits of ductless AC systems include low-maintenance upkeep, no need for ductwork (which can be expensive to repair or replace), and quiet operations compared to central AC. These systems cost between $2,000 and $14,500, depending on how many indoor units you need.

Window Air Conditioner

Window air conditioners cost $150 to $550 to install. They work well for smaller spaces and for homeowners or apartment dwellers who haven’t budgeted for a larger central AC system installation. The average cost to run a window air conditioner is $0.06 to $0.88 per hour at $0.13 kWh.

Portable Air Conditioning Unit

Portable air conditioning units, aka “swamp coolers,” are not true AC systems, but they can cool larger homes on a tight budget and with less energy consumption than central air and ductless split systems. They typically cost $90 to $500. Since air conditioners also dehumidify the air, they will collect water. In arid areas, the water will evaporate, but in humid areas, you will need to empty the reservoir periodically.

HVAC System (Furnace and AC Combination)

HVAC systems include both cooling and heating capabilities. Like central AC, they cool or heat air at a central location before distributing it throughout the rest of the home through vents and ducts. New HVAC systems cost between $5,000 and $12,000 to install.

Additional Costs to Consider

In addition to the AC system itself, it's helpful to consider several other costs that can accompany installing a new AC unit, such as electrical, plumbing, and warranties. 

Plumbing

Central AC systems require drain lines to remove condensation from the air handler. Adding a drain line is usually included in the cost of installing a new AC system. But if not, you can expect to pay $100 to $150 for it. 

Electrical

Central AC units must connect to a dedicated circuit with a standard 240-volt connection. Most AC units also require 15 to 60 amps of power, depending on their size. If your home doesn't have the required electrical circuit, you'll need to hire an electrician to install one. New electrical circuits range from $100 to $150. 

Ductwork

If you're installing a new central AC system but don't have existing ductwork, you'll also need to pay to install ducts. Installing new ductwork typically ranges from $1,100 to $1,500, depending on the size of your home and how much ductwork you need. 

Number of Zones

Some larger homes require multiple AC systems to cool the whole house. This is often true in homes with multiple floors. The area where your AC system can effectively cool is called a "zone." If you need to cool multiple zones, you should budget for the cost of installing more than one AC system. 

Removal of Existing AC System

Many companies will remove and dispose of your existing AC system when they install the new system. But if you need to have it removed separately, you can expect to pay around $25 to $200, depending on the size of your system and how easy it is to access. 

Potential Fees

Most regions require that your AC system is installed by a properly licensed professional to ensure the system is safe for use. Before signing a contract, make sure your pro is licensed and committed to adhering to any local and federal regulations to avoid potential fees for improper installation. 

Warranties

Most central AC manufacturers offer a warranty between 5 and 10 years that covers parts and equipment. But you can often purchase an extended warranty that will cover the unit for longer. Extended warranties typically cost $100 to $500, depending on their length and coverage.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a New Air Conditioning Unit Yourself?

Installing a central AC unit isn't a job you want to tackle on your own. While it's possible to purchase an air conditioner from a wholesaler and install it yourself, it requires some serious skill to do it correctly. Also, you must be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to handle refrigerants. It is generally safest to hire a state-licensed local HVAC contractor to do the installation for you.

For homes that have never had central AC, an installation requires new breakers in your electrical panel, wires run through your foundation, new duct work linking to your existing HVAC system, framing and finishing areas where ductwork is needed for the second floor or higher, and the mounting of your unit on metal brackets or a concrete pad. All told, it's a fairly complex project.

Reduce Costs by Earning Tax Credits and R-22 for New AC Units

It's possible to find rebates or tax breaks from federal or state agencies to offset the cost of air conditioning. Unfortunately, federal tax credits expired at the end of 2013 for residential systems that are ENERGY STAR-rated and aren't part of a new home build. You can check the ENERGY STAR website for current tax credit information.

State governments may offer rebates if you install a particularly high-efficiency system, but they are often limited in duration. It's worth doing some research into your own state’s rebate options before you hire a professional air conditioning company.

In addition, air conditioning manufacturers are phasing out the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) known as R-22, which is an ozone-destroying greenhouse gas. As of 2015, R-22 production has gone down by 90%.

Under current regulations, manufacturers may no longer produce, and companies may no longer install new AC units that contain R-22. Companies can still manufacture new parts, such as condensers with R-22, for replacement in existing units.

Frequently Asked Questions

To keep your AC unit in good working condition, you’ll want to have a service technician do an inspection and get your AC unit tuned up often—at least once per year. A great DIY option is to clean the evaporator coils at least once a year, preferably before the summer months.

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