The Best Time to Buy an Air Conditioner

Conroy Baltimore
Written by Conroy Baltimore
Updated September 12, 2022
window air conditioner in apartment
Photo: James Andrews / iStock / Getty Images


  • Fall or spring are the best times to buy air conditioners.

  • Figure out your home’s cooling needs before buying.

  • AC costs will vary depending on the type of system.

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When you’re trying to stay cozy during harsh winter temperatures, the last thing on your mind is your air conditioner. But if your AC unit is showing signs of disrepair or old age, it’s wise to consider the optimal time to purchase a new one. Let’s take a look at the best time to buy an air conditioner, plus some tips on which type of unit is right for you.

When Is the Best Time to Buy an Air Conditioner?

You may think winter is the best time to buy an AC because the temperatures are cooler. While you may find a deal or two, this isn’t the case. The best time to purchase an air conditioner is in the fall or spring. HVAC contractors in your area will be busy during the summer and winter months when outdoor temperatures are the most extreme. 

Avoid these busy periods, and you’ll likely find better deals before consumers start swarming stores looking for air conditioning units. This is because retailers are always looking to get rid of the previous year's models to make space for newer versions.

Additional Times You Could Save on Buying a New AC System 

There are many other optimal times to buy a new AC system aside from seasonal shifts. For example, you should consider installing a new AC unit when renovating your house, especially if you’re changing the interior layout. 

If your AC unit is showing warning signs that it’s slowing down, it’s easier to replace it during renovation or new addition projects than retrofitting them after the work is done. To snag an even better deal, consider buying a new AC when you need to replace your HVAC system for a potentially bundling opportunity.

What Is The Right Type of Air Conditioner For You?

Determining your home’s cooling needs can be challenging because different air conditioners are better suited for some homes than others. Here’s a quick breakdown of the units you can buy.

Window Units

Window units are the least expensive AC option and can cost between $150 to $500. They don’t need ductwork or professional installation; all you need is a wide enough window to hold the unit.

They’re only beneficial for cooling one room at a time, but you’ll likely find the best deals for these units during the fall or spring.

Central Air

woman adjusting central air thermostat
Photo: monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images

Central air or ducted systems are standard fixtures used to coll the entire house in one go. You can control temperatures via a thermostat, and the cool air passes through vents. 

However, these systems work better if there’s existing ductwork in your home or you are planning a new build. If not, the cost to install a new central air conditioning unit is between $3,800 to $7,500. You’ll also have to factor in ductwork cleaning costs, which could run $270 to $1000, depending on their condition.

Ductless Mini Split

Ductless mini-split systems are a modern cooling solution that can increase cooling efficiency through zoning. They’re great if your home doesn’t have or can’t accommodate ductwork. Multiple units get placed inside your home and are connected to an outdoor unit.

Instead of cooling the entire house, you can choose which areas are affected by temperature changes to match your desired comfort. However, at $2,000 to $14,500 for installation, they might not be the most wallet-friendly solution.

Swamp Coolers 

A swamp cooler uses moisture to cool air through evaporative cooling pads, which is then blown throughout the house using a blower motor. Also known as an evaporative air conditioner, this cooling solution is best suited for homes in areas with low humidity.

Swamp coolers are an efficient, cost-effective way to cool homes in dry climates, and they’re proven to ​​drop the indoor temperature by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, swamp coolers cost between $1,560 and $3,740, depending on the type and size. 

How To Pick an AC Unit That Meets Your Needs

As you search for an air conditioning unit during the offseason, now is the best time to evaluate your home’s cooling needs. Some factors to consider before buying a new unit include:

  • Your home’s size

  • The current HVAC unit

  • Features you want in a system

  • Cost

Let’s say your home is roughly 300 to 500 square feet. You’ll need an AC whose power output will cool the area efficiently. All air conditioner power is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), which measure the amount of heat in the atmosphere. 

An AC with one tonnage of capacity removes 12,000 BTUs from the air. Higher numbers mean more power—and more money to run. So, for a 300 to 500 square foot room, the correct AC size should remove about 10,000 to 12,000 BTUs.

Calculating your home’s cooling needs requires the help of an HVAC professional. They use Manual J guidelines, which can be pretty complex for homeowners, and any errors could cost you money in the long run.

Additional Ways to Save When Buying an AC Unit

If you’re searching for ways to cut costs when purchasing a new AC unit, look no further. You can receive up to a $300 tax credit for installing a new AC unit that meets energy-efficiency standards and guidelines. Plus, some states and local utility companies provide rebates for replacing an outdated AC system.

When purchasing a new unit, ask the sales company about free upgrades to your unit or discounts on future services. At the end of the day, you’ll save money in the long run by installing a more energy-efficient AC unit that will lower your monthly utility bill.

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