Central Air Conditioner Cost Calculator

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Keeping the cost of a new or replacement central air conditioning unit within reason is part of the overall budget plan for new home construction, remodeling or renovation projects. Determining the cost may seem like a simple process, but there’s a little more to it than first meets the eye.

Determining the Cost of a Central Air Conditioner System

The key to determining the system size needed for your home can be calculated in several ways. It is important that the calculation be accurate so that you purchase a system adequate to do the job. An oversized unit or one not large enough to do the job is the last thing you want, as both problems impact the initial cost of the unit and the operating cost, over time.

The cost of an HVAC system for your home is determined by the contractor or sales representative calculating the total square footage of the property to find the size (tonnage ad BTUs) necessary for home efficiently.

For example, a 1300 square foot home in Tampa, Florida runs efficiently with a 3 ton A/C variable speed system with a SEER rating of 15 and a heat pump with a HSPF rating of 8.6.

Current prices, depending on system choice, range from Rheem’s 2 to 5-ton unit, 13 SEER rating and 80 percent AFUE starting at $2,300 to Bryant’s Evolution system with 2 to 5 tons cooling, 80 percent AFUE, 15 SEER, and 40,000 to 100,000 BTUs at $4,900.

Other factors specific to your home can result in an increase or decrease in unit size. Along with the square footage, the location of your home is also a factor since seasonal temperatures will play a role in system size. The condition of the home is also a factor. A home that is not well insulated or needs basic repairs, such as caulking and sealing, can also directly affect the sizing calculation.

If you are replacing your current system, you may be able to use the same sized equipment as a guide for selecting a new unit but only if the system being replaced was initially sized correctly.

Software is available to do the calculations but is generally only used by contractors.

Additional Things to Consider

While the cost of the type and size of a central air conditioning system is a big chunk of the calculating process, quite a few “other” things must be taken into consideration to get an accurate estimate of the total cost. Below is a list of items that should be included in the initial cost estimate provided to you by a licensed contractor.

  • The central air conditioning system, installation materials and supplies must be delivered by the company you purchase it from. A delivery charge may be included for transportation to and from your residence.
  • The installation site needs to be prepped to ensure the protection of the building exterior and interior from the HVAC components and materials. This involves using labor to prep the area.
  • There may be a charge for job site cleanup and debris removal.
  • Depending on the contractor you hire, there may also be a fee for labor transportation and setup time.

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Potential Additional Costs

There are also costs that most likely are not included in the estimate but you will want to factor in, if applicable. These are the things you should ask the contractor about and whether or not the cost is included in the initial estimate they’re providing. These include:

  • A permit is required from your local city or county building department. The unit will also require an inspection by a representative of the building department to ensure the system is up to code.
  • If you live in an older home that has asbestos or lead paint, there may be an additional cost to test, remove, or replace the material.
  • If any of the following requires additional work involved with the installation process – plumbing, electrical work, removal of an existing system, installing the system at a new location, modifying the framing or surfacing of the home, or bringing any systems up to code – it will also factor into the estimate.

Down Side of Not Calculating Correctly

  • The system won’t function properly or be efficient in the long run.
  • The unit can experience heating or cooling loss which costs you extra in the monthly utility bill.
  • A system that runs continuously generally means it’s the right size for the home. If it continually cycles on and off, it’s a sign that it isn’t the right size or a malfunction within the system.
  • If the central air conditioning system is too small to accommodate the square footage of your home, it will continuously run using more energy and raising the cost factor as well as not heating or cooling your home efficiently.
  • If other materials such as insulation or new ductwork isn’t factored into the equation, you’ll end up spending more than what you budgeted for.

Online Estimators

To help you have a good idea about what installation of a new central air conditioning system will cost, there are several online calculators available. Using one of the free services will prepare you ahead of time. With the estimator, you’ll also have your own information to compare with that of the contractor, which is to your advantage, especially if the contractor’s estimate is way out of sync with your calculation.

When it comes time to choose and purchase a central air conditioning unit, don’t short change yourself by not doing the math beforehand. With the help of a qualified contractor who knows the steps to take to get an accurate sizing of your home, you can rest easy that the choice you make will keep your home comfortable throughout every season.

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