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Central Air Conditioning Installation and Repairs

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Central Air Conditioners Installation Guide

Your home’s central air conditioning system is a critical component when it comes to cooling your home and being comfortable. Understanding how much a new central air conditioner costs, how it works, what to expect with the installation process, and how to hire a qualified contractor are all essential to getting the best return on your home investment.


How Much Does it Cost to Install Central Air?

Central air conditioner installation costs between $3,200 and $7,800 for replacement or for a new AC unit installation with the AC unit alone costing from $1,200 to $3000 based on your home’s specifications and requirements.

When considering a central air conditioner installation or repair there are some things you should know in order to estimate the cost of an HVAC installation project. 

  • Size of your home
  • Square footage of rooms needing to be cooled
  • Central AC system brand
  • Energy efficient level (SEER)
  • Potential ductwork installation or replacement
  • Average local costs for hiring a contractor in your area

With Modernize’s central AC unit cost calculator you can compare the above cost-affecting factors and determine the best central AC brands for your home to save on AC installations and energy bills by connecting with our reliable contractors in your area.

Central Air Conditioner Prices by Tons

AC Unit Costs by Size - Tons
Central Air Conditioner SizeAC Unit BTUAC Unit Only 
1.5 Tons18,000 BTU$2,000
2 Tons24,000 BTU$2,620
2.5 Tons30000 BTU$2,895
3 Tons36000 BTU$2,920
3.5 Tons42000 BTU$3,550
4 Tons48000 BTU$3,650
5 Tons60000 BTU$3,690

Central Air Conditioner Prices by SEER Ratings

AC Unit Costs by SEER
SEER Efficiency RatingsAC Unit + InstallationEnergy Efficiency Level
13-14 SEER$2,820Standard Efficiency
15-16 SEER$3,420High Efficiency
17-18 SEER$4,650High Efficiency
19-21 SEER$5,390Very High Efficiency
22-24 SEER$6,800Max Efficiency

Central Air Conditioner Prices by Brand

Central Air Conditioner Best Brands by Cost
Air Conditioner Brands:Average Unit Cost:SEER Rating:
American Standard$3,65616.8
Carrier$3,89516.8
Goodman$2,48815.5
Trane$3,22017.2
Rheem$2,96817.1
Lennox$3,79417.8
York$2,35416.4
Ruud$3,20017.1
Amana$2,93517.5
HEIL$3,40018.2

How Does a Central AC Unit Work?

A central air conditioning unit installation connects a new AC unit to a home’s duct system to cool your home. It is often paired with a heating system such as a furnace to fully regulate your home’s cooling and heating efforts for the perfect temperature across the entire home.

A central air conditioning system comprises three main components referred to as a condenser, a compressor and an evaporator. The condenser  along with the compressor resides on the exterior of your home, usually placed on a small, concrete slab where it is easily accessible. The evaporator, including the evaporator coil and air handler or air blower, is strategically located inside the home, usually in a closet dedicated to the unit. The HVAC evaporator might be located in the attic as well. In homes where a furnace is used, the evaporator will reside above it where it connects to the plenum or a duct junction for air distribution. 

how hvac works - central air conditioner - illustration

If you do not have a furnace or other heating source, your central air conditioning system may be equipped with an electrical resistance heating element to provide your home with warm air during the winter months. Since we are talking about a central air conditioner, this article will focus mainly on the cooling aspects of an HVAC system. 

In either case, a central air conditioning system falls under the forced central air distribution category, meaning the same ductwork, motor, and blower are used for both heating and cooling your home. Once the unit is activated, hot air is drawn from the house into the return air vent and pulled across the evaporator coil to cool it. The fan and blower assembly provide the circulation to draw in and distribute the conditioned air through the ductwork to cool the house. You can read about the specifics of how air conditioners work here.


When To Plan AC Installation

There is not enough cooling

The cooling in air conditioners may be affected mostly because of dust accumulation in the air condenser, filters and coils which can be cleaned easily without any outside help. If it still isn’t cool enough, contacting an HVAC contractor to check any equipment failures would be a good option.

Mechanical problem with the unit

There can be other reasons for why your AC unit is not working which you might be unable to diagnose. These can be mechanical or technical issues with the unit that only a seasoned HVAC contractor can help with.

Time of year

Spring is the good time to get your new AC unit installed or repair an old unit as the cold weather subsides making way for the warmer days. The installation process would be easier for contractors as they would be working on both the outside and inside units of the air conditioner.


Hiring a Central Air Installation Contractor

Central air conditioners require a high degree of training, knowledge, and experience to properly install. Both of the main components—the evaporator and the condenser—are sealed units; therefore, special training and tools are required to service them.

Choosing the right central air conditioning contractor is as important as choosing the best HVAC system. Before hiring an HVAC contractor, verify that your contractor is licensed and insured. If hiring within the Modernize network, we vet all of our contractors so that you don’t have to.

The BBB (Better Business Bureau) is another great place to vet your contractor, as they will have any complaints, lawsuits, or concerns on file regarding the applicable HVAC contractor. Online reviews are also helpful in determining if your central AC contractor is a great choice. Click here for a full checklist on hiring an HVAC contractor and questions to ask before making your decision. Hiring a reliable local HVAC installer is an important part of your project.


How to Prepare for Your Central AC Unit Installation

There are certain projects a homeowner can do before they have their new central air conditioning unit installed to ensure you’re getting the best return on your investment. Use our step by step guide on exactly what you should expect with an HVAC installation from start to finish.

Air conditioning outside unit in backyard


Central HVAC Maintenance

The benefits of annual preventive central air conditioner maintenance checkups on your central air-conditioning system far outweigh the costs of repair service. With regular preventive maintenance checkups, you can expect:

  • Peak performance from your central air conditioning system.
  • Increased energy efficiency as a finely tuned and maintained unit will consume less energy, reducing your energy costs.
  • Early warning of potential equipment failures in the future.
  • A peace of mind knowing your home’s central air conditioning system is in A1 condition and using energy efficiently.
  • You will also want to have your AC coils cleaned regularly, which can be done on your own.

Good maintenance habits can lead to long-term air conditioning savings for your home, as ensuring your system is properly functioning year-round can significantly reduce energy and utility bills.


Other Types of Central Air

  • Split Air Conditioning Systems: Split AC systems usually refer to a ductless air conditioner sometimes called a mini-split system. This is a dual central system that combines both an outside and inside AC unit to keep a comfortable temperature in your home.
  • Heat Pump Split AC Units: A ductless AC heat pump system is a type of split system AC unit that works well with hotter climates, it will pump heat out from the inside of your house to the outdoors. In cold climates, it will pump hot air into your home from outside to regulate temps. Heat pump installations are cheaper, but are best for areas without extremely cold winter climates.
  • AC Window Units: These are the most simple central air systems and can be installed in a regular window to cool a small area of a home.
  • Portable Air Conditioners: These air conditioning units are an evaporative HVAC system that can be moved around your home utilizing a split or hose system to make temperatures more comfortable.

types of central air conditioner units

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