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How Much Does an AC Unit Cost to Install?

Average cost range:

$5,000 - $9,000

Homeowners on average pay between $5,000 and $9,000 for a central air conditioner unit installation. The main factors that will affect the cost of your AC unit include home’s square footage, desired brand, and the SEER rating you choose. For a 2,000 square ft home you would want a 4 to 5 ton AC unit and the average installation cost would be around $5,100 with the unit alone costing around $1,980. Read more about these cost factors below.

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AC Installation Costs by Square Footage

One way to calculate the average costs for a new AC unit would be by figuring the exact area of square feet you are wanting to cool for your home. Installing a central air conditioner into a 2000 square ft. home with an existing forced air furnace heating system would cost between $5,000 to $6,000. There has to be additional ductwork installed if not in place already.

How much does it cost for an A/C Unit for a 2,000 Sq. ft Home?

The average AC unit can cool 400 square feet of your home per 1 ton of air conditioning cooling capacity. This would produce 12,000 BTU’s per 400 square feet. You can take the 2000 sq. ft measurement and divide by 400 sq. ft of cooled area (per 1 ton AC unit cooling capacity) and calculate that you would need a 5.0 TON air conditioner. This A/C system should be able to remove 60,000 BTU’s per hour (5.0 tons x 12,000 BTU’s.) A 5.0 TON air conditioner would cost around $1,980 for the AC unit alone or a total installation cost of $5,100. Top known brands may cost more.

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AC unit cost by size

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AC Installation Costs 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

AC Costs by SEER Rating

Some of the best AC units will have high energy efficiency capabilities (also known as high SEER ratings) can save you a considerable amount of money on your average heating and cooling energy bill costs. However, a higher energy efficiency level may mean a higher HVAC installation cost. SEER ratings can range from the lowest point of a 13 SEER to the maximum efficiency air conditioners boasting a 24 SEER rating.  The average price for a standard AC unit providing a 13 to 14 SEER rating will cost around $2,820 for total unit installation, while a unit with a 24 SEER rating will cost much more initially at around $6,800 for total installation. See chart below for all SEER ratings and central AC costs.

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

Air Conditioner Unit Costs by Brand

Each of the best AC unit brands offer different tiers of central AC units depending on the needs for your home. Air conditioner brands like Goodman, Rheem, and York all have decently priced units in the $2,500+ range. Well known brands like American Standard, Trane, and Carrier will be more in the $4,800 + price range and will usually have better quality products depending on your home cooling needs. When buying from brands, you are only looking at the AC units, ductwork and other expenses will be added at the time of installation. You may also be interested in seeing the top furnace brands as well. See the full AC brands cost chart below.

Central Air Conditioner Best Brands by Cost
Air Conditioner Brands:Average Unit Cost:SEER Rating:
American Standard$3,65616.8

Hidden Costs in Your Estimate

There are also air conditioning installation costs that most likely are not included in the initial AC estimate but you may want to factor in, if applicable for your local installation prices. You also may need to consider installing a new furnace with your AC unit. These are the things you should ask the HVAC contractor about and whether or not the cost is included in the initial estimate they’re providing. Here are a few cost related questions you should have answers to:

  • Will a permit be required from your local city or county building department? Will the unit 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. Ask about this.
  • What about ductwork? Does my existing ductwork can be used or new duct installation is recommended?

Evaluating AC Installation Price Quotes

There are a quite a few factors to consider when determining what could effect the cost of a new air conditioner unit installation.

High Priced Bid Factors:

  • Air conditioner replacements can vary drastically in price. These disparities could be due to the type of unit—how quiet an air conditioning system is, for example. We encourage homeowners to research their desired AC system and make sure it is the best suited for their homes and needs.
  • Air Conditioners can also vary in total cost depending on hardware other than the main units themselves. The increasingly popular smart thermostat is often paired with a new A/C unit, which could cost as little as $30 or as much as $300.
  • High-end air conditioning contractors will likely have more equipment and overhead, which may be seen in your price quote.
  • Air conditioning unit warranties will also impact your total quoted installation cost. Most AC installers offer manufacturer’s warranties that protect you from faulty unit equipment. Some might offer additional guarantees for the air conditioner installation as well, covering potential damage to your roof (if applicable.) Be sure the quoted warranty is clear in what it covers—and in what it doesn’t.
  • Research and be aware of potential hidden costs— like permits and potential fines. Your quote should include a proper breakdown of how local or federal regulation applies to you and what your AC contractor will or will not do in that regard.
    • For example, if your installed air conditioner system’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating is lower than 13, the Department of Energy might flag your contractor for selling it.
    • An air conditioner having an average SEER rating of 16 could mean saving upward of $400 annually in comparison to other lower efficiency options.Expect an analysis of what your bills should look like after your air condtioner installation, and how you should expect these heating and cooling energy costs to change in upcoming years.

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Low Priced Bid Factors:

  • If a contractor does not have proper insurance (or any at all), they will often provide a lower bid. This may leave the homeowner responsible for laborer injuries or damages that occur. We recommend that homeowners always select a licensed contractor for their home improvement projects.
  • If a contractor doesn’t have a solid grasp of local policies or applicable local, regional, and federal incentives—like the ones found at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, they may leave that to you and subsequently lower their fees since they have less paperwork to worry about. While a contractor may charge you for help navigating the bureaucracy of air conditioning regulation, a good contractor will assure your energy compliance in your area and maximize your return on investment utilizing expertise you may lack.

Additional cost factors that might be involved:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical work
  • Removal of an existing HVAC system
  • Installing the air conditioner at a new location
  • Modifying the framing or surfacing of the home for installation
  • Bringing any current paired systems up to code.
  • Ductwork

Central air conditioning cost factors | Modernize

For any bid you receive you should always double check your final AC installation quotes for possible price errors. While it’s rare, errors can happen when trying to determine your full installation costs. Communicate any and all questions and concerns with your air conditioning installer before signing off on any contracts.

For a full list of price evaluation tips see our full list from our  homeowner’s guide to evaluating your HVAC price quotes.