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Air Conditioners, HVAC Education, Buying Tips, Pricing Guide

Central Air Conditioner Prices

By Ryan Mayes

While air conditioners generally last quite a few years, most homeowners like you will eventually decide that it’s time for a new air conditioning unit. And when that time comes, there are typically a number of new technologies and overall quality and performance improvements that have been made since the previous central air conditioner installation. Naturally, average costs for a new air conditioner will be one of your first questions. We will break down the factors that influence central air conditioner prices, the differences between other AC unit costs and installation prices to help you make the best informed decisions with Carrier.

a carrier central ac unit to indicate a/c units cost.


There are a number of factors that can influence the purchase price of new central air units. Pricing will vary some depending on the size (cooling capacity in Btu/h). However, additional technologies and features are available that can make the units quieter, reduce energy bills, control summertime humidity, and make them compatible with communicating comfort systems and thermostats. Features like variable-speed compressors, inverter-controlled operation, and multiple cooling stages can greatly improve performance and comfort, but they definitely add to the cost of new AC units.

Commercial HVAC systems are often larger and more expensive than residential air conditioning systems. The pricing and determining factors discussed in this article are geared toward residential heating and cooling systems for a typical single-family U.S. home that are installed using a qualified, professional cooling and heating system dealer.

hvac dealer installing an AC after homeowner agrees to cost of AC unit after researching central air conditioner prices.


The AC unit cost will vary depending upon the model. For example, for Carrier, we offer three categories or tiers of air conditioners: Infinity®️ System, Performance™️ Series and Comfort™️Series. Infinity models include intelligent communicating technology for increased efficiency and comfort, and are typically higher priced than the mid-tier Performance models and the standard-tier Comfort units. However, each tier has a variety of technologies, efficiency ranges and price points. The best way to get accurate pricing is to contact your local Carrier dealer for an evaluation of your home and expert recommendations on models and systems to fit your needs and your budget.

Carrier AC Unit Cost by Type

Type Cost Including Installation
Central air conditioner $3,000 - $15,000
Ductless mini split $2,000 - $10,500
Geothermal $12,000 - $45,000

If you are looking for typical split systems, there are still a number of determining factors. Just like buying a car, you can get into a basic economy model that will reliably get you from point A to point B... or you can get a top-of-the-line, luxury model with all the bells and whistles. Are you likely to look for a more basic AC unit that meets the minimum energy efficiency SEER2 rating? Or are you shopping for a unit that offers long-term energy savings with higher energy efficiencies and technology upgrades that supply better comfort and humidity control with quieter operation?


Naturally, the higher end, higher performing units come with higher price tags. They also tend to be the models that qualify for utility company or U.S. government rebates for more energy efficient operation and reduced electrical usage. Carrier air conditioners offer a number of energy-saving and comfort-enhancing features to consider when you are getting estimates for a new HVAC system. Features available include:

  • Communicating systems that work together to improve both comfort and energy efficiency
  • Variable-capacity and modulating systems that deliver precise cooling loads based upon current conditions, and change as needed when conditions change
  • Humidity-reducing technology to make you feel comfortable during hot, sticky days at higher indoor temperatures
  • Sound-reducing features and functions that make your system whisper-quiet, outside and in


Due to the wide range of factors involved, determining central air installation cost is best done by contacting a reputable HVAC contractor in your area. The final price fluctuates based on a number of factors, including the local market, condition of the home and area climate. It also depends upon the type of system. Carrier air conditioners, for example, offer a variety of energy efficiency or SEER2* ratings, various types of comfort-enhancing technologies and even sound ratings. Installed costs might range from anywhere between $3,000 to $15,000 or more.

That’s quite a range! The good news is there are a number of ways to make central air conditioner prices more manageable. These include promotional rebates available during select times of year as well as utility company rebates, financing options through your dealer, lease-to-own options and/or tax credits. To find out more, check out our dedicated rebate and HVAC financing web pages.

In addition to the cost of the actual equipment, final installation costs will vary depending upon a number of factors. For example, a typical split-system central AC will require an indoor unit, an outdoor unit, ductwork and a thermostat. That means wiring, copper refrigerant tubing between the indoor and outdoor units, venting for the indoor unit if it’s a gas, propane or oil furnace, and other considerations. Also, are you updating to a new system in an older home, or is it a new construction installation? Are the existing refrigerant lines and ductwork usable or do they need to be replaced or repaired? Are you considering a zoned system? The answers to these questions all affect total pricing.

*SEER2 = Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2, an industry standard measure of energy efficiency during cooling operation for AC units and heat pumps


One of the biggest factors determining the price of AC installation to expect will be what type of AC system is being installed or replaced. Are you simply replacing the AC unit only, or having an entirely new system installed? Is it a typical forced-air split system (AC unit outside, air handler unit inside) or are you going with a high efficiency geothermal system or a residential small packaged system (indoor and outdoor units, both in the same cabinet)?

The most basic least expensive installation is one that requires replacement of the outdoor split-system AC unit only. This job can be accomplished in 4 - 8 hours. If the both the outdoor unit and the indoor unit — likely a furnace or fan coil — need to be replaced, the job can be completed in 8 - 14 hours. Of course, the more time needed, the higher the installation costs. Geothermal systems require the additional cost of installing a ground loop which may include trenching or drilling in your yard. Small packaged systems combine both the indoor and the outdoor unit in one cabinet that sits outside, so installing a new unit on the ground and with existing ductwork is very straightforward. However, handling of the units can be tricky due to their size and weight, and in some areas, these units are installed on rooftops which can add another level of complexity – and cost.

Condition of the Home

Another factor that influences cost to install central air conditioning or other AC systems is the condition of the home and difficulty of the project. Home-related issues that can affect cost include:

  • Home square footage
  • Quality and amount of insulation, caulk and weather stripping
  • Quality and condition of existing ducts
  • Layout of the home (single-story, two-story, etc.)
  • Number, quality and placement of windows
  • Location/climate
  • General condition of the home/quality of construction

All of the above and more can make the installation or replacement more labor-intensive for air conditioner contractors. For example, if the existing ductwork is undersized or in need of repair, your contractor may need to spend extra time sealing or replacing ductwork before completing the installation. Larger, multi-story homes may be better suited to a zoned system with two or more AC units, or using supplemental ductless systems. Naturally, these systems will add cost for the additional units and any additional zone controls and duct dampers required. And, even a properly sized and installed air conditioner might struggle on hotter days if the home is poorly insulated and sealed.

Additionally, previous energy-saving modifications to the home, such as upgraded insulation, energy-efficient windows and even ENERGY STAR® qualified roofing may also reduce the peak cooling capacity requirements of the system that is required, potentially reducing cost.

Regional Climate

Regional climates can also influence central AC units prices.

In warmer climates: Your air conditioner will have a longer overall runtime during the cooling season compared to how it would operate in a more moderate climate. Installing a higher efficiency air conditioner system in a warmer climate home can help save money on monthly utility bills. However, keep in mind that higher efficiency systems tend to have higher central air conditioner prices for the unit and installation. In some cases, your local utility or the U.S. government may have available rebates for installing air conditioners with high SEER2 (cooling efficiency) ratings. Higher efficiency units also tend to come with additional comfort features as well, so if you are more interested in comfort over energy efficiency, this might be the choice for you regardless of climate.

In cooler climates: Air conditioners in cooler climates will do just the opposite. There will be less calls for cooling, and therefore less overall runtime over the duration of the cooling season. In cooler climates, HVAC dealers may suggest a minimum efficiency unit to keep air conditioner costs in check. However, minimum efficiency units don’t offer the added comfort and lower operating sounds of the more deluxe models.

In moderate climates: Many manufacturers like Carrier offer mid-range units that strike a balance between higher efficiency and higher comfort operation and the bare-bones models. If you live in a more moderate area with periods of high temperatures, but potentially shorter or less intense cooling seasons than in the Deep South, these mid-tier offerings might be perfect for you. Mid-tier units might have two-stage cooling, higher SEER2 ratings than the more basic models, and some of the comfort-enhancing features found on higher end units. As you would expect, these models price out somewhere in the middle and often represent a great value in cooling comfort.

State of Existing Ducts

When you contact a reputable HVAC contractor for the cost to replace AC unit, they will likely do a complete assessment of your current system and your home. That inspection should include the existing ducts. Older ductwork that has leaks, is clogged, or hasn’t been properly sized for the needs of the system will affect the price of installation. To better assure that your new AC unit delivers the efficiency and comfort you expect and meets your overall satisfaction, your estimated installation costs will include the time and expense needed to make the necessary ductwork repairs. And, depending upon the severity of the issue(s), the labor and material costs can really add up. Prices for ductwork repair will vary according to the amount and severity of the repair job.

Contact a Carrier Dealer For Information on Central Air Conditioner Prices

When contacting a local HVAC dealer about central air unit prices, be wary of those who are willing to give a quick quote over the phone. Every home and every homeowner is different, so every job will have unique pricing based on the technician’s expertise. Carrier has a nationwide network of highly qualified, independent dealers who can assess your home’s requirements, discuss your comfort preferences and deliver options for installing central air conditioning. To contact a dealer near you, go to the Carrier HVAC Dealer Locator page.

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