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Air Conditioners, HVAC Education, Buying Tips

Central Air Conditioner Prices

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 had been installed. Naturally, average costs for a new air conditioner will be one of your first questions.


We do not list prices on this website due to the wide variety of factors that influence the cost to install central air conditioning systems. Typically, the exact cost of an air conditioner installation or replacement is determined by the local HVAC dealer. 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 SEER* 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.

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

Determining the Cost of AC Unit Replacement or Installation

Due to the wide range of factors involved, determining the average costs of central air installations are best done by contacting a reputable HVAC contractor in your area. Also, to be clear, 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, heating and cooling dealer.

Type of System

One of the biggest factors determining the price of job to expect will be what type of 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)?

Assuming you are looking for a typical split system, 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 your 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 SEER ratings? 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

Condition of the Home

Another factor that influences central air installation cost is the condition of the home and difficulty of the project. Home-related issues that can affect cost include:

  • Size of the home
  • 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 a supplemental ductless AC unit. 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 air conditioner 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 SEER (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 SEER 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 HVAC Dealer

When contacting a local HVAC dealer about central air conditioner 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 central air installation costs. To contact a dealer near you, go to the Carrier HVAC Dealer Locator page.

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