Air conditioners play an important role in making your home comfortable during the hot months. Whether you live in desert climates or high-humidity areas, adding a cooling system to your home is a worthwhile way to provide relief from the heat in the summer.
Replacing your older unit can also help save you money on your energy bill. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), newer air conditioner designs use 30–50% less energy than they did 30 to 40 years ago. Even 10-year-old AC units can use up to 20–40% more energy than older systems.
The cost of air conditioning can be broken down into the unit, installation, maintenance, and energy bills. The This Old House Reviews Team has completed in-depth research to provide average costs and give you a general idea of what to expect. Pricing can vary depending on a range of factors such as location, home size, property details, and more.
Types of Air Conditioners
Choosing an AC system involves more decisions than just price. Your home may require a certain type, or you may prefer one type over another based on your comfort. Keep reading for information on the five most popular air conditioners and their average prices. If you still need help figuring out what is best for your house, enter your ZIP code below and connect with a local professional:
Central Air Conditioning
Central AC units are the most popular air conditioners and are found in millions of homes throughout the country. They extract air from the inside of the house, then compress it with refrigerant in the outdoor condensing unit. The remaining gas is then sent through the condenser coils to be turned into a hot liquid. The new fluid travels to the evaporator coils on the indoor furnace unit and transforms into a cool evaporated gas. Fans and centralized ductwork distribute the air throughout your home.
Purchasing a central air conditioner may be your best option if you already have ductwork installed throughout the house. Depending on the size and other factors, total average costs for these are typically between $2,500 and $7,000 including installation costs.
Window AC Unit
The process of cooling air in a window air conditioner is similar to a centralized one, but on a much smaller scale. Window AC units are only intended to cool the room they’re placed in, rather than the whole house. They feature fans that blow the cool air throughout the room, and they expel the hot air outside through the window.
These units are the cheapest on the market, and they typically don’t require any installation. You simply purchase it and set it up in your window within minutes. They’re sold based on power level with room size in consideration. Here are some examples of power levels in British thermal units (BTUs) and their associated square footage:
- 5,000–8,000 BTU: 150–350 square feet
- 8,000–12,000 BTU: 350–550 square feet
- 12,000–18,500 BTU: 550–1,050 square feet
- 18,500–25,000 BTU: 1,050–1,600 square feet
Window air conditioners don’t typically require professional installation, and AC unit costs are as low as $150–$750.
If your home doesn’t have any ductwork installed, mini-split air conditioners may be the best way to go. It allows you to control temperatures in each zone of your home. Another benefit of this type is that it doesn’t use as much electricity and requires only one power supply connection.
Pricing for these air conditioners can vary depending on how many zones you need to condition. In other words, if you have a larger house, you’ll need to install a few different indoor units, which can be costly. Because of the varying costs, we estimate the total average for units and installation together to be anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000.
Geothermal heat pumps are HVAC systems that offer both heat and air conditioning throughout your home via ground-sourced temperatures. It uses water and antifreeze solution in tubing about 4 feet in the ground to capture heat and transfer it into the compressor of the unit. Then, the air is compressed, sent to evaporator coils, heated or cooled to desired temperatures, and blown through the home through centralized ducts and vents. It can also extract hot air from your house during cooling and send it back into the ground.
Geothermal heat pumps require extensive labor for installation, including digging trenches and laying piping. As such, this is one of the most expensive air conditioner options. Total price averages reach $13,000–$36,000. However, it’s one of the most efficient ways to condition the air in your house, using minimal electricity or gas. It could definitely pay off in the long run.
Dual fuel systems are similar to central air conditioners, utilizing the coils on your indoor furnace unit. The primary difference is that they include heat pump technology to help lower the cost of your energy bill.
Dual fuel systems are an ideal solution for those living in colder states. It offers a gas furnace to help heat your home during the winter when the temperature drops too low for the heat pump to run efficiently. However, it can also be beneficial for cooling your home by using air-source heat from the heat pump to condense and evaporate cool fluid in the air-distribution features of the furnace unit, blowing comfortable air throughout the house.
The costs of dual fuel heat pump systems can vary depending on the size needed for the home. The overall average for the installation and unit falls between $4,000 and 8,000. Like geothermal heat pumps, these systems can save you money on your energy bill over time.
Air Conditioner Costs by Type
|Type||Unit Cost||AC Installation Cost|
|Central air conditioner||$1,200–$4,500||$1,200–$2,200|
|Window AC unit||$150–$750||N/A*|
*You can typically install window AC units on your own.
Costs of Air Conditioners Explained
Air conditioner costs have various factors to consider while you shop. We recommend not basing your decision solely on price. Speak to an HVAC expert who can advise you on unit type, specific models, and installation details. Here are a few things that go into the cost of AC units:
- Size: Getting the right size air conditioner to cool your home is important, even though the larger sizes can be costly. If you purchase a smaller unit than you need, it will have to work harder to cool your space, and you could end up spending way more on energy and maintenance. Speak to a professional before purchasing if you’re not sure what size you need.
- Brand: Reading reviews from other homeowners on top air conditioning manufacturers is a great way to ensure the more trustworthy system. You should also read reviews about the HVAC contractor that you hire for the installation to be sure they’re licensed and reputable.
- Installation: Hiring an HVAC technician can be pricey depending on the complexity of the job and how long it takes. However, this is a required cost unless you’re simply purchasing a window unit, since professional help is necessary for most AC units. Many contractors offer free consultations, so it doesn’t hurt to reach out.
- Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): The SEER rating refers to how much energy is needed for cooling output. The higher the ratio, the more efficiently the unit will perform, lowering your energy bills. Typical numbers to look for during your purchase fall between 14 and 24.
- Tax credits: A good way to lower the cost of your air conditioning unit is by claiming tax credits or rebates on certified energy-saving equipment by Energy Star. Energy Star is a partner to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that encourages eco-friendly and energy efficient manufacturing.
Air Conditioner Repairs
If your air conditioning system breaks down, you’ll need to hire an HVAC expert to fix the problem. Many home warranty plans cover HVAC repairs, so you could check your contract and call your provider to schedule a service call. But, if you don’t have a home warranty, finding a technician near you may be difficult.
If you’re located in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, or Washington D.C., you could reach out to Michael & Son for help. Otherwise, you can enter your ZIP code into the tool on this page to find a local contractor. Here are a few issues to look out for with your air conditioner and their associated estimated repair costs:
|Common Repair||Average cost|
|Frozen condenser coils||$250–$1,000|
|Fan or air blower issues||$450–$650|
|Clogged air filter||$75–$180|
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I install my own air conditioner?
Installing air conditioning units almost always requires hiring an HVAC contractor, since the wiring, tubing, and piping can be complex. They can also include dangerous chemicals that should not be spilled. However, if you’re just purchasing a window AC unit, you can install it in your window without an HVAC expert in most cases.
Which air conditioner is the most efficient?
Heat pumps can offer the most efficient way to heat and cool your home by using external sources such as air, water, or temperatures in the ground. Many residents that go this direction for their air conditioning save substantial amounts on their electricity or natural gas energy bills. Dual fuel or geothermal heat pumps are two options to consider.
What’s the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump?
A heat pump is a type of air conditioner and heating system that can provide both hot air and cool throughout your house. It’s similar to a central air conditioning unit in that it typically uses ductwork in your home to distribute the air. Speaking to an HVAC professional can always help you determine what would be the best fit for your house.
What is the electric cost to run an air conditioner daily?
The daily energy cost of your air conditioner can vary depending on the size, power needed to cool your house, and desired temperatures. Through our research, we found that air conditioners usually cost about $2–$5 per day. Different types of air conditioners require less energy, so shop around for the best one to fit your budget.
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