Your HVAC is one of the most important systems in your home, keeping you comfortable during all seasons of the year. When an HVAC fails, the necessary repairs can be costly, especially if you don’t have a home warranty to cover expensive repair or replacement costs. Before getting quotes for the cost of your HVAC installation, you’ll want to know what price ranges to expect.
The This Old House Reviews Team created this comprehensive guide that breaks down the HVAC replacement costs and unit prices for the three most common heating and cooling systems: air conditioners, furnace heaters, and heat pumps. Keep reading to learn more about each system and how much you should expect to pay for a new one.
HVAC Installation Cost by Type
To understand what all goes into your HVAC’s replacement cost, you’ll need to understand what type of installation you need. HVAC, or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning is a broad term that can represent multiple systems in your home that work together to heat or cool the air that circulates throughout the house.
For instance, if it’s a hot summer and your air conditioner goes out due to old age, you wouldn’t necessarily need to replace your furnace heater, but you would probably need a new or repaired AC unit. Each type of HVAC system can come in various models and subtypes, depending on your preference and home compatibility.
Air Conditioner Costs
|Type||Unit Cost||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.
Air conditioning is a must-have to keep your house comfortable during the summer months. Unfortunately, most AC unit breakdowns occur during the hottest weather since that’s when your system works the hardest. In general, you can expect to pay somewhere between $2,500 and $8,000 for the total cost of an air conditioner, including installation, unless you purchase an inexpensive window unit to cool your room.
Here are more details about the two common types of air conditioning units found in homes:
- Central air conditioners: These are some of the most common air conditioners. They pull air from inside the house and compress it in an outdoor condensing unit into a gas. This gas travels through coils and turns into hot liquid, which then travels to the evaporator coils, where it transforms into a cool evaporated gas and circulates throughout the home’s ducts.
- Window air conditioners: These operate like central air conditioners, but they pull air from outside, cool it, then blow it through fans into the room where the unit is placed. These units are smaller and weaker than central AC units but can cool up to around 1,500 square feet with the correct size.
|Type||Unit Cost||Installation Cost|
Furnaces are the most common type of heating system and work by forcing air through your home’s ducts and vents to warm the house. A furnace is a separate unit from your air conditioner, but it typically uses the same ductwork for circulation and ventilation. The total cost to install a furnace can range from around $1,500 up to $9,000, depending on the type you choose.
Here are more details about the three common types of furnaces:
- Natural gas furnace: As the most common type of furnace, a natural gas furnace will likely be recommended by your HVAC professional if you need a replacement. They operate by forcing hot air into your home’s ducts after heating it with the fire from a gas-fueled furnace.
- Electric furnace: This heater is less efficient than other options, but it’s better for the environment. Electric furnaces have long lifespans up to 30 years, are easier to maintain, and usually come with a lower price tag than gas or oil furnaces. However, they can have a noticeable impact on your monthly energy bill compared to gas furnaces.
- Oil furnace: Although less popular than gas furnaces, you might need an oil furnace if your home isn’t connected to natural gas. Oil furnaces operate similarly to gas furnaces but can be more expensive to run due to high oil prices.
Heat Pump Costs
|Type||Unit Cost||Installation Cost|
Although most homes have split heating and cooling units that make up their entire HVAC system, there are high-efficiency hybrid options, such as heat pumps, for those who want one unit to do all the work. In general, the cost of heat pumps with installation included is much higher than other HVAC units, ranging from around $2,000 up to $30,000. This is because they combine heating and cooling and typically use less energy to operate, saving you money on your electricity and gas bills.
Here are more details about each common type of heat pump:
- Air-source: These are the most common heat pumps. They absorb heat energy by pulling in the air from outside your home. Then, they compress the heat into hot air and send it through the home’s ducts during the cold months. They can also turn hot air into cool air and circulate it through the home during the warmer months.
- Geothermal: Also known as ground-source heat pumps, these are typically the most expensive HVAC systems to install since they use temperatures from the ground to heat or cool your home. They also require extensive labor and underground digging to place the piping.
- Ductless mini-split: Rather than circulating hot or cool air through the home’s ductwork, this type of heat pump comes in multiple smaller units placed in various rooms throughout the house. This option may be ideal for homes that don’t currently have ductwork installed and for people who want to avoid the cost of new ductwork installation.
- Dual fuel: These HVAC units offer a combination of standard heating and cooling systems with the efficiency of an air-source heat pump. If you live in a colder area, this option could allow your home to receive the warmth it needs through a furnace heater that kicks in when the outside temperature is too cold for the heat pump to work on its own.
- Gas-fired: These heat pumps are common for commercial buildings and homes larger than 4,000 square feet. They’re similar to air-source heat pumps, but they use natural gas as the energy source rather than electricity.
Factors That Affect HVAC Replacement Cost
If you need to install or replace an HVAC system, whether it’s an expensive geothermal heat pump or a standard central air conditioner, there are a few factors that go into the total pricing that you should be aware of before hiring a professional for the job.
Here are more details about each of those factors:
- Type: The installation cost of your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump will depend on the type you choose. For instance, while a window AC unit will only cost a few hundred dollars and can be installed yourself, a geothermal heat pump can cost tens of thousands of dollars for the unit and installation. Before calling your professional HVAC installation company, determine which type of system fits in your budget.
- Size: The size of HVAC systems is measured by British Thermal Units (BTUs), which measure the amount of energy needed to condition the air in your home within an hour. The more square footage you have, the more BTUs you’ll need for your HVAC system to cool the entire home.
- Efficiency ratings: According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the current AC units on the market can save homeowners 30%–50% on monthly energy bills compared with older systems from 30–40 years ago. Air conditioners with higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings and heaters with higher Heating Seasonal Performance Ratio (HSPF) ratings can save you money long-term, but they typically come with a higher price tag.
- Ductwork: If you need ductwork repairs or replacements, the total installation cost for your HVAC system will be higher than if your ductwork doesn’t need any attention. Additionally, upgrading your unit may require replacing ductwork since some higher-efficiency heating or cooling units are only compatible with certain ducts.
In some cases, you may not need to replace your HVAC unit. Most HVAC units can last between 15 and 20 years, so if you have an issue with your heating or cooling system and it’s not that old, consider hiring a contractor to help repair the system before completely replacing it.
Enter your ZIP code into the tool below to get started with estimates from local HVAC repair professionals near you:
If your air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump needs repairs rather than an installation, you could save a substantial amount of money. Below are some average repair costs for HVAC systems to give you an idea of what to expect.
Average Costs of Common HVAC Repairs
|Common Repair||Average Cost|
|Frozen condenser coils||$250–$1,000|
|Fan or air blower issues||$450–$650|
|Clogged air filter||$75–$180|
|Damaged blower belt||$30–$110|
|Damaged blower bearings||$30–$150|
|Cracked heat exchanger||$2,000–$3,500|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best type of HVAC unit?
Determining the best type of HVAC for your home depends on your specific needs, the climate in your area, your budget, and your house’s compatibility. In general, heat pumps offer the most efficient HVAC systems since they convert temperatures from the air, water, or ground to condition the air that circulates throughout your home, requiring less gas or electricity.
However, they may not be best for homeowners living in colder climates, with temperatures consistently dropping below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also be more expensive than other HVAC options. We recommend consulting with an HVAC professional to help determine which system makes the most sense for your home.
What size AC unit do I need?
Since the size of your home determines how many BTUs your air conditioner should have, the size of the unit you need will vary depending on your house’s exact square footage. Choosing an AC unit with the right amount of BTUs is important to ensure you’re getting efficient energy use.
For example, while some small rooms with 100–200 square feet may only need a unit with around 5,000 BTUs, larger homes with more than 2,000 square feet will likely require a unit with 34,000 BTUs or more.
What SEER rating should I consider?
The best SEER rating for your HVAC unit can vary depending on your budget. High-efficiency units are typically more expensive but can save you money in the long run by helping you save on your monthly energy bills.
Depending on where you live, the DOE enforces a minimum SEER rating of 13 or 14, but you can find air conditioners with up to 22 or 23 SEER ratios. You can also get federal tax credits for purchasing split systems higher than 16 SEER and package systems higher than 14 SEER.
Can I install an HVAC unit by myself?
While you may be able to install window AC units on your own, we don’t recommend installing central air conditioners, furnaces, or heat pumps without professional training and proper equipment.
Why is my energy bill so high?
Your HVAC could likely be the cause of an abnormally high energy bill. This can be caused by several issues, including dirty air filters, duct leaks, failing motors or other parts, low refrigerant, lack of maintenance, and simple aging of the appliance. If you notice a substantial increase in your energy bill, we recommend reaching out to an HVAC pro to help determine if there’s something wrong with your heating and cooling system.
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