Installing central air conditioning in your home is expensive, and it can also be pricey to run. If you only need cool air in a small space within your home—for example, in a living room or bedroom—a window air conditioner is a much less expensive alternative. Home inspector Jim Fuson of 21st Century Home Inspections says “bonus rooms” or rooms with ductwork, such as remodeled garages, are great places to use window AC units.
A new window AC unit can cost anywhere from $60 for a small unit you install yourself to $1,200 for a large unit that’s professionally installed. However, the average installation cost for a 1-ton AC unit is about $550.
Window AC Installation Cost Factors
Where your AC installation project falls within the above range depends primarily on the following factors.
- Unit size: The larger and more powerful the AC unit is, the more it will cost.
- Type: Window units are often the least expensive type of AC system.
- Labor: Hiring professionals to install your unit comes with an extra cost.
Window AC Installation Cost by Size of Unit
The size of an air conditioning system is measured in tons. This doesn’t refer to the unit’s weight but the volume of air it can cool within an hour. Cooling capacity can also be measured in British thermal units (or BTU). As you might expect, the AC unit cost for larger and more powerful air conditioners will be higher. Central air conditioning systems can be as large as 5 tons or more, but window AC units are usually 2 tons or less.
Cost by Unit Size
|Unit Size (Tons)||Unit Size (BTUs)||Cost|
The size you need will be determined by the amount of space you need to cool. Remember that window AC units are useful for cooling a single room, so measure the room’s square footage and budget accordingly. You should also take into account the amount of direct sunlight that the room in question gets. Note that bigger isn’t always better, and if you buy too big a unit, you might end up paying more in operating costs for the same result.
Recommended BTUs by Room Size
|Room Size in Square Feet||Recommended BTUs||Cost|
Window AC Installation Cost by Unit Type
A window unit is probably the most popular single-room air conditioner, but it’s not the only option. Here are some other types, plus the unit and installation costs associated with a central air conditioner for comparison.
|AC Unit Type||Cost|
Window Air Conditioner
Window air conditioners are all-in-one units that sit on the lower sash of a partially-opened window. The air handler, compressor, and condenser are all housed in the same casing to take up minimal space. These units must be partially outdoors to allow the condenser to vent heat. Window air conditioners aren’t as powerful or portable as other types, but they’re the least expensive and can typically be installed non-professionally. The price range is $60–$1,200 depending on size and whether you choose professional installation.
Portable Air Conditioner
Portable AC units can be easily moved from room to room and even stored when not in use. They have tubing that must be directed out of an open window to vent heat, and they often have wheels for easy movement. Despite this, many are bulky and difficult to move around, and they take up floor space. Fortunately, they don’t require professional installation, so you’ll only pay the unit cost of $300–$1,500.
Mini-Split Air Conditioner
A type of wall-mounted AC that’s becoming more popular is a ductless mini-split system. This system has at least two parts: an indoor air handler that’s usually mounted high up on a wall and an outdoor condenser unit. The parts must be connected so that refrigerant can flow between them. Larger systems can have more than one air handler to cool multiple rooms without the need for ducts. Mini-split systems cost anywhere from $1,300 to cool one room, to $4,500 for a system with multiple air handlers.
Wall-Mounted Air Conditioner
Wall AC units may be about the same size and power as window units, or they may be larger and more powerful. They work approximately the same as window AC, with all the parts in a single housing that must vent to the outdoors. However, instead of taking up window space, they’re installed directly into an exterior wall. Installation is much more expensive because it requires cutting into a wall and rewiring. In-wall units typically cost $3,150–$9,000 to install.
Central Air Conditioner
Of all air conditioning systems, central AC installation costs are the highest. That’s because, in addition to the large condenser and air handler units, central air conditioning requires a system of ductwork to move cool air through the house. A low-end central AC for a small house starts at around $5,000, but a large, high-end system can cost $12,000 or more.
Heat pumps are high-efficiency home HVAC systems that bring in warm air in the winter and produce cool air in the summer. They work by transferring heat between indoor and outdoor environments, but their cooling function works on the same principle as other types of air conditioning. The price range for these systems is large—anywhere from $3,000–$20,000—because there are many different types with different power sources.
If you choose professional window air conditioner installation, you’ll pay between $50–$200 depending on the job’s difficulty. Most HVAC contractors charge an hourly rate, though there may also be a flat service call fee. You’ll pay a bit more if you need the technician to remove and dispose of an old air conditioning unit.
Additional Cost Considerations
Aside from the factors above, there are a few other things to take into consideration when estimating the cost of window air conditioning installation.
Total Installation Project Costs
Even for standard installation of a basic window unit, multiple factors make up the total cost. Here’s what’s typically involved.
- Old unit removal: If you’re replacing an old AC unit that doesn’t just pop easily out of a window, the HVAC technician may charge $40–$120 to remove it.
- Cost of new unit: Of course, you’ll need to purchase the new AC unit, which may cost as little as $60 for a small, 5,000 BTU unit or as much as $1,000 for a large, high-tech unit.
- Installing new unit: Labor costs can vary from $50–$200 depending on how complex the project is.
- Additional materials: Your new AC may require some extra materials like weather stripping, fittings, or mounting hardware. This is usually an inexpensive addition at $15–$20.
- Disposal of old unit: Old AC units can’t simply be taken to the dump, but HVAC contractors will usually dispose of them for you for $25–$50.
|Old unit removal||$40–$120|
|Cost of new unit||$60–$1,000|
|Installing new unit||$50–$200|
|Disposal of old unit||$25–$50|
Temporary vs. Permanent Unit
Many homeowners who opt for window AC units only want to use them during the year’s hottest months and store them when they’re not needed. This temporary installation is less complex and usually costs $50–$75. On the other hand, if you want the window unit to remain in place all year, this type of installation takes a little more effort and tends to cost $100–$150. However, the result is usually a little more discreet and low-profile than temporary installation.
Cost of Running a Window AC
The cost to use your air conditioner will depend on many variables, such as the climate, the price of electricity, and how frequently you use the unit. Assuming an electricity price of about $0.13 per kilowatt-hour, here’s how much you can expect to pay to run your window AC eight hours a day for 30 days.
|Unit Size (in BTU)||Monthly Cost|
All window units should have a thermostat that automatically shuts them off when the room reaches the desired temperature. However, if you want more control, you can pay a little extra for smart features. Some window units come with a remote control, and others connect to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to control them from any distance.
DIY vs. Professional Window AC Installation
Usually, installing a window AC unit is a do-it-yourself (DIY) job, but there are some circumstances under which you should hire a professional.
Professional Window AC Installation
If any of the following apply to you, you may want to consider hiring a professional HVAC contractor and/or electrician to help you install your window AC unit.
- The AC unit is rated higher than 15,000 BTUs and will require special wiring.
- The AC unit weighs 200 pounds or more.
- There’s no electrical outlet near the window (never plug an AC unit into an extension cord).
- The window sill’s structural soundness is uncertain.
- You live in an older home.
- You’re unsure whether your home’s wiring can handle a greater electrical load.
Of course, you’ll have to pay for labor if you hire a professional, but you’ll also get the benefit of their expertise and ensure that your new AC unit is correctly and securely installed. Many HVAC pros also offer a warranty on their work.
DIY Window AC Installation
Most window AC units, especially smaller ones, come with an installation kit that allows you to put it in place yourself. You’ll save money on labor, though you must install the unit securely, so it doesn’t fall out of the window. You’ll probably need a utility knife, screwdriver, power drill, torpedo level, and a tape measure, and you may want some help if the unit is heavy.
A window air conditioner unit costs far less for both installation and energy bills than a central AC system, and with proper maintenance has a lifespan of about 10 years. In most cases, you can install it yourself. An Energy Star-rated AC unit will have the highest efficiency rating, and there may even be rebates to help reduce the purchase price. Look for a SEER rating of 14 or more—the higher, the better in terms of energy efficiency.
FAQ About Window AC Installation Cost
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