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How Much Does a Replacement Central Air Conditioner Cost?

Spending your summers sweating the heat because your existing air conditioning isn’t doing the job? You should consider replacing your old existing central air conditioning with a new energy and cost-efficient unit.

If you’ve lived in central Ohio for any length of time, you know that air conditioning isn’t a luxury, but an absolute necessity during the summer heat. With temperatures averaging in the mid-80’s during June, July and August, and many days going well above that, the heat can be unbearable without air conditioning.

Fortunately, newer A/C units are much more powerful, quieter and energy-efficient than earlier models (even from 10 years ago). They can help lower your energy bills dramatically and keep your home cool.

Wondering how much a new central air conditioning system will cost for your home? You’ve come to the right place!

The answer is: “it depends.”

For a basic, two-ton model, expect your investment to start at $3,000; a mid-range unit will run approximately $5,000, and top-of-the-line A/C systems can creep up over $10,000. Obviously, large complicated systems can cost much more. Keep in mind this is the lower and upper range of systems we’ve installed over the years. The only real way to determine cost is to get an estimate.

Also keep in mind that each step up the cooling ladder of increased efficiency and higher tonnage comes with a matching cost, so it’s important to match your home with the right equipment and the right contractor to get the best price. These guidelines will help you get a general idea of what you’ll pay for a new A/C unit.

Because the cost of installation depends on so many variables, the only way to get an accurate cost for your home is to get a price quote from an HVAC contractor like Pickerington Heating & Cooling.

(Fortunately, we’ve made getting a price quote painless by providing our INSTANT ONLINE QUOTE form. See below.)

Start with the Ideal Size

How do you determine what size A/C unit your home needs? You want to be sure to select one that has sufficient power to cool your house easily, without running continuously or working too hard. You also don’t want to choose an air conditioner that is too large for your home, that’s simply a waste of money.

We measure A/C units in tons, which simply refers to the amount of heat they can remove from a house in one hour. For example, a one-ton unit can remove 12,000 British thermal units (BTUs) in an hour; a 3-ton unit can remove 36,000 BTUs in an hour.

Generally speaking, the larger your home, the more tonnage you’ll need to keep it cool. An average-size home at 1,600 square feet would be well served by a 2½ ton unit.

You can’t calculate the ideal size by square footage alone, other variables may factor in. For example, if you’re cooling a finished basement, that will require less energy to cool (because it’s already naturally cooler). Upper floors further away from the A/C may require a bit more energy to keep cool. Experienced HVAC Contractors (like our estimators) will take these factors into consideration when putting your quote together.

Do You Have Existing Ductwork?

Ductwork installation can be one of the big variables in system installation cost. Unless your home is more than 25 years old, most of the time we can use existing ductwork that’s already installed, either with an existing A/C system or with your current furnace equipment.

Even in a home that has existing, usable ductwork, you can expect prices to start at about $3,000, especially with the top-rated brands that we offer like Carrier.

Does It Make Financial Sense to Install a New A/C System?

It may only make sense to install a conventional ducted A/C system if you’re building a new home or you already have a forced-air heating system with ductwork that we can tie into. Installing the ductwork that a conventional A/C system needs, in a home without ducts, is ridiculously expensive in most cases. In that case, you might want to consider a mini-ductless system or even simple window or room air conditioners. Unless, of course, you’ve just won the Lotto!

As you probably know, installing or replacing a central air conditioning system is absolute not a do-it-yourself project. It’s simply not safe or legal for an inexperienced or unlicensed individual to install the equipment. Charging the system with refrigerant is absolutely something you don’t want to try yourself (you must be EPA certified)!

What A/C Options Can Increase the Cost?

There are several factors than can raise the cost of a new air conditioner installation. For example, if you need a new thermostat, or if your house requires quite a bit of ductwork to connect your existing furnace, you’ll pay higher than an average price.

The SEER rating (see below) of a unit will be a big factor in price determination. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit will be. All units we offer have a rating of 13 SEER or higher, up to 22. Advantages of a higher SEER rating are lower energy costs and quicker cooling times.

Get the Complete Cost Picture

Remember to factor in the energy cost savings of running a new, energy efficient air conditioner. Hot summers in Columbus require almost continuous operation of an A/C system to keep your home cool. On an older system, this can push energy costs through the roof as it’s huffing and puffing to keep up.

To determine the amount of electricity that’s needed to run a new central air system, consider these two major factors:

  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a metric used to measure how much cooling a system puts out for each unit of energy it consumes. In theory, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently the air conditioner operates, and the less power it uses.
  • Cooling capacity, measured in tons. The higher the capacity, the less the system has to work to maintain the desired temperature. But you don’t want to put a huge unit on a small house, it’s important to match the tonnage to the size of the home.

Other factors that can affect the total investment of a replacement A/C system are government tax credits and utility rebates. Since air conditioners are heavy energy users, the US Government frequently offers tax credits for upgrading to a more efficient system. And the utilities have a lot of incentive to ensure their energy savings programs save consumers money because when they work, the utilities benefit. If they meet their energy reduction targets, the public utility commission may allow them a rate hike. It’s actually a win-win-win for the consumer, the government, and the utility. And the environment!

Added Bonus: Reduced Noise Levels

New air conditioning units are also much quieter than just a few years ago. Older, louder units can measure more than 80 decibels on a hot day; at 75 decibels, you’ll probably hear the A/C unit from the garage or through a nearby window; at 70 decibels, the noise will disappear into the background. Most popular brands offer low-noise, high efficiency models for an increased price.

Just to give you an idea of noise levels, Purdue University’s Chemistry Department gives us typical noise sources for each decibel level:

  • 50 dB (1/4 as loud as 70 dB)- Quiet conversation in your home
  • 60 dB (1/2 as loud as 70 dB, fairly quiet) – Conversation at a busy restaurant
  • 70 dB (upper 70s are annoyingly loud)- Running a vacuum cleaner in your home
  • 80 dB (twice as loud as 70 dB)- Running a garbage disposal in your sink

Currently, the 50-60 dB range is about as quiet as an air conditioner can get.

Information We Need to Provide an Accurate Quote

Gather this information before you start the quote request process:

  1. What is the size of your current Air Conditioning System (tons)?
  2. Where is your furnace located?
  3. What type of furnace do you have? (forced air or electric)
  4. What YEAR was your home built?
  5. What is the square footage of your home?

Get an Online Quote Instantly

Are you in the market for a new or replacement air conditioning system? Use our instant online quote form to get an accurate price quote on that new system. If you would rather speak to a live person, we always welcome a phone call to provide a written quote to you. Give us a call at 614-837-4026 during our normal business hours for a quote.