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how much does an air conditioning unit cost?

How Much Is an Air Conditioning Unit?

With rising heat around the country, including some excessive heat in unexpected parts of the country, more people than ever are considering getting an air conditioning unit. Of course, this means that people are asking many questions about air conditioners, including how much they cost. The problem is that it’s not a simple question to answer.

For a quick reference, an air conditioning unit for a home or small office might cost anywhere from as little as $150 for a small window unit to $20,000+ for a fully installed system of either central AC or ductless split system.

Breaking Down the Air Conditioner Cost

When you are looking at air conditioning units, you have to be aware that there is not just one cost, but many costs. In general, these can be broken down into two categories: the price of the air conditioning unit itself and the cost of installation.

It’s worth considering these costs separately.

Factors in Air Conditioner Unit Cost

The air conditioning unit itself can have a wide range of costs. At the low end, a small window unit might cost around $150. In contrast, a full-size central air conditioner for a home or small office might approach $10,000, although an average cost is more likely in the $4,000-6,000 range. Industrial air conditioners for an aircraft hangar or garage might be even more.

Type of Air Conditioner

cost of air conditioning installationAir conditioning units come in many types. Central AC units, ductless split units, and window units are the most common.

Central AC units are large air conditioning systems intended to push cool air through your home using a series of ducts. They can be quite expensive, starting around $2,000 and ranging up to $10,000 for residential and small office applications. However, they do offer a good combination of cooling for their cost – you can keep your entire house cooled with a properly rated central AC unit.

Ductless split units are installed in certain rooms and provide localized cooling. Because they don’t vary as much in size, they also don’t range as much in cost, so each unit costs about $1,000-2,000.

Window AC units are the least expensive type of air conditioner. They are designed to sit in your window, venting heat outside and usually having the ability to take air from either the inside or the outside. Window AC units can cost from $150-$1,000, based on their size.

Another type of air conditioning unit is geothermal. This is a combination unit that provides cooling in the summer and heat in the winter. These units are harder to separate from installation costs because you can’t easily plug them into your existing house. Expect to pay $10,000-$24,000 for one of these systems. Installation can run another $3,000-12,000.

Size of Air Conditioner

As you’ve probably noticed, one of the biggest factors in air conditioning unit cost is the size of the unit. Typically, the size of the unit is rated in either BTU (British thermal units) or in tons. You can convert these two units to each other when making comparisons: 1 ton of cooling = 12,000 BTUs.

How do BTUs convert to coverage in terms of cooling footage? That’s less precise. For small AC units, count on needing 40 BTUs of cooling per square foot. However, large units benefit from an economy of scale, and you might only need 25 BTUs per square foot. For quick guidance, check this buying guide from the Energy Star program.

Efficiency of Air Conditioners

Speaking of energy, not all air conditioners are created equal. Some are more efficient than others, which you can tell from their SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The higher the SEER rating, the less energy it uses for the same cooling. Air conditioning units with a higher SEER rating cost more.

Here’s a quick caveat: high SEER ratings pay for themselves in dollars and cents in about ten years. In addition, you’re investing in other things:

Factors in Air Conditioner Installation Cost

Installation is a separate category of cost that you have to factor in when talking about the price of an air conditioning unit. Window units are the only type of air conditioning unit that doesn’t require installation. You might be able to do that yourself. However, an improperly installed window unit can fall, damaging the unit and potentially causing injury. Plus, condensed water from an air conditioning unit can cause damage to the house or result in illness if not properly drained.

The installation cost for a ductless split system is relatively consistent, running $300-1,500 per unit. Installation cost for a central air conditioning unit can run from $4,000-10,000. Here are some factors that can contribute to installation costs.

air conditioning installation costs

Furnace Limitations

If you’re installing a central AC unit, it will usually use the blower in your furnace and share the furnace’s ducts. However, this might mean that you may potentially have to replace your furnace when you install the central air conditioning unit if the furnace doesn’t have the characteristics to support your air conditioner.

New Ductwork?

Other times, your furnace ductwork might not be sufficient to distribute cool air to the house. Maybe your home doesn’t even have any ductwork. It can get quite expensive to install new ducts, and the highest installation costs come from this part of the process.

Electrical Capacity

You might also need to upgrade the electrical capacity to support your air conditioning unit. This can be most expensive for ductless split systems, which might require you to upgrade several circuits and run new wiring in several places.

Evaporative Coolers with No Installation Cost

If you are contemplating cooling systems, you might find that an air conditioning unit is too expensive for you, considering the unit itself, the installation cost, and the cost to run them. However, there are other cooling options.

Consider cooling your home with an evaporative cooler. Evaporative coolers run more efficiently, and they can be very effective for cooling large spaces. Portacool evaporative coolers offer another benefit because they don’t require installation.

Do you have more questions about air conditioning unit costs? Since 1990, Portacool has been manufacturing evaporative coolers at our Center, Texas facility, and we have become recognized as a leader in the industry. Check out more information on our website.

If you are considering a Portacool evaporative cooler for your home or business, please visit a local or online retailer. If you have more questions about our evaporative coolers, please contact us today.6+