Having a central air conditioner is an easy and convenient means of staying cool and comfortable while controlling your home’s energy efficiency and output on those hot summer days. Different types of central air conditioners will inevitably come with its own costs, which will vary from household to household. But how much does central air conditioning cost? Read on to learn more about the cost of air conditioning installation below.             

How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air Conditioning?

Installation costs for central air-conditioning systems can vary based on the HVAC contractor you hire, where you live, if you need heating and cooling replacement instead, and the type of air conditioning system you want. How much does a new central air-conditioning unit cost? On average, you can expect installation cost alone to be between $3,000 to $7,000, which includes the unit. The three main factors involved with the installation costs include pre-installation evaluation, the existing ductwork, and the unit itself.

Pre-Installation Evaluation

Prior to even wheeling in the indoor unit, the contractor will have to inspect and audit your home. The most important of these is the Manual J load calculation, which measures the amount of heat that your house absorbs throughout the day. This helps your contractor estimate the type and size of central air conditioning that would work best in your home.

This evaluation should also include an assessment of potential energy inefficiencies in your home, including air leaks, damage in the ducts, or insulation issues.


Depending on the type of air conditioning system that you and your contractor decide on, you may require ducts in your home. If you don’t have existing ductwork, you can expect costs to almost double thanks to an increase in labor, materials, and time involved.

However, even if you do have existing ducts, you may not be out of the woods. Older ductwork can sometimes have trouble handling the airflow of modern air conditioning systems. You may otherwise require more space for vents, coils, or refrigerant lines. Upgrading or replacing your ducts will also increase installation costs, but you will save in utility bills in the long run.

The good news is that not all central air conditioning systems require ducts. Talk to your contractor to determine what would work best for your personal budget and needs.

The Unit

Once it’s all said and done, most of the average cost comes down to the unit itself. There are a variety of different types of central air conditioning, including split systems, mini-split systems, heat pump systems, and packaged systems. This usually depends on your home’s structure and your contractor’s assessment.

Along with the type of central air system, you will have to determine the best size for your home. Bigger isn’t always better. You may be wasting money on an unnecessarily large central air conditioning unit, which will cost even more money as you use it. The size usually comes down to the load calculation from the initial audit. 

The Cost of Operation

Once you have your new central air conditioning unit installed and ready to use, you have to contend with the energy use that comes with operating the actual unit. There’s no real way to know exactly how much your central air conditioning will cost from month to month. Take into consideration the near-endless variables that can affect the cost to install, including:

  • The size and square footage of your home
  • The type of air conditioning system you have
  • Insulation condition
  • The type of window units you have
  • General climate and temperature

These factors can cause one homeowner’s utility costs to be hundreds of dollars more than someone else’s. If you want to try to math it out, you can get a general estimate of an HVAC installation cost by using your air conditioner system’s wattage, the price per kWh your utility provider charges, and the number of hours per day that your air conditioning system runs.

Still, even with that information, your price and energy usage can vary, especially as your air conditioner gets older. This is why regular maintenance is important, ensuring you are energy efficient and reasonable costs. Take care of your central air conditioning system, and it will take care of you.