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How Much Does it Cost to Install a New Air Conditioner?

Outdoor ac unit

It’s been a hot one this summer! Before we transition into cooler weather and start to lean more on our furnaces, it’s time to take stock of our cooling system. Whether you’re installing an AC for the first time or you suspect yours on its last season, you’re likely wondering how much a new AC will run you. The cost of a new air conditioner will vary based on a number of factors. Let’s break down when exactly it’s time to replace your air conditioner and how much you can expect to pay for the project. 

How Do I Know If It’s Time to Replace My AC? 

As a general rule of thumb, you can assume that your air conditioner will likely need to be replaced once it’s around 10 - 15 years old. There are a couple of other signs to look out for as well. 

  • A sudden spike in your energy bill
  • Abnormal sounds such as pops, grinding, or scraping
  • Weak air pressure 
  • Frequent repairs 
  • Odor such as mold, mildew, or smoke
  • Your AC uses R-22 refrigerant (it was discontinued in 2010) 

How Much Will A New AC Cost? 

There are quite a few factors that will determine how much an AC installation will cost. According to Bob Vila, the national average for a central air conditioning unit is $5,644 but you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,810 to $7,480. This price point will vary depending on factors such as the unit size and brand, ductwork needs, SEER rating, and any possible repairs. 

Other types of AC units will be priced slightly differently.

Factors That Affect AC Installation Cost

In addition to the unit cost, the overall cost of AC installation will depend on the scenario. The cost of labor and the scope of the project will affect how much you’ll pay. It will also vary based on the climate you live in, the size of your home, material prices, and more. But don’t fret, the benefits of a new AC pay for themselves in avoided repair costs and energy costs.  


The state of your ductwork or lack thereof will factor into the overall cost of installing an AC. If you don’t have existing ductwork and you’re installing central air, you can expect to pay roughly  $1900 - $6000 for labor. Over time, ductwork can also start to break down. Before you install a new AC, you’ll likely need to do a duct inspection. If the contractor finds that you need to update your ductwork, this will also be an additional cost. Repairing or replacing existing ductwork will be about $1400 - $5600

System Type 

Most homeowners will choose to install central AC due to the convenience. But if you don’t have a need to cool your entire home or perhaps you are looking to save money on energy costs, you may choose to install a different type of system. Options such as ductless mini splits, window units, and portable units are cheaper since they don’t require ductwork. 

System Size 

The size of your system will depend on the size of your home. It takes roughly 18 BTUs to cool one square foot of a room. Easily calculate the size you need by multiplying the total square footage of your home by 18. Be sure to divide this by 1.25 if you have high ceilings. Divide this figure by 12,000 to get the proper system size. Your HVAC technician will also be able to help you determine the size you will need. The larger the system size, the more the unit will cost.  

Climate and SEER Rating 

The type of climate you live in will determine how much an AC installation will cost as well. Hotter climates tend to require more power or else they will wear down quicker than ideal. The SEER –or seasonal energy efficiency ratio– is used to determine what type of unit will work most optimally and efficiently for your home. 

You can find this figure in your operations manual if you already have an AC. But you can also calculate it by dividing the annual cooling output by the total electric energy input. Most homes will be able to get away with installing an AC with a SEER rating of 16 to 18. An AC with a 16 - 18 SEER rating installed in a 1200-square-foot home will likely cost about $3,000 and $4,000. 


Just like any other good, the cost of an AC unit will vary depending on the brand as well.  Each option will come with its own set of special features, benefits, and drawbacks. You can lean on your HVAC technician to help you select the best option possible. 

Stay Informed When You Install a New AC 

There are a lot of moving parts involved in what an AC installation will cost. You have to factor in whether you need ductwork or not, the type of AC unit you’re interested in, the size of your home, and more. But a good HVAC technician will be able to guide you through the process and help you determine a solid figure on how much you will need to pay. 

Are you in the Central Pennsylvania area? Get in touch with WM Buffington today for any and all of your AC installation needs. We can’t wait to serve you! 

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