Table of Contents for this Page
- How Much Does a Central Air Unit Cost
- Installed Cost of Central AC Units
- Average Total Costs
- Overview of Central Air Conditioners
- Central AC Cost Factors
- Installation Supplies Cost Details
- Permits, Inspection, Related Costs and Installation Time
- Related Projects
- What To Expect when You Call a Service Provider
- DIY or Hire a Pro for this Project?
- Comparison Costs from Leading Resources
- Common Questions and Answers about Central AC Replacement
Installation or Replacement Cost of a Central AC Unit
The average cost to replace your central air conditioner condensing unit and evaporator coil is $5,850, installed by a local HVAC company. While we do not recommend it, homeowners can buy a condensing unit and coil online which cost around $1,400 – $2,750. Finding a company to install it will be a challenge and unless you are experienced with HVAC replacement, it’s not an easy DIY project.
Professional AC unit installation costs between $3,400 – $7,275, which usually includes the AC unit condensing unit (outside unit), a matching evaporator coil (inside of air handler or furnace), recharging the refrigerant as needed, cleaning the drain line, inspections as needed, all labor and warranty of workmanship, removal and disposal of all old equipment.
If other equipment is needed, like a furnace or air handler, expect the cost to rise accordingly.
Overview of Central AC Units
If you live in an area with a long cooling season, having a central air installed at your home is very common. In fact, according to the US Energy Information Administration, AC systems have quickly become standard equipment on most newly built homes in all of the US, where smaller window units used to be the rule. The AC unit itself, is just one piece of a complete HVAC system, including the AC condensing unit, evaporator coil, forced air furnace or air handler, air ducts, thermostat, and more.
For this Costimate, we’re going to help you understand more about your central air conditioner replacement cost, as it relates to replacing the outdoor ac unit and evaporator coil only. Since your HVAC system is an expensive home repair, we’ll also explain some of the other components that may need to be changed out at the same time, as well as how you can save money by replacing the entire hvac system at the same time. Throughout this page you’ll learn about factors that affect unit cost for central air, installation cost, and what others who have replaced their own central air conditioners have paid.
AC Unit and Evaporator Coil Replacement Cost Factors
Aside from the AC installation costs, the most costly component of a central air conditioner, is the outdoor ac unit itself. In order to do it right, at minimum you’re going to have to replace the outdoor condenser unit and a matched evaporator coil. Assuming nothing else is wrong with the air handler or furnace, these two components will restore central air conditioning to your home. Since this is going to be one of the higher cost home improvements you’ll make, it’s important to understand the options and how they affect the replacement ac unit price as well as the impact on efficiency, longevity and most important your comfort for the next 12-15 years.
- Size of AC Unit (Cooling BTU / Tons)
Central AC units range from 1.5 tons (18,000 btu) to 5 tons (60,000 btu) in most residential systems. You don’t get to choose a size when replacing an existing unit, the size is determined by the other components already installed, that your new ac unit needs to work with. There may be some leeway, but most often there’s not.
- SEER Rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)
Ranging from 13-21 SEER, higher values are more efficient to operate and cost more at the time of purchase.
- Type of Compressor
AC Compressors are either single or two-stage. Single stage is cheaper and two-stage are generally found on very high efficiency systems.
- Sound or Noise Level (db)
Noise from the outside condensing unit can range from 50 – 100 or more decibels. The quieter the unit is, the more its going to cost you.
- Condition and Size of Existing Refrigerant Lineset
The refrigerant lineset is a set of copper (most common) lines that connect the outdoor ac unit to the indoor evaporator coil. If you’re switching from an older R22 refrigerant to R410 refrigerant, the contractor may insist on it being changed out at the same time to avoid contaminants. Likewise, if the old unit uses a different sized lineset, they’ll need to change it out in order for the new ac unit to work properly.
- Length and Type of Warranty
All central air conditioner units come with a standard parts replacement warranty that will range from 5 years on lower priced models, to 10 years and beyond on the compressor and other parts. Extended part warranties are available, as well as service and installation cost warranties directly from your contractor.
- Consumer Brand Ratings
Consumer ratings of the brand you purchase will have an effect on price as well. On the lower end you’ll find brands like Goodman, York, Amana and others. On the high end of HVAC brand rand ratings for central air conditioners, you’ll find American Standard, Trane, Carrier, Bryant and others. You can expect to pay a slightly higher cost for higher rated brands.
Note: Since you’re replacing just the central air unit and inside coil, there are going to be limits on what you can install. The outdoor unit and evaporator coil must be compatible with the rest of the hvac system it will be matched to. If you need a larger unit to better cool your home, you’ll probably need to replace the entire system.
Costs by AC Unit and Coil Size
The price list below is for the equipment and installation from a local HVAC company based on the size of the AC unit.
|AC Unit & Coil Size (Tons and Cooling BTU’s)||Average Installed Cost with Labor|
|1.5 Ton AC Unit (18,000 BTU)||$1,620 – $3,150|
|2 Ton AC Unit (24,000 BTU)||$1,800 – $3,950|
|2.5 Ton AC Unit (30,000 BTU)||$2,245 – $4,850|
|3 Ton AC Unit (36,000 BTU)||$2,810 – $5,960|
|3.5 Ton AC Unit (42,000 BTU)||$3,310 – $6,450|
|4 Ton AC Unit (48,000 BTU)||$3,770 – $6,950|
|5 Ton AC Unit (60,000 BTU)||$4,210 – $7,290|
Costs by SEER Rating (Unit Efficiency)
Installed cost of an average size 2.5 to 3 ton AC unit and coil, based on SEER rating. The AC unit and evaporator must be matched with a proper TXV and installed at the same time to achieve the proper Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER Rating)
|AC Unit & Coil SEER Rating||Average Installed Cost with Labor|
|13 SEER AC Unit||$1,920 – $3,450|
|14 – 15 SEER AC Unit||$2,810 – $5,960|
|16 – 17 SEER AC Unit||$3,645 – $6,250|
|18 – 21 SEER AC Unit||$4,110 – $6,920|
|22 – 24 SEER AC Unit||$4,910 – $7,850|
|25 SEER and Higher AC Units||$5,810 – $9,450|
Cost of HVAC Equipment and Installation Supplies
Outside of the labor cost to install, the equipment and parts make up a good bit of what it cost for an AC unit replacement or installation.
AC Unit & Matching Evaporator Coil Costs
The price list below is for the equipment only. The range covers wholesale costs that you could purchase it for online (not recommended) as well as the discounted pricing the dealers get with preferred partnerships at the various brand manufacturers.
- 1.5 ton AC and coil – $960 – $1,600
- 2 ton AC and coil – $1,130 – $3,150
- 2.5 ton AC and coil – $1,460 – $3,420
- 3 ton AC and coil – $1,860 – $3,950
- 3.5 ton AC and coil – $2,460 – $4,390
- 4 ton AC and coil – $2,700 – $4,930
- 5 ton AC and coil – $2,910 – $5,300
Parts and installation Supplies
We include this cost of supplies section in the installation cost area, since most homeowners don’t clearly understand other expenses that are included when they see a contractor price quote. Your installation may or may not require all of these items, but most do.
- $35 – $100 | Miscellaneous copper tubing and fittings.
- $150 – $300 | Copper line-set tubing to connect indoor and outdoor unit. (Not always needed, most common when changing refrigerant or sizing)
- $40 – $760 | New thermostat if needed.
- $15 – $50 | Condensate drain line pipe and fittings.
- $50 – $150 | Sheet metal transition or plenum supplies.
- $10 – $50 | Misc fasteners and screws, metal seam tape, etc.
- $25 – $75 | Outdoor condensing unit pad.
- $40 – $250 | Electrical wire, disconnect, supplies and/or circuit breaker.
Permits, Inspection, and Installation Costs
Since you will be connecting to the electrical and mechanical systems (power disconnect, duct, drain line) on your home, chances are very good that you’ll need a permit and inspection to finalize your central air installation. Check with your local code enforcement office, or ask your contractor.
Permit and Inspection Costs
- $50 – $200 ea. | Mechanical and Other Inspections
Your contractor is usually required to be present during all HVAC mechanical inspections.
AC Installation Cost and Time
There is no general rule-of-thumb pricing system in place with HVAC contractors. Some will use a flat-rate pricing system and others will charge you by the hour. Flat rate installation costs are typically determined with a set of variables, that multiply the wholesale cost of ac equipment and supplies, with additional factors for overhead and profit, and a final calculation based on the difficulty of installation. Hourly rates are determined by how much money the company needs to earn per hour, per person, plus overhead and profit.
- $60 – $90 per-hour | Lead Mechanical Installer
- $60 – $75 per-hour | Apprentice and Helpers
Completed Installation Time
You can expect at least 2, and possibly 3 installers to replace your central ac unit. On average, it will take 4-6 hours for simple projects, and 5-8 for the most common installations, and 8 hours or more for more difficult installations involving duct modifications, crawl spaces, 3rd floor attics, etc. That does not include travel time to/from your home, time to pickup new equipment, etc.
- 4-6 hours | Simple Installation
Easy outdoor, utility room or garage access to all central ac unit components, replacing with a matching unit and coil, connect to existing thermostat through your existing refrigerant lineset.
- 5-8 hours | Most Common Installation
Indoor closets, or basement location, with sheet metal transition work, connect to existing drain and lineset, install new thermostat, etc.
- 8 hours or more | Difficult Installations
Attic and crawl space installations that are hard to reach. Considerable duct work, replacement copper linesets, new electrical service, programmable thermostat, etc.
We’ve found the HVAC projects listed below to be commonly related to having a central air conditioner installed, or other HVAC repairs closely related to this type.
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What To Expect when an HVAC Company Shows Up to Replace an AC Unit and Coil
If you call an HVAC service professional to diagnose your central ac issue and provide a repair or replacement quote, which is advised for this type of project, they’ll need access to specific areas in your home as well as the yard itself. Once the diagnosis is completed and they’ve determined the AC unit and coil need to be replaced, they’ll provide a detailed quote. Once you’ve agreed on a company and price to replace the ac unit and coil, they’ll get you on their work calendar and complete the changeout.
Preparing for the HVAC Replacement Crew to Arrive
Listed below are a few things to expect when the HVAC installation crew comes to your home.
- They’ll need easy access to the yard and inside unit – Regardless of where your AC unit and the evaporator coil are located, the install team is going to need to easily get to those areas. You should clear the entryway access to the area, as well as assuring they can obtain easy access to the yard.
Common areas they may need to go:
- Your backyard, where the outside AC condensing unit is located. If you have a lot of weeds or plant growth around the unit, you should clear a space about 1-2 feet wide around the entire unit. (Note: This also allows your unit to operate more efficiently and is likely suggested by the manufacturer.)
- Access to the attic, garage, crawl space or utility closet where the furnace or air handler and evaporator coil are located.
- Access to your electrical circuit breaker box.
- Hallway or inside wall where the thermostat is mounted.
- Ability to access return air filters, usually on the surface of walls or ceilings.
- If you have pets, be prepared to segregate them from the workers.
Upon Arrival on the Day of the AC Replacement
You can expect at least one service company vehicle and possibly 2 or more if the system is a more complicated change out.
- After greeting you, the lead installer will most likely walk the other service technicians around your home and explain their job duties to them. This will include indoor and outdoor walks around your home and property. It’s not uncommon to have 1-2 workers outside, and 1-2 workers inside the home for this type of a AC system change out.
- If your system is still operational, they’ll run the unit and trap all refrigerant inside the old compressor. (New units are pre-charged with refrigerant)
- After shutting off the thermostat, they’ll turn off the outside electrical disconnect near the condensing unit. They’ll also trip the breaker to the air handler or furnace inside the home, to assure no power goes to the system.
- Once power is removed, they’ll remove all electric and refrigerant lines from the outside condensing unit. Inside, they’ll disassemble the condensate lines, the indoor coil and plenum, as well as any other items that may be connected to the coil.
- Once everything is removed, the new equipment will be fit into place and properly secured.
- If the refrigerant lineset is in good condition and staying in place, they will attach a pump and pull a vacuum on the lines to assure that they are not only leak free, but also free of any contaminants that could affect the new unit and refrigerant. In all cases, a new refrigerant line filter should be installed to the lineset.
- Once everything is satisfactory, the outdoor unit will be reconnected to all electrical and refrigerant lines, as well as reconnected to the thermostat wiring.
- Inside, the evaporator coil will be properly matched to the plenum, sealed and/or taped to assure no air leaks, and all lines reconnected.
- After an initial inspection by the crew leader, the system will be restarted and checked that it meets the manufacturer suggested temperatures (At coil and vents) and tolerances, to assure a long life.
- Upon completion, the crew will clean up any debris and signs they were inside or outside your home, including the removal of all old equipment.
- If you purchased a new thermostat, a technician should walk you through it’s use and answer any questions you might have about the thermostat, the system, or their services.
- If your area requires permits (electric and/or mechanical) and inspections, this will usually be done several days later than the installation.
DIY or Hire a Pro
Without a doubt, installing a central air conditioner is a job best left to a pro. While many DIY’ers could probably handle the mechanical portion of the installation, its very uncommon that you would have the specialty tools and certifications to handle refrigerants, braze copper tubing, etc.
- Requires refrigerant handling certification.
- Requires many specialty tools and skills. (vacuum pump, high temp torch, brazing, etc)
- You need to be fairly knowledgeable in mechanical, ducting, sheet metal, plumbing, electric, etc.
- You need to get mechanical inspection by local code officials.
Trying to install your own system to save on the cost to install central air can go wrong and cost you much more very quickly. I consider myself an 8/10 on the handyman scale, and I would hire a pro to do this job every time.
Compare Costs from Leading Resources
- Fire and Ice HVAC: $4,350-$12,095, Includes Labor, Permits and Inspection
- Modernize: $3,200 - $7,800, AC Unit and Coil Installed
- HomeAdvisor: $5,690, Average Cost for AC Unit Replacement
- HomeGuide: $2,500 - $7,500, 2-3 Ton AC Unit Replacement
- Atlas AC Repair: $3,200 - $4,200, Outdoor AC Unit Replacement
- Fixr: $7,000, 3.5 Ton 16 SEER AC Unit Replacement
Common Questions and Answers
Are You Required to Change the Coil?
Unless you are replacing an AC unit less than 5-6 years old with an exact model replacement, it's highly advised to change the coil at the same time. If you're having an HVAC company change out the AC unit, they are going to require you to change the coil at the same time.
How Long Does a Central AC Unit Last?
A properly installed and maintained AC unit should last 12-15 years or longer. We've replaced units that were in place for more than 30 years, with yearly maintenance and several part replacements.
Does the Lineset Need to be Changed when Replacing an AC Unit?
This depends on a lot of factors such as condition, type of refrigerant and size of the refrigerant lineset. If it is in good condition, properly sized and the same refrigerant, they may not need to replace the lineset and can simply pull a hard vacuum to assure it's clean.
Do the AC Unit and Evaporator Coil Need to be the Same Size?
Yes. In order to achieve the proper efficiency advertised on the unit, the coil and ac unit must be the same size, the same SEER rating, same refrigerant, etc.