Unfortunately, manufacturers and contractors don’t publish this information…it’s a secret. Why? Who knows…but we have access to a full contractor pricing database of 1,000’s of different units in our online HVAC installation cost calculator, so let’s choose one for our example calculation. We’ll go with Carrier equipment, since our readers always bother us about them (despite us telling them that they are overpriced):
Deciding if central air is worth the cost depends on your needs and local housing market. If you live in a hotter climate, it can definitely be worth the price. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable temperature, but air conditioning can even save lives during extreme heat waves. But in a milder zone without severe temperatures, window units, fans or the breeze from an open window could be adequate.
Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but instead of transferring heat to or from outside air, they rely on the stable, even temperature of the earth to provide heating and air conditioning. Many regions experience seasonal temperature extremes, which would require large-capacity heating and cooling equipment to heat or cool buildings. For example, a conventional heat pump system used to heat a building in Montana's −70 °F (−57 °C) low temperature or cool a building in the highest temperature ever recorded in the US—134 °F (57 °C) in Death Valley, California, in 1913 would require a large amount of energy due to the extreme difference between inside and outside air temperatures. A few feet below the earth's surface, however, the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. Utilizing this large source of relatively moderate temperature earth, a heating or cooling system's capacity can often be significantly reduced. Although ground temperatures vary according to latitude, at 6 feet (1.8 m) underground, temperatures generally only range from 45 to 75 °F (7 to 24 °C).
Stick with a maximum of 16 SEER units in most cases. Like I said above, contractors push higher SEER units because they make more money, but these units can be expensive at this stage of development, and can drive up your HVAC installation cost. 21 SEER units run about twice the price of a 14 SEER unit, so unless you live in a desert and plan on being there for 30 more years... Likewise, a 16 SEER unit typically costs only about $600-$1,000 more than a 14 SEER, and will usually pay for itself over the lifetime of the unit.
Before opening the electrical cover on the A/C unit, be sure to shut off all power to the compressor unit and the indoor furnace or air handler, and verify that it is off. Note that this may mean shutting off a circuit breaker that serves the furnace and air handler, and then, near the compressor, pulling out the disconnect block (or shutting off the 220-volt power) to the outdoor compressor.