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.

Those of you who read our posts regularly know that we built our reputation as a U.S. Veteran-Owned business that prides ourselves on giving people straight, honest answers to their questions...and there’s no question that makes people cringe more than asking, what does a new HVAC installation cost? Oddly enough, most contractors keep their air conditioning installation cost a closely guarded secret, as if the knowledge of how much it should cost will somehow change your decision when you have to buy a new AC. What I will tell you, is that the fair price of an HVAC installation will vary greatly based on the type of heating and air conditioning system installed, as well as the options needed or desired (Ductwork included? Zoning system?). In this article, we’ll discuss the five system features that affect HVAC installation cost, fair price ranges you can expect to pay for your new system, we will then perform an example calculation of how you can calculate a fair price, and finally, what you can do to keep from getting ripped off on your new HVAC installation price.
We hope you found this article on a fair HVAC installation cost helpful. In the end, you’ll be alright so don’t worry too much. Do your research on reputable air conditioning contractors in your area, and spend time making sure that you have a company that you can trust – it will cost you less in the long-run, trust me. Take your time, follow the tips above, and you will end up with an HVAC installation cost that is more than reasonable, keeping your family comfortable for years to come. For more on topics like this, see: ASM’s Air Conditioning Blog.

DIY: We don’t recommend a DIY approach. Depending on the system, working with gas, electricity and refrigerant create dangers. Beyond that, it is essential that split system components be selected for compatibility. DIY installation of an HVAC system will void the warranty of most brands. The manufacturers won’t stand behind the warranty when anyone other than a certified installer does the work. This is true since improper installation is the main cause of poor system performance and mechanical breakdowns.
Air conditioning units are prone to the pitfalls of wear and tear. You can prolong this, however, with proper maintenance procedures. Without regular maintenance even an immaculate AC installation in Fort Smith, Arkansas cannot guarantee performance. Our maintenance service is thorough, leaving no area unattended. If there’s a problem, we’ll catch it early and prevent avoidable breakdowns and costly repairs.
Fresh-Aire UV is an innovation leader in the field of indoor air quality. Our award-winning UV light and carbon products fight mold, bacteria, viruses and odors in commercial and residential HVACR systems. Our products include Blue-Tube UV®, the worlds most popular germicidal UV light, the revolutionary APCO® PCO/carbon whole-house air purifier, and Mini UV the first UV light system designed specifically for mini-split AC systems.
Typically speaking, the lower SEER, more basic models are also more reliable.  Reliability is big with us, so we steer clear of features with reliability issues, and it’s as simple as that. When you factor in the price of repairs and the extra expense of the 21-SEER, you may actually lose money! 16 SEER is the sweet-spot, and it is key to reducing your HVAC installation cost.
AC air handler buzzing sounds. Do you hear a buzzing sound when you turn on the thermostat? The only thing that comes on in the house when you turn on the thermostat is the fan relay and fan in the air handler or furnace. Try switching the thermostat HEAT/COOL switch to OFF. Then switch the fan switch from AUTO to ON. The fan (only) should come on. If the air handler makes a buzzing sound, it probably has a bad fan relay or, more likely, blower fan.

Some of these components can be repaired or replaced by the homeowner, such as filters, fuses, and clogged up drain lines. Coils, compressors and the other components are best left to a professional. In some cases, you may have a system that is so old that parts are no longer available or else they aren't up to code. In this case you will have to consider replacing the entire system.
Central, "all-air" air-conditioning systems (or package systems) with a combined outdoor condenser/evaporator unit are often installed in North American residences, offices, and public buildings, but are difficult to retrofit (install in a building that was not designed to receive it) because of the bulky air ducts required. (Minisplit ductless systems are used in these situations.) Outside of North America, packaged systems are only used in limited applications involving large indoor space such as stadiums, theatres or exhibition halls.
They work less jobs, thus increasing profits – think about it…if they got only half of the jobs, then they only pay half of the money required to pay employees, expenses, etc., but still have the same amount of net profit. In fact, if you do the math, they actually make more profit that their competitors do…twice as much, once you factor in their savings form only doing half of the jobs at the same amount of profit (Total Revenue – (half the normal expenses) = twice the profit). In other words, they save money by doing half of the jobs as others, for the same profit, thus increasing their overall profits.

Natural ventilation is a key factor in reducing the spread of airborne illnesses such as tuberculosis, the common cold, influenza and meningitis. Opening doors, windows, and using ceiling fans are all ways to maximize natural ventilation and reduce the risk of airborne contagion. Natural ventilation requires little maintenance and is inexpensive.[19]
A dehumidifier is an air-conditioner-like device that controls the humidity of a room or building. It is often employed in basements which have a higher relative humidity because of their lower temperature (and propensity for damp floors and walls). In food retailing establishments, large open chiller cabinets are highly effective at dehumidifying the internal air. Conversely, a humidifier increases the humidity of a building.
If the AC doesn’t turn off, it may be time to clean the condensing unit. Dirty condenser coils won’t give off heat efficiently and will keep the unit running.  Another possibility: The contacts on the outdoor run relay may have welded together—something that can happen over time because of frequent electrical arcing at the relay. Before checking the run relay, turn off the power to the furnace and the condensing unit. Next, disassemble the relay and pry apart the contacts. This should do the trick until you buy a replacement—which you should do soon.
A BTU is the amount of energy required to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. So a 1-ton air conditioner can cool 12,000 pounds of water by one degree every hour. That’s all it means, so don’t let yourself be lost in jargon! How this affects your HVAC installation cost is that the larger your house is, the more tons will be required to heat and cool it.
American design standards are legislated in the Uniform Mechanical Code or International Mechanical Code. In certain states, counties, or cities, either of these codes may be adopted and amended via various legislative processes. These codes are updated and published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) or the International Code Council (ICC) respectively, on a 3-year code development cycle. Typically, local building permit departments are charged with enforcement of these standards on private and certain public properties.
Refrigerant Metering Device -- Every HVAC system has one of these, and heat pumps have two. They regulate the amount of refrigerant going through your air-conditioner. If it fails, either too much or too little refrigerant will course along the lines and either not perform well or will overwhelm the compressor and cause it to fail. A total failure of this component will result in a complete loss of operation.
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):
Having the most energy-efficient system ever built won't matter much if it's not maintained. Lack of maintenance is the number one killer of HVAC systems. Before each cooling season, it's recommended that your system get a professional tune-up. However, there are things you can do in the meantime to make sure your system runs efficiently throughout the year.
Humidifiers/Dehumidifiers: Humidifiers add needed moisture to the air in winter and very dry climates. Dehumidifiers remove dampness any time of the year. Central air conditioners dehumidify too, but in very humid climates, you might want to remove humidity without also cooling the air. You have a good range of options for both of these HVAC accessories. Whole-house humidifiers cost $350 to $800 installed, while dehumidifiers are $1,250 to $2,000 or slightly more.
Be careful of dishonest HVAC contractors. There’s no magical formula to see if an HVAC contractor is scamming you, unfortunately, but remember that they typically do this in one of two ways: first, they are charging grossly low prices (far below everyone else), or second, they aren’t including what everyone else is. In the first situation, they will charge you change fees, other hidden fees, or they stole the equipment and are passing themselves off as legitimate contractors (very common in California these days). In the second situation, they are charging you a very fair price, but aren’t including what the other contractors are (i.e. charging $10,500 for the installation which is fair, but not including the ductwork which is a scam unless there is some other, complex stuff going on there).
An alternative to packaged systems is the use of separate indoor and outdoor coils in split systems. Split systems are preferred and widely used worldwide except in North America. In North America, split systems are most often seen in residential applications, but they are gaining popularity in small commercial buildings. The split systems are a great choice for small buildings where ductwork is not feasible or where the space conditioning efficiency is of prime concern [20]. The benefits of ductless air conditioning systems include easy installation, no ductwork, greater zonal control, flexibility of control and quiet operation [21]. In space conditioning, the duct losses can account for 30% of energy consumption [22]. The use of minisplit can result in energy savings in space conditioning as there are no losses associated with ducting.
DIY: Most DIY installations go smoothly. The major brands have compatibility checkers to see which of their models will work with the wiring your old thermostat is using. Potential problems involve the need for a C-wire, or common wire, when the existing bundle doesn’t include one. There are solutions discussed in our Thermostat Buying Guide, linked to below.

Energy efficiency can be improved even more in central heating systems by introducing zoned heating. This allows a more granular application of heat, similar to non-central heating systems. Zones are controlled by multiple thermostats. In water heating systems the thermostats control zone valves, and in forced air systems they control zone dampers inside the vents which selectively block the flow of air. In this case, the control system is very critical to maintaining a proper temperature.


Our HVAC Ductwork Installation Cost Guide is the most comprehensive guide of its type. It fully explains the purpose of ductwork and all your options. Pricing is included for all duct types and plenums/drops too. Material and installation costs are listed. Ductwork cost varies greatly by the size and type of duct plus the complexity of the installation, but you can expect to pay $10.20 to $17.25 per linear foot installed.
You can adjust for seasons: During the summer, you can have the air conditioner stay off during the cooler morning hours and start cooling the house as everyone gets up and starts moving around. During the winter, you can have your heater stay off while you are away at work and turn on about a half hour or so before you get home so that you are coming home to a nice, warm house.
So, naturally I respond with, “you don’t tell your doctor which medication to prescribe you, do you?” The point is, on the residential level, who you get to install your HVAC unit is far more important than which unit you choose.  Keep your options open and let your HVAC contractor make a few recommendations – that’s why you spent time finding a reputable contractor!
Consequently, this water must exit the air handler—typically through plastic pipe or a drain tube. That drain tube goes directly outside, often terminating near the compressor, or to a floor drain or to a small electric “condensate pump” located by the air handler. Where a condensate pump is used, it connects to a 1/2-inch vinyl or rubber tube that exits outdoors or to a drain.
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