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):


Some systems include an "economizer mode", which is sometimes called a "free-cooling mode". When economizing, the control system will open (fully or partially) the outside air damper and close (fully or partially) the return air damper. This will cause fresh, outside air to be supplied to the system. When the outside air is cooler than the demanded cool air, this will allow the demand to be met without using the mechanical supply of cooling (typically chilled water or a direct expansion "DX" unit), thus saving energy. The control system can compare the temperature of the outside air vs. return air, or it can compare the enthalpy of the air, as is frequently done in climates where humidity is more of an issue. In both cases, the outside air must be less energetic than the return air for the system to enter the economizer mode.


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.

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Installing a split system may involve making modifications to the house itself for the necessary lines to be run. The heat exchangers are also more prone to picking up debris and must be cleaned on a regular basis. While they come with protective screens over the fan, care must still be taken to ensure that nothing gets in, especially in a home with children.
PickHVAC Tips: Oil burns dirty, so it is important to have your plenum and ducts checked to see if they should be cleaned when replacing an oil furnace. If you don’t clean the plenum and ducts when replacing the furnace, the new furnace might not run as efficiently and comfortably as possible due to restricted airflow. This can also reduce the oily smell sometimes associated with oil furnaces.
Installation: Replacement is quite easy, especially when an old refrigerant line set can be used. If the set is worn, it’s much better to pay the extra $400-$600 to replace it rather than risking it leaking later. When your AC loses refrigerant, you lose your cool air and the compressor is at risk of failing. A new installation means installing a coil in your furnace or air handler, running the line set between it and the coil in the condensing unit and adding refrigerant, if needed. Most ACs come pre-charged for 20-30 feet of line. If the line set is longer, a small amount of refrigerant is added.
Knowing what you should be paying for your HVAC equipment and installation is essential to getting a fair deal. Most HVAC prices aren’t advertised. Contractor strategy is to get a salesperson into your home to sell you on a package of equipment, accessories and installation. This makes comparing systems difficult, and some sales pressure might be applied.

If your compressor doesn’t have an overload button and you hear it humming or buzzing, poke a screwdriver or stick down through the top grille and try to spin the fan blades clockwise. If doing this gives the fan enough of a boost to get it going, the unit has a faulty capacitor that must be replaced. See How to Test and Replace an AC Run Capacitor, above.
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