Prices for central-air HVAC systems will vary. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670 but can run as high as $5,000 or even $12,000 depending on the capacity you need and other factors. Installing central air conditioning requires an entire system that works together to draw hot air out of your home. The system includes an outdoor unit, which houses the condenser and compressor, and the evaporator coils. If you don’t have an existing duct system, ductwork will need to be installed, which will affect labor and material costs. Leaking or damaged ducts will also need to be replaced.
Whether you’re starting your air conditioner for the first time this year, or a unit isn’t running properly and you need to service an air conditioner, following a few simple steps can save you time and money. While some service jobs should be left to a professional, there are several do-it-yourself fixes you can do to keep your air conditioner cooling all summer long.
Ventilating or ventilation (the V in HVAC) is the process of exchanging or replacing air in any space to provide high indoor air quality which involves temperature control, oxygen replenishment, and removal of moisture, odors, smoke, heat, dust, airborne bacteria, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Ventilation removes unpleasant smells and excessive moisture, introduces outside air, keeps interior building air circulating, and prevents stagnation of the interior air.
Compressor -- Compressors are outdoor components in your system. The compressor is the pump that circulates the refrigerants through the air-conditioner. You can hear it when it's running so you'll know if it's working just by listening. If it starts getting louder, your compressor is about to fail. If it makes no sound when it should be on, it has already failed. Compressors fail for a number of reasons. Most often they fail due to strain from another failed part such as the fan motor. Electrical storms can also damage compressors. If the sound from the compressor gets louder or if you see a decrease in performance, you should have your compressor checked. A failed compressor will not heat or cool your house.
Before we get to HVAC installation prices, we will first need to briefly discuss some terms, definitions, and factors that will affect how an honest HVAC installation company determines their prices. Notice that I said honest. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there. There always have been, there always will be, and there is a good chance that you had an experience with such a contractor, which is what drove you to read this article. I can’t teach you how to tell if someone is honest, but I can give you the knowledge to help you decide. Take a look at How to Choose an HVAC Contractor for tips on what to look for.
I originally took off one star because of the SNAFU with getting the part ordered. When Alberto called me on the phone he admitted the person had "gotten busy with other things" and apologized. THAT was taking the high road and I was impressed by that. Sadly, for reasons I won't guess at, Alberto has decided to take the low road in his comments and imply that they got the part as quickly as possible. Well, we called at 2:30 so did someone spend six and a half hours finding the part?? That seems very doubtful.
At the state level the rebates are still substantial. For example, switching to a zoned system can get you a $100 rebate from various A/C companies, and state rebates are also included. In Pennsylvania a high-efficiency air conditioner alone can get you up to $300, and a high-efficiency complete HVAC system can see up to $1000. Maryland's incentives get up to $1,250, with a $100 rebate on a tune up of an existing system.
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.
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.
PickHVAC Tips: Installing the right size central air conditioner is extremely important. Have a load calculation done to ensure proper sizing. ACs that are too big aren’t as energy-efficient as they should be, and they cycle on and off too much. This creates over-cooling and temperature imbalance. Units that are too small run constantly in very hot weather and can’t keep your home cool. When an air conditioner is properly sized, it runs at optimal efficiency and indoor comfort.
The performance of vapor compression refrigeration cycles is limited by thermodynamics. These air conditioning and heat pump devices move heat rather than convert it from one form to another, so thermal efficiencies do not appropriately describe the performance of these devices. The Coefficient-of-Performance (COP) measures performance, but this dimensionless measure has not been adopted. Instead, the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) has traditionally been used to characterize the performance of many HVAC systems. EER is the Energy Efficiency Ratio based on a 35 °C (95 °F) outdoor temperature. To more accurately describe the performance of air conditioning equipment over a typical cooling season a modified version of the EER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), or in Europe the ESEER, is used. SEER ratings are based on seasonal temperature averages instead of a constant 35 °C (95 °F) outdoor temperature. The current industry minimum SEER rating is 14 SEER.[dead link]
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system. Both the heating and the central air conditioning units share a ductwork system where they either push in or pull out warm or cooled air. There are also heating and cooling systems that don’t require ductwork — such as ductless mini-splits — but work on the same principles of heat exchange. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670, with costs varying depending on the work you need done and the equipment you are installing.
If you’re anything like most of our readers, you’ve spent hours online researching HVAC information in preparation for replacing your old heater or air conditioner. I’m the same way; it’s a big investment! You may want to consider saving yourself some time and money by getting an HVAC-Facts Report from this online HVAC installation cost calculator. Take a look:
Filtration systems -- A second-stage filter is sometimes inserted & used to remove particulates such as pets, smoking or cooking, as well as other odors, gases, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). A HEPA filter is also available to remove spores, pollens, bacteria and lung-damaging particles. There are also systems that use ultraviolet (UV) light to protect against bacteria and germs.
PickHVAC Tips: Don’t be sold on systems with features you don’t want or need. Called “upselling,” it is rampant in the HVAC industry. Some features are nice – if you want them. If your single-stage furnace was loud and pushed out cold air at the start of the cycle, then a two-stage model will improve those issues. If you didn’t notice them, the upgrade will be a waste of money. That’s just one common example.
As you can see, if we know what the contractor is actually paying for specific equipment, we know what their labor rates are, and we know what they bid the project for, then we can also use some basic algebra (or just let the program do it for us because we’re lazy) to figure out how much of a profit they are making off of us (you) at different bid prices:
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.
Clean the condenser fan blades before the start of the cooling season. Brush any dust or debris off gently and then uncover the condenser coils, gently cleaning the dirty side. Then wrap the motor and other electrical components in plastic bags and gently spray from the inside with a hose. Now check the base pan under the unit and clear it out of any debris that has gathered.
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It seems all the average costs for a complete heating and cooling system replacement I've found on websites are usually at least 1/4 less, mostly half lower, then quotes I've gotten from companies. The worst quote I got was from One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (the company with the Mike Rowe commercials), for over $15,000! I finally settled on a Carrier dealer, for $10,700 & I'll get $950 of that back in energy co rebates eventually. The company I went with's basic system would have been around $8800 (the only one that sorta matched up with web avg cost). They did all the correct planning as far as I could see, not like One Hour, who just showed me a price guide for the same size units already in place. And they do all the rebate paperwork and submit it to the energy co, One Hour never even mentioned possible rebates! Plus Carrier gets above avg reviews. I would have greatly liked a price under 9 grand, but this company got me 0% APR financing, so at least nothing out of pocket. My advice is stay away from national chains, and shop around with local area companies. Of course, One Hour says local companies will fold before you need warranty service lol. For their cost, there should be a technician living in his work van outside my house hahaha.
Outdoor Fan Motor -- The outdoor fan, also called the condenser fan, is exposed to external conditions. As such it is most prone to dust and debris and the extreme weather. In desert climates, the outdoor fan motor is subject to heat not only from normal operation but from the outside temperature as well. As it starts to fail, the fan may work fine in the cooler morning hours but stop by afternoon. This can shut down the entire system for hours. When they stop running completely, your air conditioner will no longer work. Running a faulty fan will lead to compressor failure, which is a very costly repair.
Since the 1980s, manufacturers of HVAC equipment have been making an effort to make the systems they manufacture more efficient. This was originally driven by rising energy costs, and has more recently been driven by increased awareness of environmental issues. Additionally, improvements to the HVAC system efficiency can also help increase occupant health and productivity. In the US, the EPA has imposed tighter restrictions over the years. There are several methods for making HVAC systems more efficient.
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.