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.
All modern air conditioning systems, even small window package units, are equipped with internal air filters. These are generally of a lightweight gauze-like material, and must be replaced or washed as conditions warrant. For example, a building in a high dust environment, or a home with furry pets, will need to have the filters changed more often than buildings without these dirt loads. Failure to replace these filters as needed will contribute to a lower heat exchange rate, resulting in wasted energy, shortened equipment life, and higher energy bills; low air flow can result in iced-over evaporator coils, which can completely stop air flow. Additionally, very dirty or plugged filters can cause overheating during a heating cycle, and can result in damage to the system or even fire.
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):
Asking how much an HVAC installation costs is kind of like asking, “how much does a new car cost?” Well, are you buying a Porsche or a Honda? Is it a 911 or just a Boxster, and are you going to get the leather seats? Likewise, are you going to get a Carrier or a Goodman air conditioner? Does the ductwork need to be replaced? These are all questions that will affect your HVAC installation cost, so let’s take a closer look.
Air conditioner size is measured in “tons.” However, the tonnage of an HVAC unit is not actually based on its weight. A “ton” is simply a measure of an air conditioner’s ability to cool your home. One ton is the ability of your air conditioning system to cool 12,000 BTUs (BTU stands for British Thermal Unit) in an hour. Likewise, a “2-ton” central air conditioner is able to cool 24,000 BTUs per hour.
You've probably noticed many appliances boasting an Energy Star Certification. What this means is that manufacturer voluntarily built the product to help reduce greenhouse gases and meet non-regulatory guidelines offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. To earn an Energy Star rating, a product or system must be tested by a third party that has been recognized by the EPA for meeting their testing qualifications.
Pro HVAC company Southern Comfort Mechanical says on its blog, “If there’s mold growth inside the handler due to excess moisture, algae in the condenser drain line or a dirty evaporator coil, it can negatively impact your AC unit’s efficiency. The filters inside may also build up excess dirt and become clogged, which will also make your AC [or heat pump] waste energy trying to sustain the cool climate inside your home.” These issues are easy to solve. They don’t require replacing the air handler.
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.
The HVAC industry is a worldwide enterprise, with roles including operation and maintenance, system design and construction, equipment manufacturing and sales, and in education and research. The HVAC industry was historically regulated by the manufacturers of HVAC equipment, but regulating and standards organizations such as HARDI, ASHRAE, SMACNA, ACCA, Uniform Mechanical Code, International Mechanical Code, and AMCA have been established to support the industry and encourage high standards and achievement.
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 . The benefits of ductless air conditioning systems include easy installation, no ductwork, greater zonal control, flexibility of control and quiet operation . In space conditioning, the duct losses can account for 30% of energy consumption . The use of minisplit can result in energy savings in space conditioning as there are no losses associated with ducting.
Lennox, on the other hand, is probably the most expensive unit out there and I can’t stand them. In our (humble?) experience, they have a horrible logistics chain, making repair parts difficult to come by (sometimes taking weeks), poor customer service, and the parts cost three times as much. That’s not what this article is about, so read more in: Carrier vs. Lennox Furnace Review.
We installed a TRANE XL18 HVAC with a TRANE HV80 furnace 16 years ago and it still works great in Tucson, AZ. We inquired into a replacement for the future since the R-22 refrigerant will be off market at the end of this year. Our maintenance folks want to sell me a new system anyway (even though the TRANE works great). We are considering the BOSCH Inverter heat pump as a lower cost option down the road. Watch out for the tricky salesmen trying to sell beer at champagne prices though. Get estimates on whether you need to replace your current system and how much it could cost. And if they are factory certified.
If your AC doesn’t turn off when room temperature reaches the temperature set on the thermostat, the problem is generally occurring either at the thermostat or in the electrical system that runs the outside condensing unit. You can use the AC’s circuit breaker to shut off the unit, but that should not be a permanent solution—circuit breakers are not designed to be used like light switches.