Brands like American Standard, Trane and Lennox cost the most. Goodman is the cheapest. The rest populate the middle of the spectrum. Here’s something to know: The quality among brands isn’t as great as price differences. The difference in prices reflect that some customers want “bargain” equipment to save cost and others want “premium” equipment they believe will run longer with less trouble. Therefore, each manufacturer has priced to meet consumer perception.
Many central air conditioning systems use the furnace blower to distribute cool air through the home. If you do not have a central heating system installed, it is cost-effective to install a heating and air conditioning system at the same time. If you already have central heat, you can use the existing fans and duct system for the central air system.
The liquid refrigerant is returned to another heat exchanger where it is allowed to evaporate, hence the heat exchanger is often called an evaporating coil or evaporator. As the liquid refrigerant evaporates it absorbs energy (heat) from the inside air, returns to the compressor, and repeats the cycle. In the process, heat is absorbed from indoors and transferred outdoors, resulting in cooling of the building.
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.
If you’re purchasing from a big-box store, you can expect to pay approximately $120-$1,000 for a window unit. Window units are appealing for their quick setup and relatively low cost, but they can use more energy over time than central air and only cool the room in which they’re installed. The price will vary depending on the type of air conditioner you buy and its cooling capacity. Window units, which require minimal installation, are one of the most affordable options on the market. Portable air conditioners don’t have the cooling power of a window unit, but they do have the perk of being transportable from room to room. Expect to pay between $225 and $800 for a portable air conditioner, on average. The cost of an air conditioning system with coils, condenser and line (not including installation or ductwork) can range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 or more. If you don’t have (and don’t want to put in) ducts, a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a good option, although pricey up front. Pricing can range from $650 to $4,250 per unit on average; you’ll need one unit for each room in which you want temperature control.
These are the prices for a proper installation from a professional – as a word to the wise, HVAC systems require fine tuning and the custom fabrication of parts during installation to work properly, otherwise they will likely fail prematurely. But there are plenty of people who will do it for cheaper than this, using substandard, used, or stolen equipment (stolen from construction sites and new housing developments). Or, they are using unskilled laborers with no experience, etc. But HVAC is not a “we’ll figure it out trade;” there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. There are just too many predatory companies out there, so be careful. I’d highly recommend not skimping on your HVAC contractor. If you go cheap, you will typically pay more in the long run...and in California, that will be a lot!
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.
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.
Duct system installation and repairs affect HVAC installation cost. If you’re installing a new forced air heating or cooling system, your home must have ductwork – if you don’t have ducts installed, a new duct system will need to be designed and installed. Your existing duct system may require air sealing to eliminate air loss, helping your new heating and cooling system operate efficiently.
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.
You can install the greatest HVAC system ever built, but if your house is not insulated well, it's only going to end up costing you more money. Older homes may have fiberglass insulation that has broken down due to pests, moisture, or improper installation. Spray foam insulation can be damaged by careless repair or modification work or can be improperly installed. If your insulation in compromised, your attempts to save money and be comfortable will be in vain.
If the condenser coils are clogged, the compressor can overheat and shut down. You'll experience intermittent periods of minimal cooling, followed by no cooling. Even if you're “sure” the condenser coils are clean, clean them again. Turn off the power. Flip the air conditioning service and furnace circuit breakers in your main electrical panel to the “Off” position. Next, turn off the power switch right at the furnace or air handler. Then yank the disconnect block (Photo 1) and clean the condenser coils (Photo 2). If the air conditioning service still doesn't work properly after you've cleaned the condenser coils, installed a new filter and opened all the supply vents, proceed with the following repairs. Your AC won't work fully unless you do this.
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).
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You might also want to check your home for thermal insulation if you live in extreme heat or freezing temperatures. Insulation keeps the heat and cool air in your home, which can lead to a lower electric bill. If the heated or cool air leaks out, your system turns on more often. There are various types of insulation that you can install in your home and a home energy auditor can point out the best places for it in your house.
It's always changing: Some newer thermostats take advantage of wireless technology. You can adjust your thermostat remotely so that if you leave and forget to adjust it, or if you are going to be home later than you thought, you can adjust it via your smartphone. Some can even give you reports on how efficient your system is performing based on usage. These are very efficient models, but they are also very expensive with some costing over $250.00.
In addition to the information below, see these two articles for the general care and maintenance of your air conditioner: Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Summer and How to Replace Furnace & AC Filters. Most noteworthy, you should replace the filters at least twice a year, before the heating and cooling seasons. For information on furnace problems, please see Furnace Not Working.