How Much Does a Central AC Unit Cost?

Air conditioning is a modern necessity, so homeowners whose AC unit is failing will want to install a new one fast. Central AC unit cost ranges from $3,882 to $7,903, with a national average cost of $5,860.


  • A central AC unit typically costs between $3,882 and $7,903 to install, with many homeowners across the country paying an average of $5,860.
  • The final price for AC unit installation will depend on the size and type of the home and the unit being installed, the type of compressor, the unit brand, and the cost of labor.
  • A homeowner will want to consider AC unit replacement if their current unit is old, creates excessive noise or dust, requires frequent repairs, or if the home is excessively humid or the energy bills have increased inexplicably.
  • AC unit installation is not a DIY job; since this project requires working with refrigerant and electricity, it’s best suited for a trained and licensed professional.

Air conditioning is considered a necessity in most regions where temperatures can soar during the summer months. If a home’s central AC unit is more than 10 to 15 years old, the energy bill for cooling the home is higher than usual, or the air doesn’t seem as cold as it used to be, then it’s probably time for the homeowner to install a new central AC unit.

So just how much does central AC cost to install? According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the national average to install a new AC unit is $5,860, with a typical price range of $3,882 to $7,903. Central AC unit costs are determined by a few primary factors: the amount of ductwork needed, the size of the unit, the efficiency rating, and any needed repairs. The benefits of a new central AC unit quickly make up for installation costs, providing homeowners with a more comfortable living space. This guide will cover the main factors that affect central AC cost, the types of AC units, the signs a homeowner might need a new AC unit, and tips on hiring one of the best HVAC companies to complete the installation project.

Factors in Calculating Central AC Unit Cost

Central air conditioners are the most popular method for blowing cool air into each room of the house, and the cost to install them varies depending on the size of the house and unit. Installing a central AC unit in an older home may cost more than installing one in new construction. Homeowners may also want to consider the energy-efficiency rating for long-term energy costs.

Home Size

The size of the home will affect central AC installation cost. In general, a central AC unit costs between $2.90 and $7.20 per square foot. Installing a central AC unit in a hotter climate will cost more since a more powerful unit with higher-than-normal efficiency ratings is needed to avoid burning out quickly. A unit with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating of 16 to 18 will work for most climates. Depending on the SEER rating, a homeowner can expect a cost between $4,350 and $10,800 for AC installation in a 1,500-square-foot home

Central AC Unit Size by Home Size - 1


Home Type

In addition to the size of the home, the type of home will affect AC installation cost. Mobile-home owners will likely need to opt for a ductless mini-split AC unit or a window unit since there typically won’t be space to add ducts to a mobile home. Installing AC units in an apartment building or condo can be expensive, though the cost will likely be lower if the building owner adds AC to multiple units or the entire building at once. Finally, installing a central AC unit in an old house will likely require duct installation as well, which can drive up the price. The following table shows the average installation cost for each type of home.

Home TypeAverage AC Installation Cost
Apartment$57,000 to $180,000 (entire building)
Condo$17,250 to $72,000 (entire building)
Mobile home$3,650 to $7,500
Old house$8,650 to $22,000

Unit Size

When it comes to AC units, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Central AC units measure their output in BTUs (British thermal units) and are typically available in 1.5- to 5-ton capacities. To calculate the AC unit size that they need, a homeowner will want to multiply the square footage of their home by 18 (because it takes about 18 BTUs to cool 1 square foot). If the home has high ceilings, the homeowner will want to multiply the number by 1.25. Then, they will divide that number by 12,000 to get the tonnage required.

For example, a 2,000-square-foot home would require 36,000 BTUs to cool it. Dividing 36,000 by 12,000 equals 3, so this home would require a 3-ton AC unit. The most common sizes are 3- and 4-ton AC units. A unit that is either too large or too small will fail to cool the house correctly, so it’s best for a homeowner to have a technician evaluate their home to determine the correct AC unit size.

Central AC Unit Cost by Unit Size - 1


Unit Type

For most regions, a central AC unit is the popular choice to pump cool air to the entire house, and it’s often combined with the heating unit as a complete HVAC unit. If only an air-conditioning unit is needed, professionals can install ductless split systems for an average price of $3,800 to $7,700 (not including labor). If the home has a furnace but not central air, a homeowner can purchase a packaged AC unit system for $4,000 to $8,500 and the technician can install it alongside the existing furnace. Finally, a combined HVAC unit costs between $9,200 to $10,800, but it includes both a furnace and air conditioner in one unit for that higher price.

Compressor Type

When choosing a central AC unit, homeowners can usually choose from among three types of compressor: single-stage, two-stage, and variable-speed. A single-stage AC unit typically has the lowest AC compressor cost, but it’s the least efficient choice as it runs at a single speed at full capacity until the home’s interior reaches the desired temperature. A two-stage unit is more efficient but also costs more than a single-stage unit; this type of unit compressor runs at either full capacity or at 60 percent to 70 percent capacity, cooling the home while using less energy. The most expensive and efficient option is a variable speed AC unit, which can operate at multiple capacities, allowing it to use less energy and therefore have lower running costs.

Unit Efficiency

The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating of an AC unit influences the price and determines how effectively it operates throughout the season. Units with a higher SEER rating may cost more up front, but they’ll have lower operating costs. All modern AC units must have at least a 13 SEER rating per the U.S. Department of Energy. If a home’s AC unit was installed before 2006 (when this requirement was put into place), homeowners will want to consider updating it to take advantage of the new energy-saving efficiency. The average costs for AC units with varying SEER ratings are listed in the table below.

SEER RatingAverage Cost (Unit Only)
14$1,725 to $3,600
15$2,300 to $4,800
16$2,875 to $6,000
17$3,450 to $6,600
18$4,100 to $7,800
19$4,600 to $8,400
20$5,750 to $9,600
21$6,325 to $10,800

Unit Brand

The price of an AC unit does not necessarily reflect the total quality. Some of the best air conditioner brands may have the same parts as other brands, but they have a history of product longevity or quality service that bumps up their price. Some of the best-known brands and their average prices are shown in the following table.

AC Unit BrandAverage Cost (Unit Only)
American Standard$3,200
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