Air Conditioner Cost | 2024 Guide

By Alex Hawkins Updated January 28, 2024

Typical costs range from $3,800 to $7,500.

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Central air conditioners costs typically range from $3,800 to $7,500, but many homeowners will pay around $5,650 on average. Air conditioners turn your home into a welcoming respite from the summer heat and humidity. However, they often come with a substantial up-front investment. You might need a whole-house system, or something smaller if you only have a few rooms to cool. Whether you’re looking for a window air conditioner or a central AC unit, we’ll explain what kinds of systems are available and their average costs. We’ll go over different price factors in more detail below.

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Two outdoor air conditioning units connected to a residential home.
Central AC Installation Cost

Central AC unit costs range from $3,800 to $7,700.

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Outdoor air conditioner compressor unit installed outside a family home.
Heat Pump Installation

Heat pump costs range from $3,700 to $11,000.

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Mini split air conditioning unit installed on a wall inside a home. Window with curtains in the background.
Split AC Installation

Split AC units costs range from $3,700 to $11,000.

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Note: All cost data via Angi and airconditionerprice.com.

 


 

Major Cost Factors of a New Air Conditioner

The larger the space you want to cool, the larger and more powerful a system you’ll need, and the more it will cost. Here are the primary factors that impact AC price ranges.

 


 

Cost by Air Conditioner Type

Different types of air conditioning systems come with different unit and labor costs. Here are some average costs for different air conditioners and how they work.

Air Conditioner TypeCost
Portable unit$90–$500
Window unit$150–$550
Ductless split$2,000–$14,500
Central air conditioner$3,800–$7,500
Heat pump$4,200–$7,600
Gas pack system$5,000–$12,000

Window AC Unit

The smallest and least expensive type of air conditioner is a window unit. All of the system’s components are housed in a single unit, which is meant to sit in an open window sill so it can vent heat outdoors. A window unit is only powerful enough to cool one room, but it can be indispensable in a small space that gets a lot of natural light in the summer. Window-mounted air conditioners can cost anywhere from $150 to $550 depending on their size and cooling capacity. Many can be installed without professional assistance.

Portable AC Unit

Like window units, portable air conditioners only cool one room at a time, but they’re able to be moved from room to room and stored during the cooler months. These units are typically mounted on wheels and come with tubing that must be attached to an open window. They may cool anywhere from 100 to 1,000 square feet and don’t require professional installation. You can expect to pay between $90 and $500 for this type of air conditioning unit.

Note that a portable air conditioning unit is different from a swamp cooler. A swamp cooler isn’t technically an air conditioner, as it uses evaporation and humidifies the air instead of removing moisture from it. Swamp coolers are not as effective in humid climates, but they do well in dry, desert heat.

Ductless Split System

A split system can cool one room or multiple rooms depending on how many air handlers the system has. These air handlers are typically wall-mounted, and all connect to one or more condenser units located outdoors. This allows you to cool an entire home without needing to install new ductwork, which is an expensive and invasive process if your home doesn’t already have it. A mini-split air conditioner usually costs $2,000 to $14,500, depending on the extensiveness of the system and how many units you install.

Heat Pump

Instead of cooling the air or creating heat, heat pumps work by transferring heat indoors in the winter and outdoors in the summer. Thus, a heat pump is a high-efficiency cooling and heating system that can be used year-round. Although heat pumps were previously most useful in moderate climates, the technology has advanced enough that they can now provide heating and cooling in more extreme temperatures. Heat pumps are becoming more popular thanks to their low cost of operation and high energy efficiency and are available in several configurations—mini-split heat pumps, multi-split heat pumps, and centrally ducted heat pumps. These systems can cost anywhere from $4,200 to $7,600, depending on the energy source they use.

Central Air Conditioner

By far the most popular type of air conditioning unit in hot climates, central AC systems are the most expensive to install and run. However, they do an excellent job of cooling and dehumidifying indoor air. These systems have an indoor air handler that pushes cooled air throughout a home’s ductwork and an outdoor condenser that houses the compressor, evaporator coils, and other key mechanical components. This type of system typically costs $3,800 to $7,500 to install.

Gas Pack HVAC System

A gas pack system contains both an air conditioner and a heater, usually a gas furnace, in a single unit that’s typically located outdoors. These aren’t the most efficient systems, and the components are subject to extra weathering since they’re outside, but they can be a good choice for small homes in moderate climates that want to maximize interior space. Though expensive ($5,000 to $12,000), they’re often more cost-effective to install than a separate heating and cooling system, at least up-front.


Cost by AC System Size

Air conditioners are typically measured in either tons or British Thermal Units (BTUs). Tons refers not to the unit’s weight but to the volume of air it can cool—a one-ton system can cool a ton of air in an hour. Central air conditioners are typically measured in tons, and smaller or portable AC units are measured in BTUs. A ton of cooling is equal to about 12,000 BTUs. The AC unit size you need will be determined by the size of the space you want to cool. 

Finding the right system size is important to keeping your utility bills reasonable. A system that’s too small will have to work too hard to cool the space, but a system that’s too big may waste electricity, driving your energy costs up. In general, you’ll need about 20 BTUs for every square foot of interior space, though homes in sunny, warm climates may require more. Here are some basic load calculations for common single-room or whole-home sizes.

Here’s how BTUs and tonnage relate to price for central air conditioners, which typically start at around 1.5 tons.

AC Size (Tons)BTUsUnit CostCost with Installation
218,000$1,340$2,695
224,000$1,490$3,190.00
330,000$1,725.00$3,395.00
336,000$1,970$3,690.00
442,000$2,380$3,750.00
448,000$2,560$3,950
560,000$2,720$4,290

Labor Costs

In addition to buying the AC unit, you’ll need to pay for installation. Unless you get a portable or small window unit, you’ll need to hire professional HVAC contractors to put in your new system. These contractors typically charge $75 to $250 per hour depending on the contractor’s experience level and the job’s complexity. For example, installing a large window unit will cost much less than installing a new geothermal heat pum  


Cost by Brand

Some air conditioner brands are more expensive than others, though most manufacturers offer several lines ranging from budget to luxury units. Here are average costs for a new AC unit from some of the most popular brands, excluding installation. All prices are for a central AC.

Air Conditioner BrandAverage Cost
York$1,799
Rheem$1,960
Goodman$1,980
American Standard$2,295
Carrier$2,610
Lennox$2,690
Trane$2,985

Other Potential Cost Factors to Consider

Materials and labor for a new system aren’t the only cost factors. Here are some additional expenses that may come into play.

Existing System Removal

If you’re replacing an old AC, you’ll need to remove and haul away the old unit. Refrigerant and other components of the system are environmental hazards and need to be disposed of properly. This may be part of the installation cost, or you may need to pay separately at a price of $25 to $200.

Permits and Potential Fines

Most states require permits for HVAC installation, so be sure to check what your city and state require. You may be fined if you don’t and your system isn’t up to code. The cost of a permit as well as potential fines vary by location.

Plumbing and Electrical Work

Installing a new AC unit, especially in an older home, may require alteration to your home’s existing plumbing and electrical systems. Central air conditioners require drain lines, which must be installed or repaired by licensed plumbers for $100 to $150. Additionally, your home’s electrical panel needs to be able to handle the load from a central air conditioner and its thermostat, so it may require an upgrade. Licensed electricians typically charge $100 to $150

Repairing Existing Ductwork

If your home’s ductwork is old or leaky, it may need to be repaired so that your new air conditioner can function properly. This can cost $200 to $1,000, depending on the extent of the damage. If mold or asbestos are discovered during the repair process, you’ll likely have to pay more for specialty abatement. However, this is well worth the cost to ensure the health safety of you and your family.

SEER Rating

Seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER rating, measures an HVAC system’s energy efficiency. High-efficiency systems have higher SEER ratings—usually 18 or above. As of January 2024, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has determined that all air conditioners must have a SEER efficiency rating of at least 14 in the northern United States and 15 in the southern United States. Some maximum-efficiency air conditioners have a SEER rating of up to 24.

A system with a high SEER rating will cost more up-front, but it will ultimately save you money on energy bills because it consumes less electricity. To help homeowners choose wisely, the government offers ENERGY STAR certifications to air conditioners with high SEER and other efficiency measures.


DIY vs. Professional Air Conditioner Installation

In most cases, homeowners should hire HVAC professionals to install air conditioning systems. However, there are a few instances when this may be a do-it-yourself (DIY) project.

Professional Installation

All central air conditioners, heat pumps, and mini-split systems must be installed by professionals. These are complicated systems that often combine ductwork, plumbing, and electricity. They should be installed by an expert to work properly. A professional will get the job done quickly and completely, as well as show you how to properly operate and maintain the system. The overall cost is higher, but this is often worth it.

DIY Installation

DIY AC installation is only appropriate for portable air conditioners and some smaller window units, however, these units can be heavy. Large or permanent installations should be done by a professional. HVAC technicians maintain a license because it’s a highly skilled trade. Attempting to do it yourself may allow you to save on labor, but you could have problems that require you to call an expert anyway.


How to Reduce Air Conditioner Installation Costs

Even if you opt for professional installation, here are some ways to save money on your new air conditioner investment.


Our Recommendation

We recommend professional installation for all but portable and small window air conditioners. Though you’ll pay more, you’ll have peace of mind that your system is installed correctly and working at peak efficiency. Make sure to get quotes from at least three local HVAC contractors, and be wary of any who charge much more or much less than the others. Research air conditioner size, brand, and efficiency rating to find the best unit to keep you cool during the hottest months.

Compare Quotes from HVAC Specialists
Just answer a few questions, and we’ll take care of the rest!

 


 

Air Conditioner Cost FAQ

What is the average cost for a new AC unit?

The average cost of a new AC is $5,856, but it can range from $3,800 to $7,500. This price is for a central AC unit. Other types of air conditioning systems, such as a window or portable unit, cost less.

What size AC unit do I need?

Most HVAC professionals recommend 20 BTUs of cooling capacity for every square foot of your home. That means an average home of 2,000 square feet needs about 40,000 BTUs of power, or a 3.5-ton central air conditioner.

Which AC is the most cost-effective?

Window AC units cost the least up-front and are the cheapest to run, but they only cool one room at a time. For whole-house systems, heat pumps typically cost more to install than central AC, but they’re much more energy-efficient, making them more cost-effective in the long run.