Central Air Conditioning Installation or Replacement

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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What size air conditioner do I need?

Your air conditioner should have about 20 BTU per square foot of living space, according to Consumer Reports. However, you should also account for other factors in the room. 

If it’s a very shady space, you can take off 10% of the square footage BTU calculation. If it’s sunny, add 10%. For rooms normally occupied by two or more people, you should add 600 BTU per additional person. Finally, if the room is a kitchen, add 4,000 BTU to your calculated square footage total.

Talk to an air conditioning company or HVAC professional to find out what size you should get.

What does SEER mean on an air conditioner?

The SEER label on an air conditioner stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. This is a measure of the efficiency of either an air conditioning unit or a heat pump. 

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends replacing older AC units with energy-efficient models. Contact an air conditioning company or HVAC specialist for tips on how to select a new unit.

Why is my air conditioner leaking water?

An air conditioner leaking inside the house is a common problem. It could indicate that the air filter is dirty. Or, one of the following may be the culprit:

  • Clogged condensate drain line
  • Leaky, damaged, cracked or rusted drain pan
  • Dirty or broken coils
  • Frozen evaporator coils
  • Broken condensate pump
  • Not enough refrigerant
  • Disconnected drain line

If your AC is leaking, contact a repair service to find out what the problem is — and how much it will cost to fix it.

Is it worth it to install central air?

Depending on where you live, it might be worth it to install central air. Central air makes your house comfortable on hot summer days. And although it’s hard to predict if adding central air will increase your home’s value, prospective homebuyers will certainly notice if it’s missing.

Another advantage of central air is that it can help dehumidify your home. Not only will it make your home more comfortable and enjoyable, but it can also  help prevent mold from growing or spreading.

Contact the best HVAC contractors near you to learn more about the central air installation process and to start receiving free estimates.

Can I install central air myself?

While you may be able to do some preparation work for central air installation, you should hire a licensed contractor to complete the project and handle the air conditioning refrigerants. 

Also, unless you have the proper credentials, you risk making common mistakes when installing central air. This may include installing the wrong-size furnace, improperly installing ductwork and exhaust systems, and incorrectly managing drainage.

To ensure your central air is installed correctly, contact the best HVAC pros near you and start getting free estimates today.

How do I find a good HVAC or AC contractor?

Performing an online search is the quickest way to locate the best HVAC or AC contractors near you. This makes it easier to view multiple top-rated pros quickly and efficiently.

Start by looking at the contractors’ ratings and reading the customer reviews. Pay attention to reviews that mention details about the HVAC contractors’ quality of work. Did they complete the job on time? Did they overcharge? Were they communicative with the customer throughout the process? 

You should also review any photos of past projects that customers (or pros) may have uploaded. Looking at before-and-after photos of air conditioners and HVAC systems will give you a good idea of how skilled the contractors are.

Next, check whether your state or city requires HVAC and AC professionals to be licensed. If so, anyone you work with should comply with these requirements. 

Once you’ve chosen a few potential contractors, ask for free estimates. Compare their quotes, and choose a HVAC contractor who is qualified, affordable and reputable.

Does central air add value to a home?

A central air unit or HVAC system may add value to your home. Or, if you’re in the process of selling your home, it may help you close a sale.

The Remodeling Impact report found that 20% of realtors have suggested that home sellers replace their HVAC before attempting to sell their homes, and 7% said this project did help close a sale. 

Talk with an expert to figure out if adding an HVAC system is a good idea for your home. And contact the best HVAC pros near you to get free estimates so you’ll know how much this project will cost you.

Does an HVAC technician need to enter my home?

Because most HVAC systems are located in the home, it’s likely that an HVAC technician would need to enter yours when working on the projects. However, there might be exceptions. Some HVAC systems are located in garages or in areas of the house that are sectioned off. During the consultation, ask your technician if they'll need to enter your home.

When you contact local technicians, ask if they’ll perform a video call in place of a traditional consultation. Be sure to send all materials like photos and documents digitally, and comply with all relevant guidelines.

What are the advantages of hiring an appliance installer?

There are several perks to having a professional install your appliances, including:

  • Hiring a pro saves you time and money. If it breaks down, the service person who sold and installed the machine can fulfill its warranty. However, this warranty could be void if you install it incorrectly.
  • It will work reliably. Many appliances like ranges and laundry machines rely on being on level surfaces as well as having potentially dangerous hookups installed correctly. 
  • You can get repair and maintenance support. If something isn’t working or you want advice, you can call up your installer and ask if they can help you troubleshoot or repair it.

How much does it cost to install appliances?

Installing a new appliance costs $125, on average. However, homeowners should expect to pay within the range of $120 to $150. 

For less complex appliance installations, you may pay a low-end cost ranging between $65 and $100. On the other hand, more complex appliances like laundry machines, ranges and other items can cost between $175 and $326 to install. Ask whichever appliance installation service you hire to give you a price quote, if possible.

What you need to know about air conditioner services.

Why should you hire a professional to install your air conditioner?

Buying a new air conditioner for your home is a big deal. Although you may be able to install your air conditioner on your own, there are several reasons why it’s a better idea to hire a professional. For example, hiring a professional can help you:

  1. save time and money
  2. ensure that the AC unit runs as efficiently as possible
  3. protect your unit’s warranty
  4. navigate permitting processes

Your time is valuable. Unless you have experience installing air conditioners, leave it to the pros.

How much does it cost to put in an AC unit?

The price to install an air conditioner includes the cost of the unit, installation and permitting prices. AC unit costs will vary by the AC type, manufacturer and retailer. 

Ultimately, you’ll save money by making sure you purchase the right size unit for your home. How much you will spend also depends on labor costs in your area, home size and other factors. 

Here’s how much different sized units typically cost:

0.5 ton cooling

$925 – $1,034

1 ton cooling

$1,076 – $1,207

2.5 ton cooling

$1,884 – $2,107

3 ton cooling

$2,347 – $2,654

10 ton cooling

$3,007 – $3,353

15 ton cooling

$4,162 – $4,638

20 ton cooling

$5,780 – $6,520

30 ton cooling

$8,590 – $9,680

What is a good air conditioner to buy?

Buy an air conditioner from a trusted manufacturer. Below is a list of some of the top-reviewed AC manufacturers and brands that produce central ACs, mini-split ACs, window ACs, portable ACs and more:

  • Amana
  • American Standard
  • Blueridge
  • Bryant
  • Carrier
  • Friedrich
  • GE
  • Goodman
  • Heil
  • Lennox
  • Rheem
  • Ruud
  • Trane
  • Whynter
  • York

If you’re not sure which brand you should pick, contact an AC contractor to discuss your options. It’s also recommended that you keep your budget, warranties and energy efficiency in mind when choosing a brand.

How do I get the best deal on an air conditioner?

The price of air conditioning units and installation services will vary from company to company. Research trusted companies in your area and get a few bids to compare prices. Multiple estimates will help give you an idea of fair pricing, allow you to interact with different companies and give you negotiating power. 

Here are a few more things you can do to get the best deal on a new air conditioner unit:

  1. Get multiple estimates from several contractors.
  2. Ask about discounts, deals or price matching.
  3. Shop around during the slow season.
  4. Look for energy rebates.
  5. Make sure there’s a warranty.

Which is the cheapest AC?

Looking for a cheap and reliable AC unit? Your cheapest options are going to be window units and portable air conditioners. These don’t have the power to cool your entire house like central air, but they can make a big difference in individual rooms. 

Some of the most popular brands that produce window and portable ACs include: 

  • Black + Decker
  • Delonghi
  • Friedrich
  • Frigidaire
  • GE
  • Honeywell
  • LG Electronics
  • Midea
  • Whynter

How many BTUs do I need? What size AC do I need?

Let’s start with AC unit size. The size of an AC unit is typically expressed in tons, and tons refers to how much heat the unit can move in an hour. One ton cools 12,000 BTU per hour. BTUs express cooling capacity. One ton of BTUs can cool about 400-500 square feet.

  • 1 Ton = 12,000 BTUs

In order to know what size air conditioner you need, you’ll need to know how many BTU you need. Ultimately, a contractor or technician will be able to determine the size AC you need for your home. You can use these charts to estimate the size you’ll need for your home:

AC size in tons:

AC size in tons

Square footage

1.5 tons

600 – 1,000 sq. ft. 

2 tons

1,000 – 1,500 sq. ft.

3 tons

1,500 – 2,000 sq. ft.

4 tons

2,000 – 2,500 sq. ft.

5 tons

2,500 – 3,300 sq. ft.

Source: American Standard

AC size in BTUs:

Square footage

AC size in BTUs

100 – 150

5,000 – 5,250

150 – 250

6,000 – 6,300

250 – 300

7,000 – 8,000

300 – 400

8,000 – 8,900

350 – 400

9,000 – 10,000

400 – 450

10,000 – 10,500

450 – 500

11,600 – 12,000

550 – 700

13,700 – 15,000

700 – 1,050

17,600 – 18,450 

1,000 – 1,200

21,000

1,000 – 1,300

22,000

1,200 – 1,400

23,000

1,400 – 1,500

24,000

1,500 – 2,000

30,000

2,000 – 2,500

34,000

Sources: TraneAmanaGESears

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