Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) experts have the necessary training, skills and certification to install, maintain and repair a central air-conditioning system in a home, multiunit building or office. Professionals may also be able to troubleshoot or repair standalone AC units installed in windows or other parts of a home or office. The national average cost of AC repair is $35–$95 per hour, but, says David Earls of Cobalt Home Services in Chino Hills, California, averages can be a bit misleading because, although AC and HVAC services don’t typically charge by the hour, it’s rare for a site visit to cost less than $100. Most companies charge a flat rate to cover the repairs needed after inspecting a system in person. As a rule, the older the unit, the more expensive a repair is likely to be. The average lifespan of an AC unit is 15 years.
Sometimes a technician may need to drain and replace a unit’s air-conditioning refrigerant, the chemical that cools the air. AC systems are sealed, however, so if a system is low on refrigerant, there's probably a leak somewhere, which should be checked. Earls of Cobalt Home Services says his rates for refrigerant replacement depend on which type of refrigerant is needed. He typically charges $349 for three pounds of R-22 and $199 for the same amount of R-410A, which has replaced R-22 in newer AC systems. (R-22 is more expensive because it’s being phased out.)
The cost to detect and repair a refrigerant leak could cost anywhere from $225–$1,000 or more, depending on the extent of the problem. Water leaks can also occur, and repair costs vary depending on the cause and extent of the leak.
Sometimes the line running from the condenser to the drain gets clogged. Clearing it should not cost more than $150 unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Most AC repair companies can perform a routine system check and tuneup for $125–$200. Earls of Cobalt Home Services cautions customers to be wary of very low quotes (less than $50, for example) for this service. Such low prices are often too good to be true and may come with surprise add-on costs.
When components can’t be repaired, they may need to be replaced. Here are the parts of an AC system that most often require replacement and average prices for each, with variations based on a system’s manufacturer and the cost of parts:
Circuit board: $120–$600
Condensing fan motor: $400–$500
Compressor: $1,000 and up
If a system is beyond repair, it will have to be replaced. When ductwork is already in place, labor costs to install a new system are about $600, according to Faye Hogoboom, owner of Air Necessity. The AC unit (condenser) itself and all parts, copper lines and fittings increase that cost to about $1,800. If the installation job requires putting in more ductwork or additional wiring, the costs increase.
The best way to keep an AC system working properly and to avoid making the system work too hard is to change the filter once month, as recommended by the manufacturer. Keeping the filter clean can also help lower utility bills. In addition, the condenser coils should be kept clean and free of debris.
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