If you live in a climate that's prone to heat or humidity, you know the joys of having a central air conditioner — or the pains of living without. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals are trained and ready to install new cooling systems to improve the airflow in your home or office. HVAC systems allow you to regulate your home or office's internal temperatures. Each state has its own HVAC licensing requirements; some states require all HVAC technicians to have an HVAC contractor's license, while others require only the employer who runs an HVAC service and installation company to hold an HVAC contractor's license. Always be sure the company you are hiring has the proper licenses, insurance and certifications. This keeps you and your home protected in case of accidents, faulty installation or equipment malfunctions on the long run. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.
In addition to bringing down internal air temperatures, air conditioning systems can regulate humidity and help improve your indoor air quality. There are a range of air conditioning systems that utilize different technologies, and a range of prices to match. A window unit costs an average of $200-$600, while installing a new system of forced-air ducts and an air conditioning unit can cost between $4,000 and $15,000 or more. Average costs may be lower if you already have a forced-air HVAC system in place, a system in which the heating system and central air conditioning units share a ductwork system that regulates internal temperatures by either pushing in or pulling out warm or cool air. Another popular, eco-friendly option is ductless mini splits. These heating and cooling systems don't require ductwork, and are installed directly onto your wall. They do, however, operate on the same principles of heat exchange. The initial installation cost for ductless mini splits is generally higher than for forced air units, but they typically cost less to operate and last longer. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get tax credits for installing a new air conditioning system that is more energy-efficient than older models or stand-alone units.
Air conditioning systems are a big investment, and it's important to work with a reputable company that will back its work. If you are hiring someone to install a window unit, many handymen can handle this job, so top-level training and certifications may not be as important as if you're having new HVAC ductwork installed. Professional air conditioning installation is available for central air systems, window units, wall units and portable units. Pros can remove the existing air conditioning unit, install a new central AC unit, and install ducts or vents as needed for split systems, packaged systems or otherwise, as recommended by the professional. Central air handlers may be located in the basement, closet, attic or other parts of the building, with the condenser and fan on either the ground floor or the roof. AC installation is available for private homes, multiunit buildings, commercial spaces, and offices or business environments. Several factors affect the average cost of air conditioner installation.
Wall, window and portable units are your best bet for a quick cool-air fix that doesn't require a large cash outlay upfront. Unlike other air conditioning systems that require major financial investments and contracting work, window and wall unit installations can usually be handled by a skilled handyman. Most big box stores offer a range of wall, window and portable air conditioning units. If you're buying your window unit from a hardware or big box store, pricing can range anywhere from $120 to $1,000 — with most in an average price range hovering between $200 and $400. Wall units typically cost an average of between $400 and $900, depending on the cooling power and technology of the unit. While window and wall units are relatively inexpensive and easy to install, they only regulate the temperature of the room they're in, and, over time, they use more energy — and therefore cost more to run — than a central air conditioning system._ _Installing a wall or window unit is quicker than installing central air, because it does not require accessing a building's ducts or central air system. These units are often heavy, however, and it requires some expertise to properly assembly all the parts and safely place the unit into the window or attach it to the wall. It's possible to damage your window frame or wall structure with a poor installation, so it's often best to have a professional do the work. Installation labor costs may include a minimum service fee, or they may be based solely on a professional's hourly rate.
If you're not ready to attach something to your wall or install it in your window, a portable air conditioner is another low-impact cooling option. A portable air conditioner is a mobile unit you can move from room to room. While portable units do have less cooling power than wall or window units, you can pick them up and move them—unlike a window unit, which is installed in your window. Prices for portable air conditioners can range between $225 and $800 on average, depending on their cooling power and technology.
Central air conditioning uses a forced-air system to cool warm (or hot) air in your home or office. With central air you can maintain a set temperature within your home, or keep the internal temperature within a specified range. A central AC unit works by pulling in warm air inside the home, treating it, then pushing the cooled air back out through the duct system throughout the house. This same duct system can be shared with the furnace for heating chilly air during the winter. The heart of a central air conditioning system is the central HVAC unit, which is often located outside of the building. The central HVAC unit stands above ground alongside an exterior wall and houses the AC condenser coil, compressor, a fan and the electrical elements. The central HVAC unit is connected to the interior of the house via refrigeration lines, which connect to the evaporator coils, which are often are located on top of your furnace.
If you already have a central HVAC installed in your home, you have a series of air ducts that run from the furnace through your walls and/or ceiling. These air ducts have supplies and registers (vents) that draw in the warm air or deliver the cooled air into the rooms of your house. As the register vents draw warm air into the ducts, fans send that warm air down through the ducts to the evaporator coils. The refrigerant in the evaporator coils cools the warm air, then sends the cooled air back out through ducts and pushes it into the various rooms of your house via supply vents. The refrigerant constantly cycles through the evaporator coils and the mechanisms of the central unit to maintain cooling power. If you don't have an existing duct system, and want central air, the ducts will need to be installed, which will have a significant impact on labor and material costs. If you do have an existing duct system in your home, but have leaking or damaged ducts, they will need to be replaced or repaired for your central air conditioning system to operate effectively.
Central air systems are either packaged or split-system units. Pricing for new central air installation can vary depending on the technology and the unit's seasonal energy-efficiency ratio or SEER energy efficiency rating. According to Energy.gov, the SEER energy efficiency rating indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. The older and/or less efficient the air conditioning unit, the lower the SEER. The higher the SEER rating, the more effective an AC unit is at its job, and the more energy-efficient it will be — meaning lower utility bills for you. For a whole-house air conditioning system with coils, condenser and line (not including the cost of installation or air ducts), the average cost from a big box store can range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 or more._ _In addition to system technology and SEER rating, your geographic location can impact installation costs. Regional labor rates, the relative cost to do business, and the cost of living will either bring installation costs down or drive them up. Cool Tech Mechanical in Arlington, Texas, charges the following average prices for installing new AC cooling systems in a home with existing ducts, based on the SEER rating:
If you recently bought a home or are remodeling your existing home and want to update your central air conditioning system, the state of your air ducts will affect cost. Time, damage and disrepair can result in holes, disintegration and other damage to ducts. According to Cool Tech Mechanical, some ducts that were installed in previous decades are covered entirely in gray vinyl. This material tends to disintegrate when exposed to UV sunlight, which can lead to leaking, a hot house that won't cool, and sky-high AC bills. In cases like this, the installation team must remove old ducts and replace them before installing the new system — which also increases costs.
If your home is not already equipped with an HVAC duct system, or if you prefer not to have one installed, a ductless mini split system is a great alternative for cooling your entire home; they can also provide heating during cold weather. As the name suggests, this system does not need ducts to operate. Similar to a central air system, a ductless system includes an outdoor unit that houses a compressor, fan and condenser (and the heating element for winter months). Ductless systems work like point-of-use air conditioners, with an air handler in each room that you want to cool. Unlike central air vents, the air handlers hang visibly on the wall, which may not be the right aesthetic for you if you don't want something that can be seen. Each air handler is connected via a conduit to the exterior unit that pumps cooling refrigerant for point-of-use cooling; all heat exchange occurs in the room via the air handler. You can set the thermostat for each individual room, so you'll be more efficient in your energy use — which also results in lower utility bills. Ductless systems typically cost far less to maintain, and are far more efficient, as they do not leak out cold air as it travels through the system. However, the initial installation cost can be prohibitive (especially if you have an existing air duct system), with pricing that ranges from $650 to $4,250 per unit on average. Since you'll need an air handler for each room in which you want temperature control, cooling more rooms will drive up your costs.
Because each house or office building is unique, each central air conditioning installation job will vary in scope. You'll want to get quotes from several HVAC contractors to determine the right fit for you. Always be sure the HVAC contractor has the proper licensing and credentials as required by your state. The average cost for installing your new air conditioner can depend on the amount of prep work needed before the new mechanism can be put in place, the amount of labor required for old duct removal or repair, the type of unit you decide to purchase, and the amount of work required to install the units. It is wise to consult a pro before buying an air conditioning system. Each house has different capacity requirements, which the air conditioning contractor will determine based on your climate, the square footage of your home, and other variables. Here Cool Tech Mechanical shares two examples of the average cost of AC installation jobs:
AC installation companies may offer diagnostic service calls to determine an estimate for repairs or replacement. Cool Tech Mechanical charges an average of $79 for a standard diagnostic call — or $49 for Thumbtack customers. Many companies, including Cool Tech Mechanical, provide free home estimates if customers know they want to replace an old unit or have one installed for the first time. In this case, Cool Tech Mechanical does a heat-load calculation to determine what capacity unit is needed to cool the house, based on variables such as the home's volume and type of insulation and number and type of windows. Code upgrades can also affect the total cost for installations.
Whether you're installing your first air conditioning system or replacing an outdated one, a new AC is a big financial investment. Doing your due diligence regarding the brand, technology and components for your cooling needs can help you choose the right system. Your HVAC pro should also guide you, as there are precise calculations to determine the appropriate number of British Thermal Units (BTUs) your air conditioner should have for the size (square feet) of your home. A unit that's too small will be overburdened, resulting in a home that won't stay cool enough and an air conditioner that will die too young. Too large an AC unit means you'll needlessly burn energy as well as overspending on the purchase of the system itself. \
Your air conditioning system's lifespan will depend on the type of system you select and the brand of its components. According to Energy.gov, the average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is 15-20 years. Air ducts may need to be replaced within 10-15 years. Regular tuneups and maintenance will extend the life expectancy of your air conditioner. Pros recommend a yearly tuneup in the spring to make sure everything is in good working order, get the equipment ready for summer, and identify any problems early on. If you're starting to have major repair issues come up and your HVAC system is over 10 years old, it's a good time to consider the costs and benefits of repairing vs. replacing. Energystar.gov provides the following tips to that suggest it might be time for replacement:
Where you live will impact how much it costs to install a new air conditioner. Larger cities and regions with a higher cost of living typically see higher rates for labor and AC installation services than smaller towns. Business overhead costs include everything from licensing and insurance to marketing, company vehicles, equipment, uniforms, employee salaries, workers' compensation and more.
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