The letters in HVAC stand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. An HVAC system enables you to regulate your home or building’s internal temperature (thermal control) for comfortable living and working. You can bring heat levels down in the summer and up in the winter, keeping your home or office livable year-round. HVAC systems can also help with humidity levels and regulate indoor air quality in a home or office. There are many types of HVAC systems and technologies available.
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system. Both the heating and the central air conditioning units share a ductwork system where they either push in or pull out warm or cooled air. There are also heating and cooling systems that don’t require ductwork — such as ductless mini-splits — but work on the same principles of heat exchange. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670, with costs varying depending on the work you need done and the equipment you are installing.
If you’re purchasing from a big-box store, you can expect to pay approximately $120-$1,000 for a window unit. Window units are appealing for their quick setup and relatively low cost, but they can use more energy over time than central air and only cool the room in which they’re installed. The price will vary depending on the type of air conditioner you buy and its cooling capacity. Window units, which require minimal installation, are one of the most affordable options on the market. Portable air conditioners don’t have the cooling power of a window unit, but they do have the perk of being transportable from room to room. Expect to pay between $225 and $800 for a portable air conditioner, on average. The cost of an air conditioning system with coils, condenser and line (not including installation or ductwork) can range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 or more. If you don’t have (and don’t want to put in) ducts, a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a good option, although pricey up front. Pricing can range from $650 to $4,250 per unit on average; you’ll need one unit for each room in which you want temperature control.
Prices for central-air HVAC systems will vary. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670 but can run as high as $5,000 or even $12,000 depending on the capacity you need and other factors. Installing central air conditioning requires an entire system that works together to draw hot air out of your home. The system includes an outdoor unit, which houses the condenser and compressor, and the evaporator coils. If you don’t have an existing duct system, ductwork will need to be installed, which will affect labor and material costs. Leaking or damaged ducts will also need to be replaced.
The number of years an HVAC system lasts depend on the type and brand of components that make up your system. The lifespan of an air conditioner averages between 15 and 20 years. The life expectancy of a tankless water heater is approximately 20 years, while a storage water heater is closer to 10-15 years. Ducts may need replacing within 10-15 years. Your equipment will have a longer life if you have regular tuneups and maintenance to keep everything in good working order. If you’re having repair problems 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 help you decide whether to repair or replace:
- Your HVAC system needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are increasing.
- Your cooling or heating equipment is less efficient.
- Rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.
- Your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old.
- Replacing your system with an Energy Star-certified unit could save up to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
- Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.
- You may choose to replace your system with an Energy Star-certified furnace (which is 15 percent more efficient than a conventional furnace) or an Energy Star-certified boiler (which is 5 percent more efficient).
- Your home has humidity problems.
- Your home has excessive dust.
- Leaky ducts can pull particles and air from attics, crawl spaces and basements and distribute them throughout your house. Sealing your ducts may be a solution.
- Your heating or cooling system is noisy.
- You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.
- Your score on the Home Energy Yardstick is below five.
- That means your home energy use is above average and you're probably paying too much for your utilities.