Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options

Central air is a feature in US homes. The cost to install central air and other cooling options depends on house size and location. An AC system provides air from a main source and distributes it via fans and vents.

The air system has an outside compressor that’s attached to the home which generates air. 

How Much Does It Cost To Install Central Air?

Cost To Install Central Air View in gallery

The biggest question regarding central air is “how much does it cost?” It seems like a dream to cool your house with one ac unit.

The cost ranges between $3,000 to $7,000. Why is this the price and how can you lower the cost? 

Evaluation – Under $500

It may be tempting to skip an evaluation, but it will save money. You want to get the right central air unit. You don’t want to overpay for something you don’t need. 

Type Of Central Air Unit – $1,400 to $4000

The type of central air unit matters. However, most contractors or HVAC installers will help you decide what’s right for you. Heat pumps are expensive, but they can also heat your house. Whereas split air systems are cheaper but work one way.

The size of the unit you choose also matters. It cost more to buy a unit that heats a 3,000 square foot home than a 1,000-square foot home. The last thing that affects the cost of the unit is the brand name. A Lennox unit will be twice as much as Coleman. 

Labor – $400 to $2,000

The cost of labor depends on whether you need ducts installed or not. If you don’t, you can pay as little as a few hundred dollars. If you do, you may pay up to $2,000. This means about a third to half of what you pay will be labor.

Some people try to install central air themselves, but this will cost more money in the end. Repairs can add a lot to your cost. With half of all AC units being installed wrong, you can reduce the efficiency by 30 percent or more. 

Pros And Cons Of Central AirView in gallery

Pros And Cons Of Central Air

In the end, it all comes down to the pros and cons. 

Pros

  • No Maintenance – If installed by a pro, expect to leave the central air for decades without having to fix it. You need to watch out for mold and mildew in the ductwork. 
  • Very Effective – It’s the most effective way to cool a home.
  • Quiet – Central air units are silent. Some furnaces are loud, but most central air units make a sound when they start up or stop.
  • Programmable – Modern central air units turn off and on when you want. You can turn off the air in the rooms you don’t use.
  • Natural Filter – Central air units clean and filter the air. Dust and harmful particles are removed from air without the need for another air filter. 

Cons

  • Expensive – AC isn’t cheap. You will spend a few thousand dollars, which is more than other systems. 
  • Energy Hog – Central air uses energy and can raise your power bill. It’s not the most energy-efficient way to cool your home. 
  • Can’t DIY – If it needs repairing, cleaning, or installing, call a pro if you have central air. This will add to the cost of cooling your home as labor isn’t cheap. 
  • Overshared Air – AC units ensure an entire home is at the same temperature.

Other Cooling OptionsView in gallery

Other Cooling Options

Central air isn’t the sole option for cooling your house. The other option doesn’t have to be a basic fan either. Those can work for cool climates, but most homes need something stronger. These days, there are dozens of ways to cool a home.

Window AC Units

Window air conditioning units are one of the cheapest ways to cool a room. Just like central air, window ac units come with a list of pros and cons.

Pros

  • Cheap – This is the cheapest way to cool a home.  Window AC units are affordable, and they work for the room they are installed in. 
  • Easy to install – Most people can install a window AC, however, it’s better to have someone who is experienced show you how to the first time. Safety should be the number one priority. 
  • Easy to replace – If something happens to your window unit, then you can have it replaced. Throw the old one out and put a new one in. that’s what’s great about cheap equipment.
  • Perfect for picky roommates – If your household can’t agree on a temperature, then get window units. This way, you can each control your room without relying on someone who feels cooler or warmer than you. 
  • Can change window – You can move AC units to different windows in your home. When you move the unit, reinsulate it.

Cons

  • Cools one room – Window AC units aren’t made for entire houses. You can add one to each room but then this makes the cost that much more. They are better for smaller houses that need one or two. 
  • Can be hard to insulate around – AC units need an open window. This can cause problems. You need AC insulation. This doesn’t raise the cost.
  • Needs a strong window frame – Some frames can’t support an AC window unit. The windows won’t work without a frame. For homes without good windows, a different type of unit is necessary. 
  • Unsafe if not installed right – Units have been known to fall out of windows. It’s best if someone who knows what they are doing installs it for you. A frame may need to build for extra security. 
  • Security risk – The units are easy to move, so they pose a security risk. You’ll need a home security system if you have a window unit. Make sure it covers windows and doors.

Standing AC Units

Also known as a portable AC unit, these are the easiest air conditioners to install. You plug it in and you’re good to go. 

Pros

  • No installation needed – You can take it home and plug it in. Some require a tiny bit of setup but it’s easy and can be done by anyone that can read a manual. 
  • Cheap – This is one of the cheapest AC options available. You can get a good one for less than a central air system or a small one for the same price as a heater. 
  • Portable – You can move it to another room with ease or take it with you to another home, in the car, or relatives’ houses. 
  • Out of sight – It’s safe to put these units behind furniture or a curtain. You can hide them, and they’ll keep a room cool.

Cons

  • Loud – Portable AC units can be quite loud. While quiet options are available, most of them are noisy and can be annoying if you don’t like a lot of white noise. 
  • No outdoor heat release – Because standing AC units don’t allow heat to escape outside, it can counter inside. The heat can’t escape and makes it harder to cool the room.
  • May require maintenance – Because there is no outdoor condensation release, most portable AC units have a drain tank. You will need to keep them clean to prevent overflow or a wet floor. 
  • For small areas – Portable air conditioners are for small areas. You can use them to cool a room, but that air isn’t l to travel far outside the room. You’ll need one for the rooms you want to cool.

Evaporative Coolers

An evaporative cooler, or swamp cooler, is for outdoor. It turns water into cool air. This is an eco-friendly, though a less effective way to cool. 

Pros

  • Energy-efficient – Evaporative coolers use water and cool with humidity. They save money and reduce any bills you may have associated with cooling your home.
  • Eco-friendly – They recycle water, evaporative coolers are eco-friendly. If you’re going off-the-grid or want a more natural lifestyle.
  • Great for mild climates – If the temperature never gets above 90 degrees where you live, then evaporative coolers may cool your home.

Cons

  • Not for hot climates – If your climate gets over 95 degrees, then evaporative coolers won’t work. You want it to stay mild. It can’t make a room more than 20 degrees cooler than it is outside. 
  • Not for humid climates – These systems use humidity to cool a room, so using them in humid climates will make the room hotter.
  • Other systems more effective – Evaporative coolers are one of the least effective methods for most climates. In the future, they may be the number one type of cooling unit, but now, they don’t work in most cases. 
  • May leak – Because they use water, they might leak. This is a safety hazard. It can rot wood, leave puddles that people can slip on, and cause issues if the water touches electricity.
  • Consumes water – If you have water restrictions, you may not want an evaporative cooler. They consume a lot of water. If this is a plentiful resource for you, then that’s great.
  • Installed in the roof – For most people, having a unit installed on their roof isn’t great. It makes a hole in the roof, so if you ever want to remove it, you’ll have to fill the hole. 

Mini-Split Air Conditioners

Mini-Split Air ConditionersView in gallery

Mini-split units heat and cool, which is why they are becoming popular. But just like other cooling options, they have both pros and cons. 

Pros

  • Small – mini-split ACs are small and don’t take up a lot of room. They are noticeable but they aren’t as large as other AC units, yet they cool the area just as good, perhaps even better than standard AC units. 
  • Heats and cools – Mini-splits heat and cool a home. You won’t have to pay for a heating system. You won’t have more than one system to take care of.
  • Separate systems – many mini-splits have multiple units connected to an outdoor unit. You can use them when needed and turn them off when you want.
  • Easy installation – though installing a multi-split isn’t as easy as using a portable AC, it’s much easier than installing central air. You don’t need to use any ducts and a small conduit.
  • Multiple ways to mountmini-splits are mounted on a wall, hung from ceilings, or in a window. There are many ways to install them so you can set them up to match your room.
  • Secure – because they need a small hole, they are more secure than other mounted units or window units. So, no one is crawling in even if they do manage to get the unit out. 

Cons

  • Medium-priced – though they don’t cost as much as central air most of the time, they do cost more than most other cooling systems. 
  • Not invisible – you can’t hide them like other units or central ACs. If you don’t like how they look, you’re out of luck.
  • Requires a pro – you shouldn’t attempt to install mini-splits alone. Since they are new and upgrading, it’s best to call a pro. If you don’t, you risk your safety and lose money on repairing mistakes.

Air Condition Filters

If you have allergies or suffer from asthma, you will need to pay attention to your AC filters. An AC unit cleans the air inside your home. When the air enters your home, allergens have been removed from it.

Changing your AC filter is vital. If you have pets and one person with allergies, change the filter every 20 to 40 days.

There are a few types of AC filters to consider.

  • Fiberglass filters are cheap and will protect your AC unit. The problem is they’re not the best at purifying indoor air.
  • Pleated filters are polyester or cotton. They’re great for blocking harmful air particles that trigger allergies. You can wash them and use them multiple times.
  • HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters are the strongest and best at blocking harmful air particles. They’re also known to accumulate dust and mold.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Can I Do If My Central Air Conditioner Is Frozen Over?

If your AC is frozen the first thing you want to do is turn it off. You want the unit to defrost and thaw. It should take one to three hours.

After it’s thawed, turn the fan on and let run for one hour. While the fan is running, change the filter.

Can Mosquitoes Come Through Central Air Conditioner?

Mosquitoes can enter your home through the AC vents. To block the pests, make sure your air conditioner drain does not have water. You want to keep the drain clear.

What Is A SEER Rating?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is an indicator of an air conditioner’s efficiency.

The highest SEER rating for residential air conditioning systems is 25. The lowest is 14. The SEER rating is an indicator of AC’s efficiency but not a guarantee.

How Do You Clean Central Air Conditioning Evaporator Coils?

To access the evaporator coils, remove the coil access panel. To remove the access panel, remove the metal tape that seals the panel.

Next, take out the screws on the access panel of the evaporator coil to the air handler. Use mild soap and warm water to clean the coils.

Get a spray bottle and put hot water and cleanser in it. Apply detergent liquid to the evaporator coils. Allow the mix to soak in and break the debris.

When this is done, wipe off any loose dirt and material with a towel or brush.

Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options Conclusion

Installing a central air system is one of the most important things you’ll need to know how to do as a homeowner. You want the best one that money can buy. You’ll want to make sure it will save you money in the long term.

If you take care of your AC unit, it will take care of you. Do not neglect the thing that keeps you cool during the summer and warm during winter.