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How Much Does a New Air Conditioner Cost?
First and foremost, what should you do if you find there’s a problem with your system? Secondly, how do you decide if the system needs repair or complete replacement?
If you discover that your system is having trouble circulating cold air and is essentially just blowing air around the home instead of cooling it, your first step should be to try to figure out the problem for yourself. The filter might need to be replaced, or there could be a clog. If you don’t want to tempt fate by checking the system yourself, consult an HVAC technician.
After this step, it’s relatively easy to decide between replacement and repair if you use the ‘5,000 rule’. The 5,000 rule means that you multiply the age of the system by the quoted repair costs. If it’s under 5,000, repair is a sensible choice. If it’s over 5,000, replacement is recommended. Learn more about the cost of AC repairs.
So, now that you know what to do in the event of finding a problem with your HVAC system, how much does new air conditioning cost? The average air conditioner costs $5,000 to $10,000 with installation, and most spend around $7,500.
However, you can choose to use window or portable air conditioners as well, which may cost less. Let’s examine a few factors that affect the overall price of a new system:
British Thermal Units
If you are replacing window air conditioners or just don’t want to spend the money to replace a more extensive system, it’s helpful to find out the size of the window air conditioner that you need. Learn more about how much a window air conditioner costs.
To determine the size of the system you need, you will need to know the size of the area you plan on cooling. For single-room air conditioners, measure the room you intend to put them in.
Multiply the length by the width of the room, and from these measurements, you can find out the recommended energy requirements for a room of that size.
For window air conditioners, you will encounter a measurement called a BTU, which stands for British Thermal Unit and is the international measure of energy. One BTU is the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
To put things in perspective, a 10-foot wide by 10-foot long room needs a window air conditioner capable of reaching 5,000 BTUs.
For central air conditioners, you will need to know the total square footage you plan on cooling. You can do this by adding up the square footage of each room.
Central air conditioners are also sized by BTUs, but they are also sized and sold by the ton. One ton is equal to 12,000 BTUs. For a 2,000 sq. ft. home, you will need an air conditioner that is between 2.5 and 5 tons, depending on your climate zone.
The hotter the climate you live in, the more BTUs will be required to cool the space.
A useful way of figuring out how much energy it takes to cool your home is to examine a climate zone map. On such a map, America is divided into a number of zones according to how mild or extreme the temperatures are.
There are five different zones, all of which have different requirements for effective home heating and cooling. Zone 1 is the warmest, and Zone 6 is the coldest. Zone 1 represents the very southernmost part of Florida. Zone 6 represents many of the states that share a border with Canada, including Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.
In general, homes in Zone 1 require the most amount of energy per square foot to cool, and those in Zone 6 require the least. Here are two examples to illuminate the difference using the median BTUs and air conditioning tons required for their designated zone:
A 2,000 square foot home in Montana requires 28,000 BTUs or 2.5 tons to cool.
A 2,000 square foot home in Texas requires 60,000 BTUs or 5 tons to cool.
Finding out how many BTUs or tons you need to cool your home will help you decide on a new HVAC system because the heating and cooling capacities work hand in hand to maintain a comfortable environment during different seasons.
In other words, an HVAC system that is purchased in Montana that has a furnace large enough to heat a home during the winter will have a smaller central air conditioner to provide cool air in the summer. The reverse will be true of homes in warmer climates.
The Cost of a New HVAC System for an Average-Sized American Home
When you take the average amount of BTUs per square foot from climate zone measurements and multiply this by the number of square feet in an average-sized home, this gives a reasonable ballpark estimate of how much new air conditioning costs. Below is the relevant calculation to show you the process:
The average size of an American home built in 1983: 1,725 square feet
The average size of an American home built in 2013: 2,598 square feet
Thus, let’s assume an average size of 2,000 square feet for the sake of simplicity.
The climate zone BTU range is from 12 to 30 BTUs per square foot, so let’s use the middle figure of 21 BTUs per square foot for the calculation.
The required BTU of an average house, then, is 42,000 BTUs or 3.5 tons.
A 3-ton HVAC unit costs an average of $2,000 to $5,000 but can be more or less depending on the brand and special features.
Thus, the average cost of having a good quality, good brand HVAC system installed in an average house in America will cost around $7,500, including labor and any extras.
All pricing information on this page is based on average industry costs, and is subject to variance for project-specific materials, labor rates, and requirements.