Cost to Install an HVAC System

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Sep 23, 2022

The first consideration when installing a new HVAC system is whether ductwork is in place already. If so, the system will cost much less. Another consideration is whether you need one or multiple components. For example, you may only need an air handler system, but not an exterior condenser system.

How much does it cost to install central heat and air?

The average cost to install an HVAC system—combining central air and heat—in a house that doesn’t already have ductwork ranges from $5,800 to $13,000, according to home service provider HomeAdvisor.

What you pay will depend on where you live as well as the details of your home, including the size, the quality of construction, the existing ductwork and whether your home’s current fuel source can be used to power your HVAC system.

Installing central air

If you’re installing only central air to an existing system and ductwork is already in place, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,800 to $7,500. You don’t have to install both central heat and central air at the same time, but you’ll likely save some money if you do.

If you live near the manufacturer’s distribution center, for example, the price of your equipment may go down. But if the cost of living in your area is high, it’s likely that installation will set you back more than in cheaper parts of the country.

This means your total cost for installing central air and heat may well be higher (or lower) than the ranges listed here.

How to choose an HVAC system

There are three main types of HVAC systems that are used in residential homes. Each type of system differs in parts, sizes, and most importantly cost. Knowing which type of HVAC system is in your home is the first thing to consider when estimating the cost to replace. The three types of HVAC systems are:

  1. Furnace Systems: The most common type of HVAC system – otherwise known as a “split system” that is designed with two main units: one furnace system for heating and one exterior system for cooling. The cooling system is usually located outside and uses a fan, refrigerant, compressors, and a coil to remove hot air from the house. The heating system is usually located in the basement or attic and uses gas or electricity to produce and circulate heat in the house. A split system often has the most affordable equipment but the highest installation cost due to the required ductwork. The cost to replace only the equipment for a standard 14 SEER split system can range between $7,500 – $10,000.
  2. Mini-Split (Ductless) Systems: A unique type of HVAC system that has individual units in each room. These types of systems are usually visibly mounted on indoor walls and attached to an outdoor compressor. Ductless systems do not require ductwork to operate which can save money on installation costs, but they often cost more for equipment since you’ll need a unit for each room. The cost to replace only the equipment for a standard single zone ductless system can range between $2,000 – $6,000.
  3. Packaged Systems: This uncommon type of HVAC system is designed with all its major parts packaged together into one cabinet. These types of systems are usually installed outdoors and use a blower to circulate air in and out of the home. Packaged systems can run on either a heat pump or gas and electricity. Packaged systems are fully assembled by the manufacturer which saves you money on installation costs, but they often require more frequent maintenance due to all the major components being exposed to the outdoors. The cost to replace only the equipment for a standard 14 SEER packaged system can range between $10,000 – $14,000.

AC Costs by SEER Rating

Some of the best AC units will have high energy efficiency capabilities (also known as high SEER ratings) can save you a considerable amount of money on your average heating and cooling energy bill costs. However, a higher energy efficiency level may mean a higher HVAC installation cost. SEER ratings can range from the lowest point of a 13 SEER to the maximum efficiency air conditioners boasting a 24 SEER rating. The average price for a standard AC unit providing a 13 to 14 SEER rating will cost around $2,820 for total unit installation, while a unit with a 24 SEER rating will cost much more initially at around $6,800 for total installation. See chart below for all SEER ratings and central AC costs.

Installing an HVAC system

You’ll need to pay for labor from a certified HVAC contractor. If you’re using gas, you may need to install a gas line to the area where the system will be located. And if your home doesn’t already have ductwork in place, you’ll need to pay for supply and “return” ducts to be installed.

If new wiring for electricity needs to be installed, you may also need to pay extra for drywall or painting labor after the work is completed.

Hidden Costs in Your Estimate

There are also air conditioning installation costs that most likely are not included in the initial AC estimate but you may want to factor in, if applicable for your local installation prices. You also may need to consider installing a new furnace with your AC unit. These are the things you should ask the HVAC contractor about and whether or not the cost is included in the initial estimate they’re providing. Here are a few cost related questions you should have answers to:

  • Will a permit be required from your local city or county building department? Will the unit also require an inspection by a representative of the building department to ensure the system is up to code?
  • If you live in an older home that has asbestos or lead paint, there may be an additional cost to test, remove, or replace the material. Ask about this.
  • What about ductwork? Does my existing ductwork can be used or new duct installation is recommended?
  • Does plumbing or drywall need to be relocated?

Final Tips

Once your system is installed, make sure to buy extra filters because replacing air filters regularly is one of the main ways to keep energy costs in check.

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