2021 complete cost guide to install central air and heating
- Replace Central Air and Heat – $5,300 to $7,800
- Replace Central Air, Heat, and Ductwork – $6,800 to $11,550
- New Install Central Air, Heat, and Ductwork – $8,700 to $13,500
What exactly is central air?
Three things make up a complete central heating and cooling system. There is an indoor furnace that heats and pushes the air throughout your home, an outdoor air conditioner unit primarily responsible for cooling your home, and, lastly, air ducts that should properly distribute the air throughout your home. These three components make up a complete central air system.
- Central Air System
- Indoor Furnace
- Outdoor AC Unit
- Indoor Duct Work
12 Things Every Homeowner Should Know Before Buying a New AC
The HVAC industry still operates like the wild west, and many homeowners are left to fend for themselves. Atlas AC created the AC Buyers Guide to prevent homeowners from being exploited by untrustworthy AC companies.
Use this guide to help you select the best AC Company for your next AC Replacement.
How Much Does A Central Air Install Cost?
New central air installation, where the indoor furnace and outdoor AC unit are replaced, costs the average homeowner around $5,300 to $7,800. This pricing is based on the financial cost to upgrade an existing central air system in 2021.
|Central Air System Tonnage||Electric Central Air Install||Heat Pump Central Air Install||Gas Central Air Install|
|2 Ton 14 SEER Central Air System||$5,300||$5,600||$6,200|
|2.5 Ton 14 SEER Central Air System||$5,400||$5,800||$6,500|
|3 Ton 14 SEER Central Air System||$5,500||$5,800||$6,900|
|3.5 Ton 14 SEER Central Air System||$5,800||$6,000||$7,250|
|4 Ton 14 SEER Central Air System||$6,200||$6,300||$7,400|
|5 Ton 14 SEER Central Air System||$6,300||$6,700||$7,800|
What should be included in new central Air installation?
- Removal & disposal of current air conditioner unit and furnace.
- Installation of new air conditioner unit and furnace to city code.
- Installation of heat kit elements, disconnect & whip, proper max circuit protection fuses, safety float switches, locking caps, plenum transitions, drain line, reconnection & line set flush to accommodate new refrigerant. Complete city permit & city inspection.
- 10-year parts warranty & 1-year labor warranty
What is the difference between Electric, Heat Pump, and Gas Central Air Systems?
The short answer as to what makes these three system types different from each other lies in how the furnace heats your home. The air conditioning part of these systems works similarly to cool your home. The furnaces vary in cost, quality, and energy efficiency.
Electric Central Air
- An electric central air system is the most budget-friendly install solution out of the three options, but it is also the most inefficient. This system heats your home by using heat strips. The furnace uses electricity to get the heat strip hot, then pushes air past the strips to warm the air. The warm air is then distributed throughout your home. It requires a considerable amount of electricity to heat your home using this method, making it the most inefficient way to warm your home. An electric central air system is a pretty cut and dry system, which helps keep the install cost at a minimum.
- The correct application matters. If you live up north, where you experience long winters, this system is not ideal due to its high electrical use. There are two areas this system works great for, small homes and rental properties. If you own a smaller home, you don’t use much power to warm your home. Electric central air is an excellent option to consider if you want to keep your install cost down. If you own a rental property, odds are the tenant will not change the filters or maintain the system routinely. Since the tenant pays the electric bill and the central air will be used and abused, the lowest cost option is probably your best bet for a new central air install.
Heat Pump Central Air
- A heat pump central air system is the most efficient out of the three options. It is the most efficient because it uses freon to cool your home and heat it too. Essentially it uses the outdoor ambient temperature along with a chemical reaction to warm your home. This process does not require a lot of energy. Heat pumps are not too complicated, which makes for a fast, cost-effective install.
- Where this central air system falls short is when the outdoor temperature reaches below -10 degrees. The outdoor unit struggles to convert the cold temperatures into warmth. This central air system is ideal for any home located in the southern part of the US. It’s only a few hundred dollars more than an electric central air, but way more energy efficient. If you live down south and plan to live in your home for more than five years, I recommend choosing a heat pump.
Gas Central Air
- A gas central air system will be your most expensive install option but arguably delivers the highest quality of heating. This furnace uses combustion to warm the air before distributing it throughout your home. Many people believe that gas combustion delivers a higher quality of heating for your home. A lot more work goes into a gas installation because of all the safety protocols that must be followed, which drives up the cost to install a gas central air system.
- This central air system is the most diverse out of the three. You can use it in the northern US all the way down south. It is widely used up north because it’s more efficient than an electric central and can handle the cold, unlike a heat pump. The cost of a gas system is higher than the other systems, but overall it is one of the best you can buy.
What Is The Install Cost Of Central Air With new Ductwork?
The cost to replace your ductwork is going to cost around $150 per flex run. New ductwork is going to cost around $2,000 in addition to the cost in install central air.
|Central Air System Tonnage / Number of Duct Runs||Electric Central Air Install||Heat Pump Central Air Install||Gas Central Air Install|
|2 Ton Central Air System / 10 Runs||$6,800||$7,100||$7,700|
|2.5 Ton Central Air System / 13 Runs||$7,350||$7,750||$8,450|
|3 Ton Central Air System / 16 Runs||$7,900||$8,200||$9,300|
|3.5 Ton Central Air System / 18 Runs||$8,500||$8,700||$9,950|
|4 Ton Central Air System / 21 Runs||$9,350||$9,450||$10,550|
|5 Ton Central Air System / 25 Runs||$10,050||$10,450||$11,550|
What should be included in new central air installation with ductwork?
- Removal & disposal of current air conditioner unit and furnace.
- Removal & disposal of current flex ductwork.
- Install new air conditioner unit and furnace to city code.
- Install heat kit elements, disconnect & whip, proper max circuit protection fuses, safety float switches, locking caps, plenum transitions, drain line, reconnection & line set flush to accommodate new refrigerant. Complete city permit & city inspection.
- Install new flex ductwork between the plenum and the registers.
- 10-year parts warranty & 1-year labor warranty
Central air duct install
Your ventilation is more important than you think. It is responsible for properly distributing the air through your home. If it wasn’t designed right or installed wrong, it could create hot and cold spots throughout your home. If done correctly, it will evenly distribute the air through your home, giving you a more consistent temperature.
Ductwork gets old, varmints get in your attic, or improper installation causes problems. Regardless of the scenario, at some point, your ducting will need to be replaced. The most common ductwork install is the replacement of the flex between the plenum and the registers. This is the quickest and least costly way to install new ducting for your central air.
What Is The Most Cost Effective Central Air Brand?
The brand you choose for a new central air system impacts the amount you pay. The cost can vary around $2,000 depending on with brand you choose.
3 Ton 14 Seer Central air conditioning unit & Furnace install cost
|Central Air Brand||Electric HVAC System||Heat Pump HVAC System||Gas HVAC System|
Each central air company has a different price model.
- There is not a universal price list every air conditioner company follows like the automotive industry. Every central air conditioning company has to build its own pricing model. This leads to huge differences in pricing. For example, the pricing on this page is our, Atlas AC Repair‘s, internal pricing. Some local companies in San Antonio and Austin, Texas charge their customers 2x more than we do. If you are looking for reasonable pricing for new central air, you will probably have to get a few quotes. Don’t allow a salesman into your home. A salesman makes their money from the commissions of the sale. They are motivated to sell you the most expensive solution available even though you don’t need or want it. When a central air conditioning company uses salesmen, it also drives up the price because they have to pay a commission. Try to find a company that is open with their pricing and can quote you over the phone. This will help to keep the cost of a new central air conditioning system where it should be.
The purchasing power of an air conditioning company matters.
- Every company has a primary brand they use for new central air systems. You should be able to get the best price using the company’s primary brand. For example, we use Carrier as our primary central air conditioning brand. We run so much volume through Carrier they give us their best price. We, in turn, pass on the savings to our customers. We can install a new Carrier central air system cheaper than a Goodman central air conditioner. That being said, another good way to keep your cost down is by using the primary brand of the air conditioning company you want to use. If you have a specific brand in mind, like Lennox or Trane, I would find a company that is a dealer in that brand. This is going to help keep your cost down while still getting what you want.
How Much Does High Efficiency Central Air Cost?
There is a considerable cost difference between systems of differing efficiencies. A 3-ton 14 SEER gas central air install costs $6,200, while a 22 Seer air conditioner costs $15,000.
|Central Air Tonnage||14 SEER 1 Stage||15 SEER 1 Stage||16 SEER 2 Stage||17.5 SEER 5 Speed||22 SEER Variable Speed|
|2 Ton Gas Central Air Install||$6,200||$6,300||$8,300||$10,200||$14,000|
|3 Ton Gas Central Air Install||$6,900||$7,000||$8,700||$11,300||$14,500|
|4 Ton Gas Central Air Install||$7,400||$7,500||$9,600||$12,100||$14,800|
|5 Ton Gas Central Air Install||$7,800||$7,900||$10,200||$12,200||$15,000|
What is the Difference between a one-stage Vs. multi-stage air conditioner?
The number of stages you have in your central air conditioner system significantly impacts temperature consistency, humidity, and energy use. The more stages you have, the more control you have over the air quality in your home.
Single Stage Delivers Little Control
- A single-stage central air conditioner has only one setting; it’s either on or off, there is no in-between. This means that when it’s time to warm or cool, your home turns on at 100% until the desired temperature is reached. This is a good thing, right? Not entirely. Operating at 100% creates a few problems that could be avoided with a multi-stage central air conditioner.
- A single-stage central air conditioner has a short cycle time because it’s running all out. The on/off cycle time can create hot and cool spots throughout your home. Some areas of your home will cool, while other areas will remain warm. A multi-stage central air conditioner can play a part in fixing this problem.
- There is also another problem that we run into, humidity. If you live in an area with high humidity, a single-stage central air conditioner often doesn’t run long enough to balance out the humidity in your home. This is terrible news if you have art or expensive furniture. A single-stage central air conditioner replacement will always cost the least but isn’t always the best solution.
2-Stage Delivers Some Control
- A two-stage central air conditioner and heater have two operating speeds. Most of the time, the first stage operates at around 65% of its compacity. The second stage operates at 100%. If there is not a lot of demand for the central air conditioner, it will use the first stage to heat and cool your home. However, if it’s really hot or cold outside where the first stage is no longer keeping up, it moves to stage 2. At that point, the desired temperature is met. A two-stage central air conditioner has a much longer run time, which in turn better controls the humidity in your home. It also helps to even out the temperatures throughout your home. The extra cost for a two-stage central air conditioner replacement is worth considering if you own a two-story home or looking to protect your valuables.
Variable Speed Delivers Total Control
- 5-speed and variable speed central air conditioners operate at multiple different outputs. They are designed to run all the time at the lowest speed. Once the lowest speed can no longer satisfy the indoor temperature, the AC moves to the next stages until it hits temperature then starts stepping back down through the stages. It can control your house’s temperature within 1 degree. Because it runs for a long time on the lowest stages, you can set the humidity at your desired levels. The cost increase for a variable speed central air conditioner replacement is worth considering if you have a large home with high ceilings and many rooms. These systems will also protect your artwork and expensive furniture, in addition to keeping your electric bill low.