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How Much Should a Residential AC Replacement Cost?

March 20, 2020

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No matter your expected AC replacement costs, it’s vital that you schedule a heating and cooling inspection and upgrade to a new air conditioner as needed. A high-quality air conditioner ensures your comfort while also protecting a home against excessive humidity and resultant mold growth.

Standard residential AC replacement costs might range from $1200 to $1800, depending on the size of the unit and added features, not including labor and installation charges. Your costs might also go up if your home needs new ductwork or other related repairs and installation.

Because an AC replacement might be a costly investment for most homeowners, it’s vital to note the reasons why you should invest in a new HVAC system as needed. It’s also good to note some tips on choosing the best air conditioning size and type for your home, as well as how to save on those costs.

Remember to discuss all your options with AC installation companies near you, as installers are often happy to help customers save as much money as possible. They can also offer personalized, customized recommendations based on your home’s condition, location, sunlight exposure, and other such factors.

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Your Residential AC Replacement Cost and Size

To figure your expected new air conditioner costs, it’s helpful to know a bit more about your options for various sizes and other such features. You might also note some factors that affect your buying decision and size and model of AC needed for your home.

  • The size of a residential air conditioner is measured in tonnage, but this does not refer to the weight of a central AC unit! Tonnage refers to the amount of air an AC can cool in an hour.
  • British Thermal Units, or BTU, refers to the amount of energy needed to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
  • One air conditioner tonnage is equal to 12,000 BTUs. A two-ton air conditioner then offers 24,000 BTUs of cooling power.
  • Residential air conditioners typically range from 1.5 tons to 5 tons, in half-pound increments, meaning that you might purchase a 2 ton, 2.5 ton, 3 ton, 3.5 ton unit, and so on.
  • A 5-ton unit is often considered a lightweight or light-duty commercial air conditioner and is rarely offered for residential use. If your home is quite large or you require 5 tons or more for any reason, you might need to purchase several smaller units instead.
  • It’s vital that a homeowner reconsider their home’s air conditioner size every time they schedule an AC replacement. For instance, you might have upgraded the home’s insulation, purchased thermal or larger windows for the house, cut back shade trees, or otherwise made changes that affect your needed AC size.
  • To figure the AC size needed for your home, you might first start with a simple equation; take your home’s square footage, multiply it by 30, divide that number by 12,000, then subtract 1.0. (For a 1500 square foot home, multiply 1500 times 30, which equals 45,000. Divide 45,000 by 12,000, which equals 3.75. Subtract 1.0, to end up with 2.75. As AC units are sold in half-ton increments, that 1500 square foot home might need a 2.5 or 3.0 ton unit.)
  • As said, you also need to figure other factors that affect your home’s interior environment. Homes in tropical environments might require a stronger air conditioner, whereas homes in a moderate climate with plenty of shade trees might not require as much cooling power.
  • Other factors that affect a home’s overall interior environment include heat-producing electronics and appliances, such as lots of computers and televisions. Body heat also affects a home’s standard temperature, so larger families might actually need a larger air conditioner!
  • Interior ceiling fans, thermal or triple-glazed windows, and light carpeting also keep a home cooler than one with poor inside air circulation, thin and outdated windows, and dark wood floors or paint colors on the walls.

Now that you know about the size of a needed air conditioner, you might understand a bit more about your expected costs! Most AC units are priced according to size, along with added costs for extended warranties and upgraded features such as electronic notification of a needed filter change.

What Also Affects Your Residential AC Replacement Cost

When shopping for an AC replacement, note that you’ll need to figure installation costs! Every AC contractor prices their work differently, often anywhere from $60 to over $100 per hour. Some might also offer a flat quote for your AC installation, including the price of the new unit along with removal and disposal of your old air conditioner.

Note, too, that central air conditioning pushes air through a home’s ductwork. If your home or another structure doesn’t have ductwork, or you want the air conditioner to reach areas without ducts such as an attached garage, ductwork installation adds to your AC replacement costs.

A larger air conditioner might also require new wiring in your home. Old, outdated wiring that’s worn or frayed should be replaced anyway, but consider that electrical wiring is designed to manage only so much power. If your new AC requires more power than older wiring can manage, you’ll need new wiring to avoid brownouts and blown circuits; this also adds to your installation costs.

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Tips for Saving on Residential AC Replacement Costs

One way to save on your residential AC replacement costs is to opt for a smaller unit. While you don’t want a unit so undersized that it cannot cool your home’s interior properly, you can also make a few changes to your living spaces that add to a cooler environment inside.

For example, you might invest in thick curtains, which help block outside heat coming in from the windows or through gaps around window frames. Door stoppers block cold drafts in wintertime but are also an excellent choice for keeping heat from coming in along the bottom of entryway doors! Weather-stripping around doors and windows also keeps out heat.

Ceiling fans help dissipate heat trapped along interior ceilings, keeping rooms cooler. It’s also helpful to turn off heat-generating appliances when not in use; switch off computers, video game consoles, and other devices, to keep them from generating heat.

Your HVAC contractor might also suggest ways to save on your new air conditioner, such as buying closeout models or from year-end clearance sales. He or she might also know about manufacturer rebates for certain models as well as tax incentives for energy-efficient models.

Should You Opt for AC Replacement or Repair?

In some cases, an HVAC contractor might be able to make certain repairs and get your air conditioner running again. You might assume that it’s always a better choice for opt for AC repairs rather than replacement, but this isn’t always the case!

For example, those repairs might be somewhat costly, and an older heating and cooling system might require added repairs in the near future. When you consider the cost of constantly repairing an older unit over the next few years, you might see that a new AC installation is the more cost-effective option.

If you’ve made changes to your home, as said, a new AC installation might also be a better financial decision. Constantly repairing an undersized unit that already struggles to cool your home, or an oversized unit that offers more cooling and uses more energy than needed, might be more costly than simply purchasing a new air conditioner altogether.

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Older and outdated air conditioners might also be drawing far more power than they should, as they need that added electricity to force worn motors and fan blades to operate. A new air conditioner, especially if you choose an energy-efficient model, can mean saving money on your power bill during summer months.

You might also consider if you’ll be putting your home on the real estate market anytime in the near future. You might think it’s wasteful to purchase a new air conditioner for a home you’re about to sell, but note that homebuyers might be put off by old, outdated appliances. If they make an offer for your home, they might subtract the cost of a new appliance as well as additional funds to compensate for the hassle of scheduling a replacement.

When Your Home Needs a New AC Installation

If your home feels cool but always humid or clammy, your current air conditioner might be undersized and not removing humidity as it should. Constant brownouts and blown circuits also indicate that the AC is drawing too much power, perhaps over frayed wiring or because of worn parts.

If you’ve made major changes to your home, such as extra large window installation or the addition of a sunroom, it’s time for a new air conditioner! Your current AC might not be strong enough to provide cooling needed for your new space or to compensate for that added sunlight.

A new AC replacement might also be needed if you’ll be making added demands on that unit. For instance, if you’re approaching retirement and will be spending days at home rather than in the office, you might need a more reliable and efficient air conditioner. If you’ll be adding a large entertainment center, a new AC might also compensate for those heat-producing electronics, keeping the home cool and comfortable on movie night!


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