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The heat during peak summers can get sweltering, and the last thing you want is your air conditioning system giving up on you. However, if that does happen, and if your current AC system is more than eight years old, you may want to consider installing a brand new air conditioning unit. How much does it cost to replace an AC unit and what are the factors that affect that cost? Let’s take a look.
Most homes are fitted with a central air conditioning unit, which is a part of the home’s HVAC system. Often, these units are paired with a heating system like an indoor furnace to be able to handle both the eating and cooling needs of the home.
Among the simplest AC units available there is the window unit AC, which can be easily installed in the window of a room and used to control the temperature of just that area of the home.
A mini-split system or a split AC system is a ductless air conditioning system that combines an inside as well as an outside unit to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the home.
Another popular ductless system is the heat pump split AC system. During summers, this system pumps out heat from the home to the outside, while doing just the opposite to warm the house during winters.
For those looking for flexibility on a budget, portable air conditioners are the way to go. These units use an evaporative HVAC system that can be moved around the house and used wherever needed using a hose system to regulate temperatures.
Let’s take a look at when it’s time to replace an old air conditioner.
If your current air conditioning unit was installed before 2010, it uses a CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant which is harmful to the ozone layer. Modern air conditioners use a much more ecologically friendly refrigerant.
If your current system keeps breaking down frequently, or if your home is just not getting cooled as much as it should be, you may need to consider replacing it instead of constantly repairing it.
New AC units are also known to consume half the amount of power when compared to older models, while also being a lot more efficient when it comes to cooling. This is because older models operate at or below 10 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The minimum efficiency legally allowed now is 13 SEER, with some premium brands offering a SEER rating of 26 SEER. This means a minimum savings of 30% on your cooling bills thanks to your new air conditioning system, if not more.
So unless your current system only needs a bit of cleaning or a minor repair like a fan belt change, you’re better off getting a brand new system. A new AC system should last you for at least 15 years once installed. However, we’d suggest you get an expert opinion from your HVAC contractor before you do.
The cost to install a central air conditioner varies from around a low of around $2,800 to a high of around $7,700, with the national average being around $5,285.
A 1500 square foot home will need a 2.5 ton for adequate cooling. An AC system with a 13 SEER rating will cost you close to $4,000 including installation, with the unit itself costing around $1,300.
A premium 16 SEER rating air conditioner installation will put you down around $6,000 for a home of similar square footage. While that may seem steep, keep in mind that these systems will reduce your energy costs by almost 60%. Opting for them will also make you eligible for federal tax credits of up to $300 and possibly other local incentives as well.
Efficiency is a crucial factor when it comes to air conditioning.
To begin with, the energy efficiency or cooling power of your air conditioning system will not matter if your HVAC system has leaky ducts. So get your HVAC unit thoroughly checked by a technician and seal any leaks before you buy a new AC.
Next, you will need to consider local weather conditions. The warmer the climate is in your region, the higher your AC SEER rating ought to be for you to be able to save on cooling costs.
Similarly, living in an area that doesn’t experience blistering summers does not require investing in a premium air conditioning system with a high SEER rating.
For your air conditioning to be efficient, you will also need to accurately calculate how big a system you need, or how many tons your air conditioning needs to be to cool your home efficiently.
A lot of contractors calculate the size of the system by taking an average of one ton per 400 square feet. This will mean a house of around 2000 square feet will need a 5-ton air conditioning system.
However, that may not always be accurate or very energy efficient. A good contractor will ideally use a load calculation software using inputs like the thickness of your home’s insulation, attic configuration, number of rooms, number of windows, how much sunlight different parts of your home receive at different times of the day, and more to arrive at how large your system needs to be as well as how to efficiently direct the right amount of cool air to each room.
Your air conditioning system is made up of multiple individual parts, all of which come at a price. Here’s a list of those parts and what they’ll cost you.
Depending on the size and quality, you will end up spending between $750 and $4,000 on your condensing unit.
The bigger the size of your AC condenser, the bigger your evaporator coil needs to be. Coil cost will also differ based on whether you choose to install uncased coils or those with steel cases. Depending on size and quality, expect to pay anywhere between $175 to $1,100.
Refrigerant lines, depending on the length required as well as the amount of refrigerant needed will put you down as much as $400.
How much AC units cost also largely depends on the brand you choose and will affect your spending by up to 20%. Premier brands tend to be quieter, last longer, and have higher SEER ratings, making them more energy-efficient.
Labor costs will account for another major chunk of your spending.
The more complex the installation, the more it will cost.
How much labor costs will also depend on whether the AC installer is certified by the brand you’ve bought or not. An installer who is certified will be more expensive than a technician who is not aligned with a particular brand.
The time of the year also makes a difference to labor itself. Summers are busy, so expect to pay more. Getting your AC installed in winters will cost you considerably less. In fact, a lot of contractors offer discounts during off-seasons.
And finally, the area you live in will also play a part in how much you will end up spending on labor by up to 20%.
Labor by itself will cost you between $1,200 and $2,300.
A lot of home improvement projects can be done DIY, and you’re probably wondering why you can’t save a couple of thousand dollars by installing your new air conditioning system by yourself. Well, you could, but it’s not going to be easy. Let’s look at the pros, cons, and the process, so you have a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Most air conditioning systems will come with diagrams and a manual explaining how to interlink different parts and how to get the system up and running. However, here’s a brief description of the process.
Once your new AC system is in place, here’s a list of what you need to do in terms of regular upkeep.
Seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It also requires a very specific set of skills that HVAC professionals are trained to have. So unless you have a lot of time and patience on your hands, it might be a better idea to just hire professionals to handle the installation and maintenance of your new air conditioning system for you.
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