Over our 20+ years in business as an HVAC contractor in Delaware, one of our most frequently asked questions is, “How much does AC installation cost?” While many HVAC installers are reluctant to provide an up-front answer to this question, we’ve established a reputation for being friendly and honest.

At Above & Beyond Services, we offer free estimates on new AC installations and replacements, plus complimentary second opinions to ensure none of our customers ever pay too much for a high-quality air conditioner. We’re proud to have saved people thousands of dollars on essential home heating and cooling appliances.  

Types of AC Installation Costs

Many AC replacement estimates only include the cost of the AC and installation, but several other significant costs come into play. You should be aware of these to become a more informed homeowner.

What you can expect to pay will vary widely depending on what type and brand of AC unit you are buying, the scope of the job, the efficiency of your new air conditioner and the size of your system, plus additional items such as ductwork installation or repair. As your trusted HVAC contractor, Above & Beyond Services wants you to know everything involved when it’s time to purchase a new AC unit. 

AC Replacement Installation Cost

On average, a well-maintained air conditioner lasts approximately 15 to 20 years. If yours is reaching the end of its lifespan and you’re budgeting for a replacement, what should you know going into this purchase? The size of the unit needed for your home and your energy efficiency goals help determine the type of air conditioning system to install.

Cost of Installation With Existing Furnace

If you already have a working furnace and only need to have an air conditioner installed, you can save some money on your AC installation. However, it’s essential to consider that replacing your furnace at the same time will help your new air conditioner perform at its rated efficiency. 

For instance, if you buy a high-efficiency air conditioner with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio above 16 and you have an older furnace, you’ll end up with a mismatched system, which will sacrifice some efficiency. Though it’s possible to mix and match a new AC with an older furnace, we don’t usually recommend it, especially if your furnace is over 15 years old. 

Cost of Installation Without Existing Ductwork

If you are looking to get an AC installed, but your home has no existing ductwork, you have two options:

  1. Have new ductwork installed alongside a central AC system. The total cost to install new, flexible, insulated ductwork in a 1,500-square-foot home is, on average, between $3,000 and $5,000.
  2. Get a ductless mini-split AC system. You can expect to pay between $2,000 and $7,000 to purchase one of these units and have it installed in your home.

Factors That Affect the Air Conditioning Installation Cost

As you’ve already learned, a wide range of elements can influence what you’ll pay for your new air conditioning installation. To be a smarter shopper, you’ll want to account for the following.  

The Size of Your Home

It’s a common misconception that buying the largest air conditioning unit you can afford is your best bet. However, an oversized unit will not meet your cooling needs because it will cycle on and off too often. The size of your house is a significant factor influencing your AC purchase. A qualified HVAC contractor will calculate and design the correctly sized system based on considerations such as the square footage of your home.

Ductwork

If your home already has ductwork installed, you might be able to shave some of the cost off the final price of your air conditioning installation. However, the condition of your existing ductwork will influence the total price tag. For example, if there are a lot of gaps or cracks in the ducts, your HVAC system will not work to its full potential, leading to higher energy bills over time. Having a new AC unit installed is an ideal opportunity to have your ductwork professionally inspected.

The Equipment’s Brand Name

Many trustworthy companies manufacture high-quality air conditioning units, such as Trane, Mitsubishi, American Standard, Carrier and Lennox. Typically, you’ll pay more for a name-brand unit because you’re also paying for all the research, development and quality testing that go into manufacturing an excellent, reliable and long-lasting air conditioner. It may be tempting to buy the least expensive option, but remember you’ll get more long-term value from choosing a brand that has built a reputation for superior performance.  

SEER Value

If you haven’t shopped for an air conditioner in a while, you may wonder what the acronym SEER means. It’s an abbreviation for “seasonal efficiency energy ratio” – a number that indicates how efficiently your new unit will run. You’ll save money and lower your home’s carbon footprint by buying the most energy-efficient new unit you can afford, so the SEER rating is essential to consider as you’re shopping for a new HVAC unit. 

Like the MPG of your car, a higher SEER number indicates a more efficient unit. New government standards mandate a minimum of 13 SEER, but modern units can achieve a rating of up to 20. Installing a high-efficiency AC will make your project cost more up front, but you’ll save on your energy bills in the long run. You may also be eligible for government rebates.

Project Difficulty

Labor is another factor contributing to the total price of an AC installation project. Complex projects tend to be correspondingly more expensive. For instance, if you need to have ductwork repaired or installed, that will increase the project difficulty for your contractors. If you live in an older home, you should also be aware that getting your new system to match the existing features of your house is a much more time- and labor-intensive project than installing a new system in a modern home.

Types of Air Conditioning Systems

While you may be most familiar with central AC systems or window units, there are other options when it comes to keeping your Delaware home cool and comfortable. We’ll detail the six types of AC units below to help you choose which one is the best fit for your needs. 

Central Air Conditioning

Many modern homes have central air conditioning. A central AC combines the evaporator, condenser and compressor in one contained unit located outside the home. From the unit, the ductwork running through your walls circulates cooled air through your house through a series of air vents in the floors or ceilings. This type of air conditioner can pair with a furnace for whole-home comfort.

Ductless Mini-Split

Mini-split systems have several advantages over traditional HVAC. For one, they are an ideal solution for homes without existing ductwork. You can also choose to have this type of AC unit installed if you are adding rooms onto your house and don’t want to have to factor the costs of extending your ductwork into your construction budget.

Ductless systems combine an outdoor compressor and condenser with one or more indoor air-handling units. Each room in your home will have a separate unit dedicated to the cooling needs of that space, allowing you to control the temperature independently in different areas. You can have a mini-split installed without the mess and expense of tearing up walls. They can be more energy-efficient, but it can also be more expensive to cool an entire house.

Window Units

A window-mounted unit is another option for houses that do not have central air conditioning. These are the most common types of AC units for single rooms. All the components are in a single box with a single thermostat gauge fitted in an opening cut into the wall or windowsill where the unit sits.

Portable Air Conditioning Units

These units are similar to window systems, but they’re movable for added convenience. They are self-contained and freestanding, so you can pick them up and move them from room to room or apartment to apartment. It only requires an outlet to power on and a window to channel out the exhaust air.

Hybrid HVAC

Like a hybrid car, hybrid HVAC systems can alternate between burning fossil fuels and using electricity to save energy while running your unit. With hybrid HVAC, the system’s computer “chooses” either an electrically powered heat pump or a furnace that burns natural gas, propane or fuel oil. As a homeowner, these units can save you money, especially during colder temperatures.

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

No matter how hot or cold it gets outside, the temperature a few feet below ground remains at a consistent 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As an environmentally friendly method of heating and cooling, geothermal technology extracts the heat generated under the earth and transfers it into your home. 

With geothermal HVAC, a coil buried in the ground heats and cools your home. In the winter, it extracts heat from the planet, and in the summer, it removes excess warmth from your home and distributes it back into the ground. These systems are sustainable, quiet, energy-efficient and long-lasting.

How Much Should You Pay for Your HVAC Installation?

To help you understand what constitutes a fair price for new HVAC installation, we’ve divided the types of projects into three categories. 

  • Change-out: Swapping an old HVAC system with a new one, without any modifications to the ductwork 
  • Full replacement: Complete installation of all HVAC equipment, including ductwork 
  • Full installation with features: A brand-new HVAC system and ductwork, plus add-ons such as whole-home air filtration

Change-Out Cost

A change-out is usually the least technically involved and most budget-friendly option for an AC installation project. With this choice, you’ll buy a new air conditioning unit and have the old one hauled away. Keep in mind that a new AC is not a plug-and-play appliance like a refrigerator. Installing an AC involves fine-tuning such as adjusting the wiring, charging the system with refrigerant and going through the manufacturer’s installation checklist.

Because ductwork can deteriorate as it ages, leading to clogs and leaks, a reputable HVAC technician should only recommend a simple change-out if they inspect your ductwork and find it in mint condition. 

Full Replacement Cost

When you need a new air conditioner, most trustworthy HVAC contractors will recommend going with a full replacement. While the ductwork in your house remains hidden behind walls and layers of installation, it plays an essential role in the efficiency and lifespan of your heating and cooling system. Over time, dust and debris accumulate inside air ducts, and they are also more prone to breaking as they get older. 

The ductwork adds labor, which makes a full replacement a few thousand dollars more expensive than a basic change-out, but it’s worth the money in the long run because new ductwork will help your HVAC run at peak efficiency. 

Full Installation Cost Plus Additional Features

Of course, you might decide that having a new air conditioner installed is an opportune time to upgrade your home comfort with add-on features such as a yearly maintenance agreement, a whole-home humidifier or an air purification system. As with any significant investment, however, bear in mind that more bells and whistles will add to your total cost. 

An experienced team of technicians should be able to work with you to customize your installation to meet your unique needs, and will communicate the cost of any additional features up front so there are no surprises on your bill.

Calculating the Cost of Your AC Installation

How much should you budget for a new AC installation project? If you’ve received quotes from a few different pros and found them varying widely, there may be a couple of reasons for this – and the lowest offer might not always be your best bet.

Each quote for HVAC installation should include the price of equipment and labor, as well as equipment and materials that might be necessary to complete the work. To avoid confusion, we suggest asking for a detailed cost breakdown. 

Any reliable and honest HVAC installer should always be willing to take time to help you understand any aspect of the installation project, including the costs included on the quote. If a potential contractor seems unwilling to explain something to you, that may be a red flag. 

Armed with the knowledge in this article, you can avoid overpaying for your new AC installation and find an energy-efficient unit that will serve you well for many years. When it’s time to replace your air conditioning, contact us at Above & Beyond Services for a free quote. For more than two decades, we’ve helped our neighbors in the Delmarva area with fast, friendly and affordable solutions.