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How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air Conditioning?

Updated on March 12, 2012

On windless, hot summer days, air conditioned spaces offer relief from the oppressive climate. Commercial office buildings and shopping malls grant such comfort outside the house. But inside the home, central air conditioning can cool down all rooms at the same time. Installing this machine is not a job for amateurs and demands the services of professionals.


The most common type of central air conditioning is the split system, which circulates refrigerant between an outdoor condenser with compressor, and an indoor coil. This cools the air, which a blower then moves through the ducts of a home. A less common option is the heat pump that discharges heat from the house into the air or underground in the summer. In the winter, it brings in heat from the ground or the air into the house. Air conditioners are described with Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating or SEER. Federal regulations mandate a SEER of 13 or greater.


A big part of the cost of installing central air conditioning is the price of the unit itself, which varies by size, brand and capacity. For example, an outdoor Five-Ton, 13-SEER Goodman Air Conditioner costs about $1,377 and has a cooling capacity of 60,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). A Three-Ton, 16-SEER Ducane Condenser costs about $1,463, and has a cooling capacity of 35,400 BTU. And a Three-Ton, 19.5-SEER Rheem 2-Stage Split System costs about $4,074, and has a cooling capacity of 39,000 BTU.


According to Cost Owl, with prices accurate at the time of publications, installing central air conditioning costs from $3,500 to $5,500 if it uses existing ductwork. If professionals must install new ductwork, costs can rise to between $10,000 and $12,000. Pricing can also increase with the size of unit, the age of the home and the local climate. Both the federal government and many state government offer tax credits that can bring down the cost of installation but only if you use ENERGY STAR rated units, that offer maximum energy efficiency.


Wages vary across the country, so location determines the cost to install central air conditioning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that as of May 2010, air conditioner installers made a mean $21.57. Their highest wages were in Alaska at a mean $27.87 per hour, the District of Columbia at a mean $27.75 and Hawaii at a mean $26.48 per hour. However, below-average rates were shown in Vermont at a mean $18.77 per hour, Florida at a mean $18.90 per hour and Maine at a mean $20.37 per hour.


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    • Joseph Grant profile image

      Joseph Grant 5 years ago

      Great Hub! When installing a new or replacing an old unit, I would consider an air conditioner cage as well. I wrote a Hub about rising Copper Theft if you want to check it out:

    • profile image

      nicole1018 5 years ago

      The cost of installation of the system depends on what brand and how large the compressor needs to be.

      But this is indeed a very interesting and informative topic. Thanks

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Very informative, and helpful knowledge. GBY.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Air-conditioning units are a must in Houston in the summertime...actually most of the year. If it weren't for central AC units, this would not be the 4th largest city in the country. Too hot and humid much of the year! Our units are humming right now and keeping our home habitable for the two of us and our 3 four legged "babies." We are keeping our home warranty up to date so that we do not get hit with such a large repair bill when our units finally decide to sputter their last breath. Those AC replacement bills with labor would take a chunk out of anyone's budget! Voted useful and interesting.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Well, labor is cheap in Thailand, as it is in all of Southeast Asia.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Up and interesting. Some of these prices were quite shocking. In Thailand the cost of installing normal air-conditioning is $20-50 lol. The unit themselves are about $300-1000 USD ... so I guess all in there probably isn't a huge difference.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 6 years ago

      Good Informative Hub Alocsin, you've done your Homework and it shows. When we bought our house three years ago, we still went with "Electric Heat Pump". Are bill are very reasonable...and it is also our air conditioning Unit as well. We go South for the winter so for us, it was a good choice.