What to Budget for a New Central Air Conditioning System in Your Home
If you’re ready to look at replacing your old air conditioner or adding air conditioning to a home that has not previously had it, the first thing you are likely thinking about is the cost. Beyond the cost of a new air conditioning unit, your unique situation and home will determine additional costs involved.
Our simple chart below will walk you through the steps and questions to ask yourself about your house to determine what to budget for a new central air conditioning system. Please note that all costs are estimates; final costs depend on the residence and the situation. Read on after the chart for a more in-depth explanation of the costs.
Factors That Impact the Cost of an Air Conditioner
In general, you can plan to spend $5,000-8,000 on a quality air conditioner. The reason for the range is that every home is different, as are the expectations of the homeowner. First, the size of the air conditioning unit needed will depend on the square footage of the home. Cooling a 800s.f. bungalow is much easier than keeping a 3,000s.f., three-level home cool. The larger the home, the larger the unit required, and the higher the cost.
Second, the homeowner’s energy conservation goals are a factor. Energy efficient air conditioning units are made with the latest technology and operate on a high level. Although these types of units cost more up front, the savings in energy down the road pay off.
Lastly, the homeowner’s personal comfort goals come into play. If you prefer your home to be 68 degrees during the summer months, you’re going to need a large unit to make that happen. But if you’re ok with staying around 74 degrees inside your home on a hot summer day, you won’t need as robust of a unit.
Of note, sometimes a person’s comfort goals conflict with their energy conservation goals. Decide up front what’s most important to you and that will point you towards the air conditioners that are the right fit.
See our most popular American Standard air conditioner models
Replacing an Existing Air Conditioning System
If you already have air conditioning and you just need to replace an old unit, your costs typically won’t go beyond the actual unit. Typically, the only question will be if your home has the appropriate line set for modern equipment. If not, installation of new line may range from $250-1,200, depending on whether extensive cutting into the home is required.
Adding Air Conditioning to a Home for the First Time
If your home has never had air conditioning, and many older homes in the Denver metro area have not, then there are several factors that could influence the cost of a new system, beyond the actual unit.
- Some vents may need to be changed into ducts if they weren’t previously used for air conditioning
- If the homeowner decides to upgrade their entire HVAC system at the same time (which we do recommend), then there will be costs associated with upgrading the intersection in the attic and adding a return vent to suck hot air down, as well as modification installation, and of course the cost of a new furnace and hot water heater.
- In Colorado, you cannot add a circuit to a home without a licensed electrician. The condenser on an air conditioner requires its own dedicated circuit, and an electrician will need to install that for you.
- Check to see if you have room to add a 240-volt circuit in your panel. Some panels may already be maxed out, or close to maxed out, so adding this new circuit would require a bigger panel.
- A good rule of thumb to know ahead of time as you’re researching air conditioners is that the tonnage of the unit reflects the required ampage. For example, a 2-ton system will need a 20amp breaker, a 2.5-ton system needs a 25amp breaker, a 3-ton system requires 30amp, and so on.
Ease of Modifications in the Basement
If your basement is finished out, it will cost a little more to install a split-system air conditioner in which the condenser is outside, and the evaporative coil is inside. This means refrigerant lines need to be run to the outdoors. In a basement that’s finished, this will require cutting into the ceiling and subsequent contractor work will be needed to then restore the area.
Proper Drainage for Air Conditioner Condensation
Some older homes may not have a floor drain in the basement, and since the evaporative coil for an air conditioner is located in the basement, it’s important to ensure that moisture is moved out. If there’s not a floor drain, our trained HVAC technicians will add a condensate pump so that the moisture is pumped outdoors.
Air Conditioner Costs Pay Off Long-term in Energy Bills and Comfort
The summer of 2021 is seeing record-breaking heat waves across the US and Canada. This kind of extreme heat is happening more often and unfortunately many lives are lost when prolonged heat mixes with residences that don’t have air conditioning available. Because the fact is, when it comes to the elderly, or those with existing health conditions, air conditioning saves lives.
It’s best to be prepared and think about your future comfort within your home. Consider your comfort goals, your energy efficiency goals, and that will help you determine what size of system to install.
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