Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options

Kevin Brown

Cost of Central Air and Cooling Options

Central air is a common feature in US homes. The cost of installation depends on house size and location. An AC system delivers air from a main source using fans and vents.

The system includes an outside compressor attached to the home that generates air.

Cost of Installing Central Air

Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options

The biggest question about central air is its cost. It’s a dream to cool your house with one AC unit. The cost ranges from $3,000 to $7,000. Why is the price so high?

How can you lower it?

Evaluation can save you money. Get the right central air unit and avoid overpaying for something unnecessary.

The type of central air unit matters. Contractors or HVAC installers can help you decide what’s right for you. Heat pumps are expensive but can also heat your house.

Split air systems are cheaper but work only one way.

The size of the unit you choose also matters. It costs more to buy a unit that heats a 3,000-square foot home than a 1,000-square foot home. The last thing that affects the unit cost is the brand name.

A Lennox unit will be twice as much as Coleman.

Labor costs are between $400 and $2,000. The cost depends on whether you need ducts installed or not. If you don’t, you can pay as little as a few hundred dollars.

If you do, you may pay up to $2,000. This means about a third to half of what you pay will be for labor.

Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options

Some people attempt to install central air themselves, but this will ultimately be more costly. Repairs can significantly add to your expenses. Incorrect installation of AC units is common, with approximately half of all units being installed incorrectly.

This can result in a reduction of efficiency by 30 percent or even more.

Pros And Cons Of Central Air

In the end, the decision boils down to weighing the pros and cons.


  • No Maintenance – If professionally installed, the central air system can be expected to operate for decades without requiring repairs. The only concern is the possibility of mold and mildew in the ductwork.
  • Highly Effective – Central air is the most efficient method for cooling a residence.
  • Quiet – Central air units operate silently. Some furnaces can be noisy, but most central air units emit a sound when starting up or shutting down.

Programmable: Modern central air units can be programmed to turn off and on according to your needs, allowing you to save energy by only cooling the rooms you use.

Natural Filter: Central air units have built-in air filters that clean and purify the air, removing dust and harmful particles without the need for an additional filter.

Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options

  • Expensive – AC is expensive. It costs more than other systems.
  • Energy Hog – Central air uses a lot of energy and can raise your power bill. It’s not the most energy-efficient way to cool your home.
  • Can’t DIY – If it needs repairing, cleaning, or installing, call a professional as labor isn’t cheap.
  • Overshared Air – AC units ensure the entire home is at the same temperature.
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Other Cooling Options

Central air isn’t the only option for cooling your house. The alternative doesn’t have to be a basic fan either. In cool climates, a fan can work, but most homes need something stronger.

Nowadays, there are many ways to cool a home.

Window AC Units

Window air conditioning units are an inexpensive way to cool a room. Just like central air, window AC units have their advantages and disadvantages.


  • Affordable – Window AC units offer a cost-effective way to cool a home. They are affordable and efficient for the specific room they are installed in.
  • Simple installation – Most individuals can easily install a window AC unit, although it is advisable to seek professional assistance for the initial installation. Prioritizing safety is key.
  • Easy replacement – If your window unit encounters any issues, it can be easily replaced. Dispose of the old unit and install a new one. This is a major advantage of budget-friendly equipment.

Perfect for picky roommates – Get window units. Each person can control their own room temperature without relying on others.

Can change window – Move AC units to different windows in your home. Reinsulate it when you move the unit.


Cools one room – Window AC units are not designed for entire houses. They are more suitable for smaller houses that only require one or two units.

Can be hard to insulate around – AC units require an open window, which can be problematic. AC insulation is needed, but it does not increase the cost.

Window AC Units: The Pros and Cons

When it comes to cooling your home, window AC units can be a great option. However, there are a few factors you need to consider before deciding if they are the right choice for you.

Needs a strong window frame: Some frames can’t support an AC window unit, making the windows inoperable. If your home has weaker windows, you may need to consider a different type of AC unit. Unsafe if not installed right: Improper installation can result in units falling out of windows. To ensure safety, it is best to have someone with expertise in AC installation handle the job.

In some cases, an additional frame may need to be built for extra security. Security risk: Window units are easy to move, making them potential targets for theft. If you choose a window unit, it is important to have a home security system in place that covers both windows and doors.

Standing AC Units

Also known as portable AC units, standing units offer ease of installation. Simply plug them in and you’re good to go.


    No installation needed – Just plug it in. Some require a bit of setup but it’s easy and can be done by anyone that can read a manual.

    Cheap – This is one of the cheapest AC options available. You can get a good one for less than a central air system or a small one for the same price as a heater.

    Portable – You can move it to another room with ease or take it with you to another home, in the car, or relatives’ houses.

    Out of sight – You can put these units behind furniture or a curtain. They’ll keep a room cool.

    Portable AC units can be loud. Options for quieter units are available but most of them produce a lot of white noise, which can be annoying if you are sensitive to noise.

    One drawback of standing AC units is that they do not release heat outside, causing it to build up indoors. This can make it harder to cool the room effectively.

    Maintenance may be required for portable AC units since they typically have a drain tank, which needs to be kept clean to prevent overflow or a wet floor.

    Another thing to consider is that portable air conditioners are only suitable for small areas. While they can cool a single room, the cooled air does not travel far outside of that room. Therefore, you will need multiple units if you want to cool multiple rooms.

    An evaporative cooler, or swamp cooler, is an outdoor device that converts water into cool air. It is an eco-friendly, though less effective, method of cooling.


    – Energy-efficient: Evaporative coolers use water and humidity to cool, saving money on associated cooling bills.

    – Eco-friendly: Evaporative coolers recycle water, making them environmentally friendly and suitable for off-grid or natural lifestyles.

    – Great for mild climates: Evaporative coolers are effective for homes in regions where temperatures do not exceed 90 degrees.


    – Limited effectiveness: Evaporative coolers may not be as effective as other cooling methods in hot climates.

    – Higher humidity levels: These coolers add humidity to the air, which can be uncomfortable or problematic for some people.

    – Regular maintenance: Evaporative coolers require regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent mineral buildup and ensure optimal performance.

    – Not for hot climates – Evaporative coolers don’t work in climates over 95 degrees. They’re only effective in mild climates and can’t cool a room more than 20 degrees below the outside temperature.

    – Not for humid climates – Evaporative coolers rely on humidity to cool a room, so using them in humid climates will have the opposite effect and make the room hotter.

    – Other systems more effective – Evaporative coolers are one of the least effective methods of cooling in most climates. While they may become more popular in the future, currently there are more effective options available.

    – May leak – Since evaporative coolers use water, there is a risk of leaks. This can lead to safety hazards such as wood rot, slippery floors, and potential electrical issues.

    Water Consumption – Evaporative coolers consume a lot of water, so if you have water restrictions, they may not be suitable for you. However, if water is abundant for you, then they can be a great option.

    Roof Installation – Having a unit installed on the roof is not ideal for most people since it creates a hole in the roof. If you ever want to remove it, you’ll have to fill the hole.

    Mini-Split Air Conditioners

    Cost To Install Central Air And Other Cooling Options

    Mini-split units are becoming popular because they can heat and cool. However, like other cooling options, they have pros and cons.


    – Small size: Mini-split ACs are compact and don’t take up much space. They are noticeable but smaller than other AC units, yet they cool the area just as well or even better than standard AC units.

    – Heating and cooling: Mini-splits can both heat and cool a home, eliminating the need for a separate heating system.

    – Separate systems: Many mini-splits have multiple units connected to one outdoor unit. You can use them as needed and turn them off when desired.

    Easy installation: Installing a multi-split is easier than central air because you don’t need ducts or a large conduit. Multiple mounting options: Mini-splits can be mounted on a wall, ceiling, or in a window, giving you flexibility to match your room. Secure: A small hole is needed for installation, making mini-splits more secure than other units or window units. Cons: Medium-priced – While not as expensive as central air, mini-splits do cost more than most other cooling systems. Air Conditioners

    • Visible – unlike other units or central ACs, you can’t hide them.
    • Professional installation – don’t attempt to install mini-splits alone. It’s best to call a pro to avoid safety risks and costly mistakes.

    Air Conditioner Filters

    If you have allergies or suffer from asthma, pay attention to your AC filters. They clean the air inside your home and remove allergens.

    Changing your AC filter is vital, especially if you have pets or someone with allergies. Replace it every 20 to 40 days.

    Consider the different types of AC filters available.

    Fiberglass filters, although cheap, do not effectively purify indoor air and only protect the AC unit.

    Pleated filters, made of polyester or cotton, are great for blocking allergens that can trigger allergies. They can be washed and reused multiple times.

    HEPA filters (high efficiency particulate air) are the strongest filters for blocking harmful air particles, including dust and mold accumulation.


    What should I do if my central air conditioner freezes over?

    If your AC freezes, the first step is to turn it off and let it defrost. This usually takes one to three hours.

    After thawing, run the fan for one hour. While running, change the filter.

    Mosquitoes can enter your home through AC vents. To block them, ensure the AC drain is dry and clear.

    SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, indicating an AC’s efficiency.

    Residential AC systems have SEER ratings ranging from 14 to 25, with higher ratings indicating greater efficiency.

    To clean central air conditioning evaporator coils, remove the coil access panel by taking off the metal tape that seals it.

    Next, remove the screws on the access panel of the evaporator coil to the air handler. Clean the coils using mild soap and warm water.

    Fill a spray bottle with hot water and cleanser. Apply detergent liquid to the evaporator coils, allowing it to soak and break the debris.

    Afterward, wipe off any loose dirt and material with a towel or brush.

    Installing a central air system is crucial for homeowners. Choose the best system that will save you money in the long term.

    Take care of your AC unit, as it will take care of you. Don’t neglect the appliance that keeps you comfortable year-round.

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