Central Air Installation Cost, Options, Pros & Cons (2024 Guide)

Typical Cost To Install Central AC Average: $4,070 - $5,930
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Installing central air is one of the best ways to maintain a cool home; however, it’s important to consider the cost of installation.

When planning to install central air, various factors come into play. They include the size of your house, energy efficiency, budget, and air conditioning type.

Typically, the cost of installing central air ranges between $3,000 and $9,000.

The biggest downside is that central air installation is very expensive, especially if you add in ductwork, and raises energy bills since the system uses a lot of power.

On the other hand, the biggest benefit of installing central air is that it guarantees constant temperatures throughout the year and greatly improves the overall comfort inside your home.

What Is Central Air Conditioning?

Central air conditioning is a method of cooling air at a central point and is later distributed throughout the rooms via ductwork. Larger homes require multiple fans to aid in the distribution of cool air across the various rooms.

The whole process is done by the air conditioner compressor, which discharges hot air from the house and supplies cool air in return. This results in a comfortable home with high-quality air and optimum temperatures.

How Much Does Central Air Cost?

The average cost of installing central air depends on various factors, including its size, and whether or not you need to install new ductwork.

Typically, you are likely to spend $6,000 for the install without air ducts, but owners can spend anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000 on a central air installation.

For a 2,000-Square-Foot Home Total Project Cost
Unit with Installation $3,000-$9,000
Additional Costs  
Ductwork $2,000-$6,000
Electrical $100-$200
Plumbing $100-$200

You can use our Central Air Installation Cost Calculator to estimate the cost to put in the system in your home.

How Much Does It Cost to Put Central Air In a 2,000-Square-Foot House?

Even though the price varies based on certain factors, you will likely spend up to $8,000 to install central air in a 2,000-square-foot house. Some companies prefer to work per square foot, so you’re looking at spending $4 per square foot.

Central Air Cost Breakdown

Understanding the cost breakdown for central air installation can give you an idea of what to expect.
This includes:

Energy Efficiency

Every central air unit is given an energy efficiency rating called Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). This refers to the energy required by the system to generate a particular cooling output.

The cost of the energy consumed by the system varies widely. It will cost you up to $3,000 to install a 13 to 14 SEER rating central air unit.

House Size

The size of the house also impacts the general central air installation cost. You’ll need a unit appropriate to your house’s size. The AC size is measured in tons with its output BTUs (British Thermal Units), the standard for these units.

Central AC units range from 1.5 to 5 tons, with a 2,000-square-foot house needing a unit between 3 and 5 tons. This can set you back $2,774 to $3,505.


Ducts play a significant role in giving the cooled air a flow path. When installing a central air unit in a home lacking ductwork, you need to add to the budget for the work. This comes at an average cost of $10 to $30 per linear foot.

Brand You Choose

Different brands of central air units are sold at different prices for different budgeting needs. On the value side, brands like Rheem and Goodman can set you back $2,375.

In comparison, better-known brands like Carrier and American Standard will jump the unit price up to $4,560.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air With No Existing Ductwork?

Installing central air in a home without ductwork is costly compared to a home that has ductwork already done. It will cost you $8,000 to $24,000, depending on the size of your home, to get the job done.

Additional Cost Factors

Some pricing factors may not seem as obvious when creating a budget for installing a central air unit in your home.

These factors can significantly increase the costs of installation, so it’s better to understand them before carrying out the project.


The central air unit needs to have drain lines installed in place to eliminate condensation from the system’s air handler.

Even though adding the drain line is included in the installation cost, you may need to pay $100 to $200 for the work.


Since the central air unit uses electricity, it must be connected to a standard circuit of 240 volts. Most units require an electricity supply of up to 60 amps to run.

If you lack the electrical circuit connection, you’ll need to hire an electrician and pay $1,000-2,000 for the work.

Is It Expensive to Convert to Central Air?

Aside from the central air conditioner unit itself and related installation, you’ll have to think about your ductwork.

If you have existing ductwork, installing central air is fairly straightforward. However, if a contractor has to install ductwork along with the central air unit, you’re looking at a sizeable investment.

Central Air Benefits

There are plenty of benefits beyond the obvious that central AC brings to the table. Here are some of the major pros of central AC installation:

Consistent Temperatures

Central air units offer consistent temperatures to create a relaxing environment at home. Since the system is designed to supply cooling air across the home, it ensures balanced temperatures in all the rooms regardless of the temps outside.

Easy to Operate

Its user-friendliness makes the central air stand out; many models come with a simple remote control. Alternatively, you can use the thermostat to program optimal temperatures for your home or program the unit to run during certain times of the day.

Possesses Heating Capabilities

The central AC unit is not only meant to supply cold air at home. A part of maintaining consistent temps is cooling the home when needed and heating it when it gets a little cold.

Instead of maintaining separate units to do both, a central AC unit can work double duty – provided you purchase the heating and cooling unit package.

How Does Central Air Compare to Other Cooling Options?

Given that other cooling options are available, you need to learn how they are compared to central air. Let’s check them out!

Central Air vs. Ductless Mini Split

As the name suggests, a ductless mini split system does not require ductwork to run, which is a plus if you don’t have the existing ductwork to support a central AC unit.

Central air is also about 30-40% cheaper compared to installing a mini split system.

Unlike some sleek central air models, ductless air conditioners are not attractive. But what they lack in appearance, they make up for its minimal maintenance requirements.

In comparison, a central air conditioner needs regular maintenance for optimal performance.

Central Air vs. Forced Air

Forced air refers to the heating system, while central air is the cooling system at home. Some use these terms interchangeably because the central air uses the vents and ducts of the forced air to supply cool air at home. It operates by producing hot or cold air at a central point before supplying it across the house.

Conversely, the forced air operates as a delivery method for the HVAC system that sends air that is temperature controlled into the house via vents and ducts.

These two systems work in opposite directions to maintain constant temperatures at home, depending on your needs.

Central Air vs. Windows Units

Central air is designed to control the temperature across the house, while the window unit is only used when you want to cool a small area.

The central air unit absorbs the hot air from the home and replaces it with cool air to create a comfortable environment.

Essentially, a central AC unit offers more comprehensive climate control across an entire house but has higher energy requirements than its smaller window unit cousin.

Central Air vs. Heat Pump

A heat pump uses the manual method of pumping hot air from inside the house to cool down the temperatures. The pump can reverse the process and pump hot air from outside.

Conversely, central air operates by replacing hot air with cold air to maintain a cool environment at home.

Pro Tip: Turning off the central air unit when you are not home will save you from skyrocketing utility bills. Always prioritize powering on the system only when you are home. This will help you note any system functionality changes, especially if it needs replacement.

What Central Air Conditioner Is the Best?

Even though identifying the best central air conditioner can be difficult, there are factors you can consider to help you identify the best option.

To choose the best air conditioner, check on the system’s specs, customer experience, the AC system’s features, and the installation’s availability.

Also, prioritize purchasing your central air conditioner unit from reputable brands such as Goodman, Frigidaire, and Lennox for consistent quality.

Where to Buy Central Air Conditioners

You can buy your central air conditioner in different places, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store. Big box home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have decent selections with the option to shop online.

Additionally, you can visit specialty stores like AC Wholesalers to get a comprehensive selection of central AC units catering to your needs.

Can You Install a Central Air Unit Yourself?

Installing a central air unit is a relatively big project, and you need a professional technician to do the job. Although plenty of tutorials are available online, central air conditioner installation is not a suitable DIY project unless you are a professional HVAC technician or have the equivalent experience.

Are Central Air Conditioner Units Tax Deductible?

Central air conditioner units are eligible for tax credits up to 30% of the project cost or $600 on qualified ENERGY STAR products.

What Maintenance Does Central Air Need?

Regular maintenance is a basic necessity for the well-being of your central air conditioner unit. The filters on the system collect a lot of dirt. Excess dirt and debris reduce airflow into the house resulting in inefficiencies in the system functionality.

The filters should be cleaned regularly to ensure the system works smoothly. The same applies to the condenser coil, which can collect dirt and dust over time. The dirt insulates the coil reducing its ability to absorb hot air from the house.

The outdoor condenser coils can also accumulate dust, especially in a dusty environment. Cleaning the area surrounding the coil helps to enhance the system’s efficiency.

Lastly, the aluminum fins located on the evaporator bend easily over time. Try combing these fins using a fin comb to ensure they are correctly aligned to prevent air blockage.

Ensuring that every part of the system is perfectly aligned enhances the functionality of the whole HVAC system.

Is Central Air Energy Efficient?

The amount of energy consumed by a central air depends on its size. An average central air unit will likely consume up to 3,500 watts per hour. Before purchasing a central air unit, always check its energy rating to evaluate whether it’s something you can afford in terms of energy consumption.

Are Central Air Units Loud?

The central air unit is designed to operate quietly. The system does not produce any sound unless there is something wrong.

Its high-efficiency units with a two-stage variable heat compressor technology reduce the sound generated during the process. This makes central air stand out from other air conditioner options.

Do Central Air Units Come Pre-Charged?

Usually, central air units come pre-charged to accommodate a volume of about 20 feet of refrigerant lines. The unit will then need recharging after five years or longer. However, if there is a leak within the system, it will call for recharging a bit earlier.

Pro Tip: Always switch your central air to night mode to make your evenings more pleasant. When in night mode, the temperature adjusts automatically by one after every sixty seconds. As a result, it gives you a conducive environment for sound sleep.

Is It Worth Adding Central Air To a House?

Aside from the numerous benefits of central air conditioning, from consistent temperatures to dehumidification, adding one to a house helps raise the home’s value.

Installing a high-efficiency central air conditioner in a home improves its value by 12%.

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