Informational Guide

Cost To Replace Your AC Unit?

AC units can be expensive to replace. Learn how to get the best price when weighing up new air conditioner costs.

by Josh M

Air conditioners regulate the humidity in your home by removing any heat or excess moisture in the air. This helps cool your home and gives you and your family access to fresh, clean air. There are several different types of AC, some working across your home and others in a single room, but they all operate in the same way.

Air conditioners, are not designed to last forever, like any home equipment. Over time you will probably need to carry out repair work or even replace the whole machine. It’s important to understand the AC replacement cost, so you aren’t caught out. This guide will help explain when you need to consider replacing your AC and how much it will cost to do so.

It’s not always obvious that your AC needs to be replaced, and it isn’t always the case that it simply stops working. Here are the main reasons for replacing your AC and the tell-tale signs to look out for:

The AC Is More Than 10-15 years old

AC’s and HVAC systems are not designed to last forever and will typically only function properly for 10-15 years. After this point, the internal components within the AC can start to break, and you will likely experience more issues. If your AC is this old, then you’ve already got a lot of value from it, and it’s worthwhile looking for an upgrade. Modern machines are almost always more effective and energy efficient, so it could save you more in the long run.

Old AC Unit
The AC Is Not Blowing Cold Air

If your AC isn’t blowing cold, then you don’t need to be a specialist to know there’s an issue. There’s a lot of different reasons that cold air isn’t flowing, and it could be related to the compressor, blower, or even the level of refrigerant within the air conditioner. You’ll need to get a professional to come and give it a once over, but a lot of the time, it may be more cost effective to replace the AC rather than pay for expensive repairs.

The Airflow Is Very Poor

Again, if your airflow is poor, it’s a sign that something isn’t working within the AC. It could be an isolated issue with the compressor or a blocked vent, but you should get a professional to take a look. Many airflow issues can be resolved pretty cheaply, but you may need to replace the unit if the damage is too severe.

Lots of Moisture & Leakage Around The Unit

It’s reasonably normal for a small amount of moisture to be found around your air conditioner, but if you notice the amount of liquid increasing, it’s a bad sign. This could mean a serious leak, or even that coolant is leaking into your home. Excessive moisture can lead to dampness and mold, which can damage your home and impact your health.

Coolant can be hazardous too, so it’s worthwhile getting an expert in to take a look as quickly as possible. In some cases, leaks can be fixed, but in the majority of cases, it’s more cost-effective to replace the unit.

Unusual Sounds From The AC

Some ACs are louder than others, but if you’re noticing a sudden increase in volume or a worrying new sound, then it’s time to get it checked out. It could be that something is broken internally, or the belt has slipped. Some of these problems are easy to solve, but others mean you need to get a new AC.

The AC Requires Frequent Repairs

If you’re noticing the amount of repair work increasing, then it’s a sign your AC is on the way out. Remember, you should never pay more than 50% of the cost of the unit in repairs, so when the repair costs are starting to add up, you should seriously consider getting a new unit.

Factors That Impact The Cost of an AC Replacement

Not all air conditioners are the same, and the amount you’ll pay for a replacement could vary massively. Here are the key factors which impact the cost:

AC Type – Central Vs. Mini Split

There’s a significant difference between what you’ll pay for different types of air conditioners. The two most common types are central ACs which have one unit providing cooling for your whole home, and a mini split which will cool one zone. Central air conditioners are more expensive, but they have everything to cool your entire home.

You’ll also pay a fortune for ductwork if you haven’t already got this installed. A single mini split is much less expensive, but it will only cool one area. When you start adding in extra units for different areas of your home, then the cost of a mini split will skyrocket.

The installation costs for mini splits are also lower because only a single connection through a wall is needed.

Related ArticleCentral AC Vs Mini Split System

Size – Ton Vs. BTU

The output from your AC is measured in British Thermal Units (BTU). The higher the BTU, the more effective the cooling will be. It’s not always a case that the larger the unit, the more powerful it is, but it is often the case. The more BTU the AC produces, the more powerful it is and the more it will cost.

Related ArticleHow Many BTU Are There In A Ton

Energy Efficiency (SEER)

The efficiency of your AC is measured as a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the AC is and the lower the running cost. A higher SEER rated AC will cost you more upfront, but if you invest in an efficient AC, you’ll likely save more in the long run.

Local Climate Condition

The climate you live in will dictate the type of air conditioner you need. If you live in a really hot area, you need a more powerful AC to lower the temperature effectively. These will have a higher BTU and will generally cost more upfront. If you live in a more temperate climate, you might not need as much power, so you can spend less on your AC.

Current Ductwork Condition

When you consider installation costs, ductwork is the most expensive part by 5. The ducts themselves aren’t too expensive but undertaking the building work to install them is time consuming and complex. In fact, ductwork can represent over 50% of your installation costs, so if you have ducts and they’re in good condition, it can save you a fortune.

Home Age & Construction

The age and type of home you have can have a noticeable impact on cost. Modern homes tend to be less complicated and often have easier access routes for installation. They may have thinner walls, too, so installation is less complex and less expensive. Generally, the work will be more complicated and costly for older homes.

A set of Split Air Conditioning Unit Condenser on an Orange Wall
AC Brand Price

It’s a crowded market, and there are a lot of different manufacturers producing AC units. The cost of your AC replacement will be impacted by the brand you choose, with different manufacturers selling at low, medium, or premium price points. It can be tempting to go for the cheapest option, but you should consider your AC an investment and make sure you’re buying a durable unit that offers long-term value for money.

HVAC Contractors Installation Cost

There are two costs for a new AC, the unit price and the installation costs. You need to consider both of these to accurately gauge the price. Obviously, the amount you pay for an HVAC professional to do the work will depend on the type of AC and how long it will take.

You’ll pay more for a central AC because of the ductwork (unless you already have ducts installed), and a mini split will usually cost less. The cost will also depend on the average cost of living in your area, so if you live in an affluent area, you’re going to end up paying more.

Related ArticleShould I Tip HVAC Installers?

Cost To Replace The AC Unit (By Type)

There are a lot of different types of AC, and the cost for each unit varies. The cost for some types of AC is a lot lower because they have simpler internal mechanisms or fewer internal components. Some ACs have complex installations that push the price up, while others can just be plugged in. Here’s a breakdown of the most common HVAC types and how much you should expect to pay:

HVAC Type New Unit Price Range Average Installation Cost
Central AC $3500-$11000 $2000-$5500
Ductless Mini Split $2000- $12000 $750-$4000
Window AC $150-$1200 $0-$200 (this is a fairly easy DIY cost)
Through The Wall AC $400-$2500 $500-$1500
Portable AC $150-$600 DIY with no installation costs as it usually just plugs in
Heat Pump $6000-$9000 $1000-$3000

Cost To Replace Your Central AC Unit (By Size)

As a rule, the larger the AC, the more powerful cooling they will provide but the more expensive they are. This is mainly because there are more materials used and more powerful internal components. The installation is usually more expensive too because the job is more complicated and will require more people to carry out the work.

The size of your unit will be influenced by your cooling needs. You should expect an AC to provide about 12,000 BTUs per tonne, which is enough for 500-750 square feet. Your central air conditioners will usually start at 1.5 tons and go all the way up to 5 tons for the largest homes.

Your larger air conditioners will typically use more energy, so it’s important to consider the SEER rating as this will impact how much you pay to run the unit. The higher the SEER rating, the lower the energy costs, but you’ll usually pay more upfront.

We’ve given a breakdown of the average cost for each AC based on their weight and the SEER range you can realistically expect for each size group:

HVAC Size SEER Range Average Cost (including installation)
1.5 Tons 13-16 $2000-$3500
2 Tons 14-16 $2500-$4000
2.5 Tons 15-17 $2750-$4250
3 Tons 16-19 $3000-$4500
4 Tons 18-21 $4250-$6000
5 Tons 19-24 $5000-$7500
Heat Pump Behind the House

Potential Extra Charges (For Central AC)

An air conditioner is a complex piece of equipment, and when you’re installing a new central AC, there is a lot to consider. To understand the true cost, you need to consider some of the additional elements you may have to pay for.

Ductwork is expensive and is only needed if you no longer have usable ducts, or if you’ve never had a central AC with ductwork. Permits are required, so you have legal permission to carry out work in your home, and inspections help to protect you by making sure everything is set up safely. We’ve given a rough cost breakdown below, but make sure you check your local regulations to make sure you’ve don’t everything you need to.

Other Charges Estimated Cost
Condensing Unit Pad Cost $50-$100
30 Amp Circuit & Wiring Cost $100-$300 (you will need to hire a professional to carry out this electrical work as it can be dangerous)
Permit & Inspection Cost $200-$500
Ductwork $1500-$4500

Air Conditioner Decisions: Replace Vs. Repair

If you start to notice that there’s an issue with your AC, you need to consider if it’s better to spend the money to fix it or just replace the whole unit. Here are the key influencing factors:

Cost For Repair

You should start by having a professional examine the AC and give you a rough estimate of the repair costs. If this is more than 50% of what you paid for the unit in the first place, then you should look to replace it rather than repair it.

Age Of Your AC

If you’re AC is less than 8 years old, then it should still have a decent lifespan. This makes repair work a better investment and means that your conditioner is more likely to be worth protecting.

Efficiency Rating

The technology within air conditioners is improving quickly, and they’re becoming more efficient year on year. Consider the SEER rating of your current unit and whether you could upgrade to a more modern unit that reduces your electricity bills.

Remember, the lowest SEER rating you are allowed by law is 13, and improving this to 16 will reduce your running costs by almost 50%. Do the math and see if this could equate to some long-term savings that offset the replacement costs.

Air Source Heat Pump Vaillant Aromtherm Plus

Does Changing Your AC Save You Money On Electricity Bills?

Changing your central air conditioner can save you a lot of money on bills if you upgrade to a more efficient model. All ACs now require a SEER rating of 13 or higher by law, but older models only had to have a SEER rating of 10. By upgrading from 10 to 13, you will reduce your running costs by 30%, resulting in a considerable saving on energy bills each month. It means that if you’re moving from an old AC to a new one, you can definitely save money on bills.

Alongside the immediate efficiency savings, you can also save money by running the AC for shorter periods. Modern air conditioners come with integrated thermostats to set the temperature more accurately, timers to switch on and off at specific times, and more powerful fans and mechanics. This means you can customize your use to meet your needs and usually shorten the amount of time you need to run it.

Even if you don’t have a very old central air conditioner, it can save you money if you replace it. The average running costs for a central AC are between $75 and $200 per month. If you move from a 14 SEER rating to an 18 SEER rating, you can reduce your bills by 60%, meaning you could save over $100 each month from your electricity bill. You will have to pay more upfront for the AC, but it could be worth it to save over $1000 a year.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

How does the house or room size affect the cost of AC unit replacement?

expensive and will cost more to install, but you can offset the cost by investing in an energy efficient model with a high SEER rating.

How much should I pay for a 16 SEER air conditioner?

You should expect a 16 SEER AC to cost roughly $2000-$4000, but it may be more depending on your exact specifications.

How much does an air conditioner cost for a 1500 sq ft home?

For a 1500 square foot home, you’ll need about 24,000 BTUs. You’ll need a 2-ton air conditioner which will cost $2500-$4000.

How do you find a local reliable cooling and heating installer?

Networx.com provides a list of reliable local HVAC professionals so you can find the best price for the work.

Conclusion

Your AC won’t last forever but replacing it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you understand the costs involved and the potential savings by installing a more efficient unit, then you can actually save money in the long run. Hopefully, this guide has given you some useful information about when you need to replace your AC and how much it will cost you to fully replace it.

Related ArticleAir Conditioning Unit Placement

Last Updated on May 25, 2022

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

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