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How Much Does a Central Air Conditioning Unit Cost?

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In the summer months or in hot Houston-like climates, an air conditioner can be a lifesaver. Whether you’re purchasing your first or replacing an existing one, it’s important to know what you need and what the costs will be.

What Kind of A/C do You Need?

There are two types of central air conditioning systems: A split system, which has a condenser unit outside and an evaporator unit inside, and a packaged system, in which the compressor and evaporator are in a single outdoor unit. Split units do not require duct work, while packaged units do.

Adding central air conditioning to a home with an existing forced-air heating system in a 2,000-square-foot house averages $3,000 - $4,000. If ducts need to be added, the cost can double, and a split unit is the way to go. As opposed to window units, a ductless system is quieter, and can also heat your home.

Another benefit of a split system is that you can opt for a multi-split system, in which you can have more than one indoor unit connected to a single outdoor unit. This makes it easy to cool multiple rooms or maintain the temperature throughout a large room through the use of two indoor cooling units. Split units can run from $500 - $3,000.

How Big A Unit Should I Buy?

An air conditioners’ cooling ability is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour, in tons. It’s important to select the right sized unit, for both economical and efficiency concerns. An inadequate air conditioner will not cool your home on a particularly hot day, and you run the risk of shorting a fuse, and having to hire an electrician. On the other hand, an overly-powerful air conditioner will cycle off too frequently and not dehumidify the air properly.

The size of your house and the quality of the insulation are important factors for selecting the proper sized central air conditioning system for your home.

A rough estimate puts the required BTU at 1 ton of capacity for every 400 square feet of living space. For example, a 2,000-square-foot house would require a 5-ton air conditioning system. An HVAC contractor can properly evaluate your home’s needs.

Another factor in the price of a central air conditioning system is its energy efficiency rating. The SEER rating is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER rating, the higher the central air conditioner's cooling efficiency and the less electricity it will use, but the more expensive it will be to purchase.

An additional factor to consider is the bel rating, or decibel level the unit produces. Units with a lower bel rating are typically priced higher.

However you choose to cool your home and get out of the heat, a qualified HVAC contractorshould be contacted before purchase.


Mark Stevens is a writer from New Jersey who has written over 100 home improvement articles. Want to ask Mark something? Send him a message.

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