Air Conditioning 101

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How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?
5 mins

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Cost of an Air Conditioner in 2024: Replacing Your AC Unit

Cost of an Air Conditioner in 2024: Replacing Your AC Unit
10 mins

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What's The Right Size of Air Conditioner for Your Home?

What's The Right Size of Air Conditioner for Your Home?
6 mins

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One-Stage, Two-Stage & Variable-Speed ACs: Differences & Benefits

One-Stage, Two-Stage & Variable-Speed ACs: Differences & Benefits
8 mins

Class 4 of 6


What’s a Seer Rating? - Buying a New Air Conditioner

What’s a Seer Rating? - Buying a New Air Conditioner
4 mins

Class 5 of 6


How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?

How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?
7 mins

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Cost of an Air Conditioner in 2024: Replacing Your AC Unit

If you’re looking to replace your air conditioner, you’re likely wondering how much the replacement will cost you. In this article, we break down the factors that affect the cost of an AC to help you make the best decision for your home.

Cost of an Air Conditioner in 2024: Replacing Your AC Unit

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Arne Jacobsen


November 29th, 2023


How Much Does a Replacement Air Conditioner Cost?

The cost of replacement for an air conditioner in a residential home can range between $4,350-$12,095. This includes labor and permit fees.

This range also covers a variety of system sizes and levels of sophistication, including variable-speed AC systems.

The factors that can affect the price of your air conditioner replacement include:

  • Capacity/power of the system
  • Efficiency
  • The HVAC equipment you’re not replacing
  • Modifications to your existing system
  • Line set protection
  • Installation costs
  • Tax credits and rebates

The article below gives more information on the cost of various types of air conditioners and split systems. These include entry-level, mid-range, and high-end options. 

The decision to replace your air conditioner can be on par with the decision to renovate your home or buy a car. However, many homeowners begin the process without an idea what the overall cost will be. HVAC prices tend to fluctuate, especially with the 2023 Inflation Reduction Act and other discounts available to homeowners. 

At Fire & Ice, we have several sales professionals with over 20 years of experience in the HVAC industry. These professionals have decades worth of HVAC knowledge and put your comfort first. We understand how important it is to have an HVAC system that meets efficiency standards. Not to mention having an HVAC company with professional installers you can rely on. 

In this article, we'll take you through the various factors that can affect your central air conditioning replacement cost. We hope by the end of this article, you'll be prepared to make the best decision for you, your home, and your comfort.

Common Air Conditioning Costs & Accessories

When most people imagine their new cooling system, they think of the AC unit itself. However, replacing your current system involves more than just replacing the central air conditioning unit. 

So, let’s discuss some of the other components that may affect the final replacement AC unit cost. 

Before an AC installation can begin, a heating and cooling professional will need the following list of required items:

  • Physical components, such as indoor coil, outdoor pad, copper line set, PVC pipe up to 15 feet long, etc.
  • Local permits
  • Electrical costs involving breakers and thermostats
  • Ductwork adjustments, if necessary
  • Condensate drainage

Air Conditioner Capacity

Depending on size, the capacity of your AC unit will affect its energy efficiency and its ability to meet your cooling needs. In this case, the size of your system describes the output it needs to adequately produce and recycle cool air into your home. 

Before a contractor begins an HVAC installation, they should complete a Manual J Load Calculation. A load calculation not only looks at the total square footage of your home (your home size) but also considers other factors.  

These factors include the number and size of windows and doors your home has and the height of your ceilings. This allows an HVAC professional to recommend the best air conditioning unit for your house.

RELATED: Sizing Your Air Conditioner, Heat Pump and Furnace

One thing to keep in mind is that a larger or more powerful air conditioner isn't always better for your home. If it’s under/oversized, an air conditioner will cycle on and off too much. As a result, it may not cool your home or remove moisture properly. This can also lead to poor energy efficiency and, thus, a higher monthly energy bill.  

If a central air conditioner unit is sized too small, it will overwork itself and will not adequately cool your home or remove moisture properly. Because of these factors, there will never be a "one size fits all" central air conditioner solution for every house.  

The cost of equipment can increase as you go up in capacity. However, a properly sized HVAC unit can help lower your overall carbon footprint and provide more comfort in your home. Additionally, by avoiding unnecessary on-off switching, you'll increase the longevity of your AC system.

Air Conditioning System Efficiency

An air conditioner’s SEER rating is like a car’s MPG (Miles Per Gallon). Think about it: when you purchase a new vehicle, you want to know its MPG to know how far a full tank of gas will get you. By the same token, in the HVAC industry, we use a SEER rating to describe how efficient an air conditioner is. 

More recently, there has been a new standard of SEER ratings known as SEER2. This new calculation takes more of the custom features of your home in order to give you better overall energy efficiency. In the Midwest, a new AC unit should have a SEER2 rating of at least 13.4 or higher. 

Usually, as the SEER rating goes up, the initial purchase cost may increase. In Columbus, Ohio, AEP recommends a SEER2 rating of at least 13.4 for any central AC unit installed. However, check your local Energy Star Guide to find your state's rules and regulations regarding SEER2. 

That said, when you have a central AC system at a higher SEER2, your operating costs will be lower. Which can reduce the long-term air conditioning cost of your HVAC system

RELATED: What’s a Good SEER Rating and Why Is It Important?

Matching Your Equipment

When you think about the cost of fixing or replacing your air conditioner, you might forget about your furnace. In Ohio, most of us have a split system (an indoor unit and an outdoor unit). Keep in mind if you’re replacing your central air conditioner, you will likely need to match it to your current heating system. 

This is typically the case if you choose a variable-speed AC unit that isn't compatible with your furnace. Variable-speed air conditioners require indoor blower motors that operate at different speeds. As a result, variable-speed systems typically offer the most control over your central air conditioning system.

Other types of air conditioners include:

  • Single-stage air conditioners, which only have one setting: 100% capacity.
  • Two-stage air conditioners, which have two settings: 100% capacity and a second, lower setting that’s usually around 70% capacity. Two-stage air conditioners typically use less energy, which makes them more efficient than single-stage.

Single-stage and two-stage air conditioners without variable-speed features can generally pair with single-stage and two-stage furnaces.

RELATED: One-Stage, Two-Stage & Variable-Speed ACs: Differences & Benefits

Your current HVAC system can limit your options at times. Nevertheless, if you're thinking of upgrading to a variable-speed air conditioner, you may need to replace your furnace/air handler. 

Keep in mind that replacing a furnace or air handler typically costs anywhere from $3,300 to $7,025. And when you replace your air conditioner and furnace at the same time, you can increase efficiency and reduce costs. But it’s ultimately up to you to decide when to replace your HVAC systems.

Ductwork Modification Costs

And speaking of matching equipment: your new system may also require ductwork adjustments if it isn’t the right size. Your home's ductwork helps circulate conditioned air throughout your house. To cool your home properly, your ductwork must meet your new system’s airflow requirements. 

Your system may require ductwork adjustments simply because different air conditioners have different requirements. But sometimes, a home’s existing ductwork was improperly sized for a previous installation. 

Failure to correctly modify your ductwork can affect the performance of your system. In that same vein, improperly sized ductwork can lead to hot or cold spots in your home, even with a new system. Long-term, this can also increase your energy costs and shorten your air conditioner’s lifespan. 

Your chosen HVAC company should analyze your ducts to check if they are the right size. If they are the wrong size, ask our experts about switching to a ductless HVAC system. You can also add indoor air quality products, such as the REME HALO, to eliminate impurities. 

In the end, you should have an HVAC system with properly sized air ducts that operate efficiently and effectively.

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Line Set Protection

A line set is the copper tubing that connects your outside AC unit to your indoor HVAC system. This tubing helps move the refrigerant between your split systems 

Since your system cools your home by moving refrigerant, your comfort depends on the integrity of your line set. If your unit doesn't have line set protection, it will be exposed to outside elements. These elements can damage your HVAC system and cost homeowners more money in the long run. 

Before and after of an air conditioner installation

Until recently, there were only a handful of ways to protect a line set. And many of them were both ineffective and unsightly. 

When you invest in a new HVAC system, it should have a line-set positive seal system. This will make your unit more effective and energy efficient. Not to mention, it's a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to line set protection. 

Airex designs these HVAC accessories with homeowners in mind. Its sleek design will complement any outdoor unit. Plus, it’s HOA-approved! At Fire & Ice, we recommend this product and use it for each new air conditioner installation. This is a proactive measure we take to ensure proper fitting at no cost to our customers.

RELATED: The Airex Pro Positive Seal System for Beauty & Performance in Air Conditioner Installations

Electrical Costs

HVAC is one of the few trades that include multiple disciplines, such as carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. Tasks related to these areas of expertise can impact the final cost of your HVAC replacement or service. This can include making electrical adjustments to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck. 

You may not need electrical adjustments. But if you do, there are a couple of common areas:

  • Updating the control wiring for a new thermostat
  • High-voltage wiring and breakers at the electric panel that feeds energy to your new air conditioner

Many older systems do not have modern thermostats with the level of air control that you may wish to have. In those instances, electrical adjustments are necessary to ensure that your new HVAC system runs smoothly. 

Depending on the complexity, electrical adjustments can add between $100-$600 to the overall cost of an installation. This work often requires a state-licensed electrician to perform. Hiring an HVAC contractor without any electrical license or knowledge will jeopardize your system's overall well-being.

Condensate Drainage

Air conditioners also remove moisture from the air when they run. The condenser collects moisture, which turns into water that needs draining. This condensate runs to a floor drain, sump pump, or approved standpipe.  

Sometimes, obstructions stop this process. If so, you may need to drain your condensate pump. These types of pumps typically cost around $370, so ask your HVAC professional if you need one and properly adjust your budget.

Air Conditioner Installation Cost & Considerations

When considering an HVAC replacement, it's important to understand the significance of your installation day. In fact, the HVAC installation process is the most important step for the safety and lifespan of the system. 

HVAC contractors must follow several key processes to ensure your system’s efficiency, comfort, safety, and life expectancy. 

During an HVAC installation, your trusted heating and cooling contractor must follow the rules and regulations. The city, manufacturers, and the HVAC industry set these standards. If your HVAC contractor doesn't follow the required steps, it will have negative consequences. These consequences include expensive energy bills, discomfort, and a shorter lifespan for your new system. 

It’s also important to note that many HVAC contractors don’t include labor or other fees in their estimates. As a result, you could end up paying more than you planned. 

We recommend always checking that your HVAC contractor’s estimate includes these additional costs.

Air Conditioning Tax Credits and Rebates

You should consider many factors when deciding on an HVAC repair or replacement. This includes the difference between an air conditioning service and a new AC unit cost. As previously mentioned, many states have local utility rebates or government tax credits when buying a new HVAC system. 

Product manufacturers will occasionally have product rebates available as well. These rebates are usually for a full HVAC installation with the purchase of a thermostat. At Fire & Ice, we include the purchase of a thermostat with your estimate. These digital, programmable thermostats can also save on energy usage by allowing more precise control over your system.

A residential HVAC comfort specialist talking with a customer

Total Cost of an AC Replacement

The cost of replacement for an air conditioner in a residential home is an average cost of $8,225.  

That may seem like a significant cost for many homeowners wanting a new HVAC system. But it reflects the equally wide range of variables and choices available to a homeowner that we discussed earlier.  

Keep in mind that this is the average price of an air conditioner and may not include your HVAC installation and labor costs. To know the total price of a new air conditioner, book a free estimate with our residential sales experts.  

However, for the time being, let’s break down this average cost a little further. 

Air conditioning units typically fall into the following categories:

  • Entry-level
  • Mid-range
  • High-end

Entry-level air conditioners offer single-stage cooling. They’re a reliable cool air solution if you’re on a budget or if you don’t plan to stay in your home long-term.

Entry-level air conditioners typically cost between $4,350-$8,000.

Mid-range air conditioners offer two-stage cooling. Because of their increased efficiency, mid-range air conditioners can be great if you plan to stay in your home long-term.

Mid-range air conditioners typically cost between $6,200-$9,500.

High-end air conditioners offer variable-speed cooling. Because they provide you with the most control over your system, high-end air conditioners can be great if you want to address multiple problem areas in your home. This can be a good investment for homeowners if they don’t plan on moving anytime soon.

High-end air conditioners typically cost between $8,200-$12,095.

Live in Columbus or its immediate surroundings? Talk with a specialist today!

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Why Do HVAC Prices Change?

A pricing guide from even a few years ago can be horribly outdated. Why is this? Reasons can vary but include the following: 

  • Inflation
  • Cost of materials to manufacture parts and units
  • Regulatory and manufacturer standards that necessitate updates to products
  • Innovations in the industry that provide new options or greater efficiency 

Most of these reasons can both increase or decrease costs, but the only constant is that costs will fluctuate as each variable changes. 

As you research, make sure you're getting recent information. Be prepared to ask about each of these areas when a sales professional visits your home to provide an estimate. You can also download our HVAC contractor checklist by clicking on the link below. This will help you ensure the company you choose is crossing their t's and dotting their i's, regardless of if you choose Fire & Ice as your trusted HVAC contractor. 

Financing Your Investment

If you want to pay for your new air conditioner over time, there are many choices for you. Partial payment of cash/check and balance with financing can be an option as well. 

Fire & Ice has various financing options to meet your budget and lifestyle. We're happy to work with you to find a plan that fits both and provides you with the best possible air conditioning system.

Cost and Choice: What's Right For You?

The only way to know the exact air conditioner replacement cost is to schedule an in-home estimate with an experienced professional. Nonetheless, when you know the factors that affect the cost of an AC replacement or new system installation cost, you can ask more questions to make a better-informed decision when the time comes.

As you continue to research replacement air conditioners, here are some articles that can help you learn more before you decide on an ac unit:

As you begin to schedule estimates, here’s what we believe an in-home estimate should look like.

And if you’re ready to discuss options specific to your home, we’d love to sit down with you!

At Fire & Ice, your trust is our business. To us, this includes providing the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. We have the team to help you determine the right HVAC system and products for you, your home, and your comfort.

If you live in Central Ohio, click the button below to schedule your free in-home estimate today!

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