Central Air Conditioning Costs

Central air conditioning (A/C) units have their hot air output exterior to the building, and their cooling air ducted to interior climate zones. Refrigeration tubing and electrical circuitry will pass through the building envelope.

You will find that the cost of average central A/C varies by type of unit, its cooling capacity and efficiency rating, preparation and special needs, and the labor rate.

In the following tables the Labor Cost figure is what the able DIY person should expect to save by performing the corresponding tasks.

Central A/C: central unit added to existing furnace ducts to cool 1,000 sq.ft.; include delivery, all material, equipment, and waste.

ItemUnit CostQuantityLine Cost
A/C unit: 24000 BTU (2 ton) cooling only, 230 VAC, pad mount; include plenum, piping, pad, and connections; with all trim, weather stripping, hardware, and touch-up.$2,990each1$2,990
Upgrade: install new circuit; 30 feet of #10/3 wire in EMT exterior conduit; 30 amp breaker into existing space; wired into unit box.$2.16per foot32$68
Material Cost$3,058each1$3,058
+ Labor Cost (install AC unit)$38per hour16$608
+ Labor Cost (upgrade circuit)$42per hour5$210
Total Cost$3,876each1$3,876


Central A/C: central unit added to existing furnace ducts to cool more than 2,000 sq.ft.; include delivery, all material, equipment, and waste.

ItemUnit CostQuantityLine Cost
A/C unit: 60000 BTU (5 ton) cooling only, 230 VAC, pad mount; include plenum, piping, pad, and connections; with all trim, weather stripping, hardware, and touch-up.$5,647each1$5,647
Upgrade: install new circuit; 30 feet of #10/3 wire in EMT exterior conduit; 30 amp breaker into existing space; wired into unit box.$3.07per foot32$97
Material Cost$5,744each1$5,744
+ Labor Cost (install AC unit)$38per hour12$456
+ Labor Cost (upgrade circuit)$42per hour3$126
Total Cost$6,326each1$6,326


Other considerations and costs

  • Taxes and permit fees are not included.
  • Energy efficient A/C will save money, and in some cases rebates may be available.
  • For A/C units of greater than 12,000 BTU’s per hour (or 3.5 kilowatts) a multi-phase electrical circuit is generally required.
  • For a sunny room, add 10% more A/C capacity than required for room size.
  • Add 600 BTU/h’s per person if usually occupied by more than two persons.
  • For the kitchen, add 4,000 more BTU/h’s than required for room size.
  • During the initial inspection the contractor should inform the homeowner of any and all necessary modification or upgrade on electrical circuits or building structure.
  • Labor cost will rise with a “hidden” circuit installation in a finished environment.

DIY considerations

  • This project is not highly suitable for DIY requiring special tools and skills.

References

  • Craftsman Estimator Costbook, complete series year 2015.
  • Latest prices found on Home Depot and other vendor Web sites.
  • Literature review of DIY Web sites.               

Cost to install central air conditioning in my city

Cost to install central air conditioning varies greatly by region. To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.