Central Air Installation Cost Calculator – Estimate Central AC Cost & BTU Load

Typical Cost To Install Central AC Average: $4,070 - $5,930
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Central Air Installation Cost Calculator estimates the price to install new or replace an old Central AIR (AC / Furnace) system in your home in seconds!

Get 3 price estimates, system load in Tons/BTUs and equipment size for Central Air systems (cooling only OR cooling+heating) based on you climate zone, house size, insulation and other variables.

Central AC costs vary based on size, efficiency and other job specifics. However a typical 3.5 Ton Central AC (14 SEER) will cost around $4,604 to $6,449. To get a more accurate estimate of cost and HEAT LOAD (in BTUs), use our calculator below:

Estimate Central AIR Costs Now:

sq. ft.
Your Estimated Cost for a Central AC
Estimated Load Cooling: 0 BTU
Recommended Equipment Cooling:

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Calculate prices for standard Central AC (14-16 SEER), Central Heat Pump (16-18+ SEER), as well as high efficiency furnace (up-to 98% AFUE), as well as cost of installing new air ducts (if needed). This Central AIR calculator will automatically match best combinations of Central AC + Furnace, based on your cooling / heating needs.

This Central Air Cost Calculator is the most comprehensive tool of its kind that you can find. In less than 1 minute, you can estimate Heating & Cooling system Size, BTU load, Cost of Equipment / Labor / Air Ducts, Efficiency, as well as get equipment recommendations.

Our calculator will dynamically adjust certain parameter depending on your input, based on design specifications of various Cooling and Heating systems, and their compatibility. For example:

If you select a Central Heat Pump system, the SEER rating will change to 16 SEER. You can up this value to 18+ SEER. However, if you select 14 SEER or lower, the system type will change to standard Central AC. Furnace efficiency is also tied to AC type.

How Much does Central AC + Furnace cost near you?

A typical 3-ton (36000 BTU) Central AC, which is enough to cover 1400-1600 square feet of living space, with “drop-in” installation will cost between $4200 and $5700 to install, with materials, and refrigerant fill-up. Adding a gas-fired Hot-Air Furnace, will change that to $6700 – $8200. These prices are for basic efficiency equipment: 14 SEER Central AC and 80% AFUE (chimney-vented) Furnace.

See our complete Central AC cost guide here.

For more efficient equipment, such as 16 SEER Central AC + 96% AFUE Furnace, the price will increase to a range of $7900-$9800.

Upgrading to a Central Heat Pump system will further increase your cost by $2100-$3500, depending on SEER rating (16 vs 18 SEER) and manufacturer.

For bigger homes (2500-3000 square feet) you will be looking at 4-5 ton Central AC system, which increases cost by about 30-35%.

Cost to Install Central AC
$3790 - $6130
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Should you install Central HEAT PUMP system – is there a cost benefit?

Main benefits of a Heat Pump AC include the ability to efficiently cool your home (up-to 19 SEER), and heat your home, using low amount of electricity. However, central heat pumps are only efficient in heating mode, at mild ambient temperatures (above 35-40F degrees). Below 35F degrees, they drastically loose efficiency and heating capacity, or become unusable at all, and you will have to switch to either Gas, or VERY expensive “resistance heating” coil.

Most Heat Pump central systems do this switching automatically, and are primarily designed to switch to much more efficient GAS heating mode. If you do not have Natural Gas, you can convert your gas furnace to Propane. Heat pumps are typically not compatible with OIL furnaces. If you don’t have Gas or Propane, it’s advisable to install a Forced Hot Water Boiler (which costs less than a furnace to operate), and heat your home with comfortable radiant heat from radiators or heated floors.

In cooling mode, Central Heat Pumps are not much better than 16-17 SEER conventional Central AC, but cost significantly more ($2300-$3500 extra). You should probably just install a higher SEER Central AC + Gas Furnace or switch to Ductless Mini Split AC / Heat Pumps, which are capable of delivering heat even in extreme cold weather (as low as -15F degrees) and are much more efficient in cooling mode: up-to 33 SEER in single zone configuration and 20-22 SEER in multi-zone configurations.

If you live in very cold climate (region 1 & 2) and want to use ductless heat pump for heating, it is advisable lo also have a backup heating system for extra cold days.

Pricing Accuracy

You will get 3 price points: Low, Mid-Range and High. These price points do not imply that low price equals low quality and vise-versa. In reality, you can get the same job done, at different cost, depending who you hire. Bigger companies with add an unsubstantiated premium of 30-50% on top of what a quality local “smaller” HVAC / Plumbing contractor would charge. We feel that mid-range price is the best combination of quality and cost.

Instant price estimates that you get from our calculator are based on equipment cost, extra materials/supplies, and local labor costs, as well as contractor’s overhead and profit. These labor costs are in-line with what 95% HVAC/Plumbers in US would charge. The other 5% are “fringe” contractors that are either way too high or way too low (uninsured/unlicensed, etc).

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $4,670 - $5,930
Low End
High End

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How to not overpay for new Central AC installation:

Most homeowners grossly overpay for Central AIR installation! They overpay because HVAC contractors are too lazy to accurately calculate system size and BTU load. They overpay because they end up with oversized equipment that costs more to purchase and A LOT MORE TO OPERATE over the years. They overpay primarily because they lack knowledge of what they need, and how much it should cost!

This calculator will give you answers to most of your Central AC + Furnace sizing and costs questions.

4 years ago I got a quote from my plumber to replace my 29 years old furnace and central AC, with a new 80% efficient furnace and 14 SEER Central AC (pretty much the lowest efficiency and equipment cost). The quote was $5000 each, made in the basement (while replacing my hot water heater), and without even measuring the house and calculating the heat load!

A) My plumber did not know that I’m a contractor and know how much things cost.
B) His “quote” was 30% higher than market rate.
C) His “quote” was for the cheapest equipment, totaling less than $2400, and my home already had all the ducts and copper lines (for refrigerant) and electrical connections. So it would be a simple “drop-in” installation: remove old AC + Furnace, put new units back, connect wires, copper & gas lines and you are done! 1 day of work for a plumber + helper.

Bottom line – my plumber proposed the bottom of the barrel AC and Furnace at a price of top-of-the line Heat Pump + High Efficiency furnace! And if I went for it, he would make $6000 net profit in 1 day!

How to calculate HVAC load

Step 1 (Climate Region): Select your Climate Region, using the Region Map at the top on the calculator.

Step 2 (Home Size): Enter square footage for your house/building.

Step 3 (System Type): Here you can select if you need just Central AC (cooling only mode, with supplemental electric heating coil, for occasional cold days), or if you need a Central AC + Hot Air Furnace. Additionally you can select Standard AC or Heat Pump AC which can provide bot cooling & heating in temps down to 35F, and is very efficient compared to standard equipment. For cold climates, Heat Pump should be paired with “Dual Fuel” gas furnace, which will automatically switch from Heat Pump heating to Gas, once temps drop below 35F.

NOTE 1: Central Heat Pump can only be paired with Furnaces of 96% Efficiency or higher. Calculator will automatically select the correct furnace for you.
NOTE 2: Central Heat Pump normally start at 16-17 SEER efficiency. Our calculator will adjust minimum SEER rating if you select a heat pump option.
NOTE 3: Central Heat Pump cannot be paired with OIL furnace.

Step 4 (SEER Rating): SEER Rating is a measurement of AC efficiency. The higher the number, the higher is efficiency & cost. Most basic Central AC units on the market today are 14 SEER, with 13 SEER being the minimum allowed by most building codes. If you want a more efficient AC for your home, consider a Ductless Mini-Split heat pump system.

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $3,630 - $4,780
Low End
High End

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Step 4.1 (Furnace Efficiency): Most Gas furnaces today are either 80% or 96% efficient. 80% furnaces are what’s called “direct vent”, where exhaust fumes are vented into your chimney. 96% furnaces are “power-vented” through a PVC vent, through the exterior wall of the house. Power venting requires additional equipment and labor.

Step 4.2 (Furnace Fuel Type): Available options are GAS and OIL. Gas can be 80% or 96%+ efficient. OIL furnaces are rare, expensive and only come in 85% efficiency. If you have natural gas in your home, we recommend that you always go with GAS!

Step 5 (Project Type): Most common project type is “replacement”, where you already have air ducts, refrigerant lines and electrical connections for the Central Air system in your house, and your HVAC/Plumbing contractor comes in, removes old equipment, and installs new AC Compressor, AC Coil & Furnace (optional).

If the project type is “New Construction”, the calculator includes cost of installing new copper lines between outside compressor and inside coil (air handler). Electrical connections are responsibility of the owner, since when you are building a new home, you typically have an electrician doing all the electric work.

If gas furnace is installed in New Construction, our cost estimate only includes connecting furnace to the “existing” gas piping in the house (not running gas pipes all over the house).

Last two options are for existing homes that DO NOT have air ducts. If house is gutted, the cost of installing air ducts will be about 45% lower that if sheet metal contractor would have to remove walls, to install ducts. However, if your house is only 1 story high, you can run all ducts in the basement or in the attic, and not have to open walls.

Step 6 (Air Ducts): Most homeowners installing/replacing a Central AIR system, already have ductwork installed in their home. You can choose to add ducts to your house, but the costs will be between $13-$18 per linear foot of ductwork, with average of 1 ln. ft. of duct for every 10 feet of living space. In a 2000 sq. ft. home you would be looking at $2600-$3600 if your walls ur not finished. If sheet metal contractor needs to open up walls, your cost will nearly double!

PRO TIP: If you do not have ducts already installed, we strongly recommend going with a Ductless Heat Pump instead, as installing new ductwork can easily cost $4000-$10000! For heating, we recommend a forced hot-water + boiled hydronic heating system, which is the most efficient and “comfortable” type of heating for any home!

Step 5.1 (Number of floors): This option is directly related to Air Ducts, and is only available when you select “Need New Ducts” in step 5. Each floor adds 40-50+ feet of ductwork for vertical connections.

Extra Options

These additional options include Ceiling Height, Insulation Grade, Windows/Doors Air Tightness, Number of Windows and Sun Exposure. These options are activated by clicking on “Show Extra Options” button. In most cases you should leave these at default settings.

These values primarily affect the system size of your Cooling / Heating systems. For example:

If you have a lot of poorly insulated windows, poor wall insulation, etc, your HVAC system load will be higher than a tightly-insulated home, requiring larger BTU load. Ceiling height also affects vertical duct connections length & cost.

Step 7 (Ceiling Height): Select average Ceiling Height of your house. In most cases this value should be equal to 8-9 ft.

For cathedral/vaulted ceilings, add the lowest wall height + peak height, and divide by 2, to get the average.

Step 8 (Insulation Grade): Most homes in US built between 1978 and 2000 will have 4″ studs with R-13 wall insulation, and should have R-38 roof / attic insulation. If this matches your home, leave this value as default (Avg. Insulation R-13 walls).

Step 9 (Number of Windows): Select the average amount of windows in your home. If you have ~1 window or fewer, for every 8 feet of exterior wall length, select “Average Amount”.

Step 10 (Windows/Doors air tightness): Select appropriate window/door insulation level. In most cases, leave this as default “Average” value.

Step 11 (Sun Exposure): If you have good sun exposure through the windows, your home will be hotter in the summer & winter during the day. In this case you will need a larger cooling system. This option does not have huge effect on heating, and most people are at work during the day.

Cost to Install Central AC
$3790 - $6130
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Multiple systems for homes over 3900 square feet:

Most residential Cooling and Heating systems are designed for homes SMALLER than 3500 square feet. However, they would still perform rather well in ah house that is 3900 sq. ft. or smaller, as most manufacturers/contractors/distributors “oversize” their systems, by using a higher BTU per hour per square foot multipliers, that the actual house needs. We use more real life values for calculating system BTU load, so we can stretch the maximum house size used in our calculation algorithm to 3900 sq. ft.

However, once you enter Home Size value over 3900 sq. ft., our calculator will provide price for 2 HVAC system: One system at 5 TON / 120000 BTU (cooling/heating) which is the largest size you can commonly find for residential application, and second system will be the smallest possible system for a BTU load that is over 3900 sq. ft.

Prices of each system will be added together, and you will see an indicator of how many systems are priced.

Understanding System BTU Load:

As mentioned above, we use a more “real life” formula for calculating BTU load (using simple Manual J calculation), which is more aggressive compared to what you would get from an HVAC contractor or an equipment distributor. This gives you are more accurate system size that costs LESS to purchase, and what’s more important – less to operate over the next 15-20 years! The real saving is in operating costs.

For example, a 2 Ton central AC will use 33% less electricity, compared to a 3 Ton unit. Over just 1 summer, this will save you $200 – $500 in cooling costs (depending on the cost of electricity and your climate zone). However most contractors will tell you go go with a 3 Ton system, because they do not want to spend 2-3 hours doing a Manual J heat load calculation.

Cost to Install Central AC
$3790 - $6130
See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

About Leo B

Leo has been a contractor since 2003, specializing in: roofing, siding, general contracting (GC) and residential remodeling. Leo is also a Certified HVAC, Oil & Gas Heating Technician/Installer. In addition to roofing and remodeling, Leo is passionate about Solar, green building and energy conservation, so a lot of my time and energy goes to installing energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

See more about Remodeling Calculator team here

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