Purchasing a central air conditioner is a major home investment. The price range for a new system varies greatly — from about $3,000 to about $7,500. The difference depends on multiple factors. The main considerations are the size of the home, the SEER rating, which indicates energy efficiency, and the type of equipment. Understanding what to look for in order to compare options is the best place to start.
How much does an A/C unit for a 2,000 sq. ft. home cost?
On average, an A/C unit cools 400 square feet of a home per one ton of air conditioning cooling capacity. This produces 12,000 BTUs per 600 square feet. Dividing the 2,000 square-foot measurement by 400 square feet of cooled area (per one ton A/C unit cooling capacity) determines that a 5.0-ton air conditioner is needed. An A/C system of this size should be able to remove 60,000 BTUs per hour (5.0 tons x 12,000 BTUs). A 5.0-ton air conditioner would cost about $1,980 for the A/C unit, and about $3,690 for the unit plus installation.
What is SEER and how does it affect A/C cost?
An air conditioner’s efficiency affects both the initial purchase cost and the cost of operation, so it is an important factor in any A/C purchase decision. SEER is the standard rating for air conditioner efficiency. It stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. SEER ratings range from an average of 13-14 for standard efficiency all the way up to a maximum efficiency of 22-24. The higher the rating the more expensive the unit will be to purchase, but the upfront cost will be offset by lower energy costs over the life of the system. In addition, higher efficiency units may qualify for rebates. As a general rule of thumb, experts recommend purchasing the most efficient air conditioner you can afford.
What type of system is best for your home?
Several types of air conditioning systems exist for home use.
- Central air uses the home’s duct system to distribute cooled air throughout the home and is often paired with the heating system for easy access and control of heating and cooling throughout the year.
- Ductless mini-splits are great for homes or additions that don’t already have air ducts. They consist of an inside and an outside unit.
- Heat pumps are another version of a ductless system that works well in warmer climates. Rather than cooling the air, they pump the heat from inside to the outdoors.
- Window units fit inside a window and cool one room or area of a home.
- Portable air conditioners can be easily relocated to different areas of the home as needed. They use an evaporative system with a split or hose.
- The home’s layout, the number of levels and the family’s lifestyle, along with square footage, should be used to determine the best size and type of air conditioner for a home.
- Installation must be factored into the cost of a new air conditioner.
- A smart thermostat can maximize the efficiency of a new system, further lowering the operating costs.
- Rebates are often available for high-efficiency systems.
- Warranties impact repair costs, and often require regular maintenance to remain in force.
- Installation of a new furnace at the same time can save money on both systems.