Tips & Resources
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.
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.
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.
Several types of air conditioning systems exist for home use.