How Much Does an Air Conditioner Cost? New Unit, Replacement, Installation & More
Air conditioning is a pretty essential part of modern homes. No home is complete without it, especially if you are situated in a hot and humid climate. But this advancement in convenience and comfort comes at a cost.
According to a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) publication, air conditioning accounts for about 17% of home electricity expenditures. There are multiple ways to adopt an energy-efficient home, and lowering your air conditioner costs is one of them. The first is the cost of purchasing an air conditioner, but this isn’t the be-all and end-all. Other costs, such as installation and maintenance, also need to be factored in while thinking about air conditioner costs as a whole.
Let’s take a look at all the costs incurred when using different types of air conditioners and how we can manage them.
Types of Air Conditioner Costs
There are multiple expenditures associated with air conditioning equipment. Not all of them are incurred at once, but they do need to be kept in mind when choosing to buy an air conditioning system.
1. New Air Conditioner Costs
The most evident of all, the unit cost is how much it costs to buy an air conditioner. This is very much dependent on a host of different factors. The primary one being the type of air conditioner and its capacity. With multiple types of air conditioners available on the market, it can be quite a challenge to compare all of them.
Central air conditioners, also known as ducted air conditioners, are generally the costliest of all the types. The equipment associated with these systems is more intensive than, say, ductless systems. They can range anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000, with the high-end models even touching a high of $15,000. A mini-split system, on the other hand, is less than that, averaging around $3,500.
The cost also depends on the size of the air conditioner. This isn’t the physical size, but the cooling capacity of the air conditioner. An air conditioner with a higher cooling capacity has a higher cost associated with it. But it can cool a much larger area more efficiently and in lesser time.
An air conditioner with a higher efficiency, known as SEER and EER, will also be higher on the pricing charts. High efficiency requires the use of better materials, superior technologies, and also strict quality control. Almost all air conditioners these days are also Energy Star certified. While this may increase your AC unit’s initial cost, better efficiency will result in long-term savings.
Depending on your air conditioner, it may come with some smart features as well, through which you can control your air conditioner using your smartphone. If that is the case, expect to spend a bit extra for the smartness, but it is well worth it!
2. Installation Costs
While the exact amount depends on your location, contractor, and installation site, we can get a few ballpark figures for the installation process. Depending on whether you have a ducted or ductless air conditioner, the installation costs can vary.
A ducted system has a few other auxiliary costs rather than only the heat pump. These include the ductwork, vents, thermostat, and insulations. All these costs can quickly add up, depending upon your home’s size and length of the ductwork. The installation process can take a few days, and the contractor costs can rise steeply. Hence, a ducted system is generally on the expensive side.
A ductless wall-mounted mini-split, on the other hand, does not need a lengthy installation procedure. It takes only a couple of hours, and the only major modification needed is a 4-inch hole through the wall, through which the indoor unit can connect to the outdoor.
Portable and window air conditioners are even easier. Window heat pumps or air conditioners only need the window to be slid up, and they can be installed. The sides do have to be caulked up, though, to prevent leaks and drafts, but that is a 10-minute DIY job.
3. Maintenance Costs
As with any home appliance, maintenance is a must. It cannot be ignored unless you deliberately want to spend a fortune repairing a catastrophic failure!
By performing preventive maintenance, you can save yourself a higher maintenance cost later on. You can do minor work like cleaning the filters, checking for water leaks, cleaning out the drip pan, etc., at home. For a more detailed look, consult a professional. This can be for when the air conditioner is not cooling as intended or if there is a strange noise coming from the air conditioner.
Compressor repairs, refrigerant leaks, and damaged evaporator/condenser coils can be very costly to repair.
Ducted systems have ductwork and vents that also need to be looked at when performing maintenance. Leaks in the ducts, rodent infestation, mold growth, and inoperative ducts are all too common and can be unpleasant to have in your HVAC system.
4. Air Conditioner Replacement Cost
Air conditioners, as with all equipment, have a shelf life. After a few years, they can be due for a replacement. This holds especially true if you have an older model, which is not Energy Star certified. For your old air conditioner, consult with your local environmental agency, and learn more on proper ways in which you can dispose off your air conditioner.
Even though you would have to splash the cash on a new air conditioner, it will run you many more years than your previous one, thanks to advancements in technology and reliability.
Tax Rebates and Concessions
If you still believe that the purchasing cost of an air conditioner is too high, we’ve got good news for you. Many power utilities and service companies provide tax rebates or concessions when you buy a specific type of air conditioner.
More commonly, ductless air conditioners are eligible for these rebates. This is because of the reduced energy consumption which these systems provide.
Moreover, if you buy a smart AC controller or a thermostat with your HVAC appliance, further rebates can be provided. With smart AC controls, the energy consumption is further reduced, benefiting both the power utilities and yourself!
Another way you can avail a rebate or concession is by getting a high SEER appliance. The higher the efficiency of your system, the more the rebate.
How Much Does it Cost to Run an Air Conditioner?
With the types of costs listed down, let us see at individual air conditioner types and how they fare against each other.
Cost to Run Central AC
Probably the most expensive type of air conditioner to run, central air conditioner costs can be between $3,000 and $7,000. This figure can go further up to even $15,000 if extensive work is needed on the ductwork. The running cost varies, though, depending on the electricity rate, your systems’ efficiency, and your air conditioner usage.
The air conditioner cost can be kept down compared to older ducted systems due to the latest central air conditioning systems coming in with higher efficiencies. But it is still much more than a ductless system. This is because a ducted system cools or heats the whole house at once, rather than only running for one specific room. To run even a single room, you must keep the whole system active, consuming more energy. Monthly operational costs can run up to $250 for a mid-sized room.
Cost to Run a Mini-Split AC
A ductless mini-split, in comparison, is much cheaper to buy, install, and operate. On average, a ductless mini-split can cost somewhere around $2,000 to buy and install. It can go up to $5,000 for a high-end model or drop to $1,500 for basic ones.
The installation is also a much shorter process, taking a couple of hours at maximum, as compared to a day or two for ducted systems. This saves on contractor costs.
The running cost is also much lower. A mini-split costs around $30 to run per month, but this is for a single room. Another advantage of a mini-splits is that you can use it to cool a single room as and when required, rather than run the air conditioning for the whole house.
All in all, a split system is around 25 to 60 percent more energy efficient to run than a comparable central air conditioner.
Cost to Run a Window AC
Window units are an enticing option for those with single-room apartments or smaller homes. Their costs range in the hundreds rather than a thousand dollars, and they pack a pretty punch.
Due to their smaller size, window units consume much less electricity. Moreover, the air leakage is also kept to a minimum in the absence of any ductwork, considering you have proper insulation.
With a window unit, you are saving a lot of energy, but a larger indoor space won’t be cooled as effectively due to the reduced cooling capacity. So while it is an ideal choice for those who live in apartments, a bigger home would require multiple units.
Keeping the Costs Low
Minimizing air conditioner costs and expenditures is high on the priority list for many people, and it can be achieved by getting the best type of air conditioner according to your needs and reducing the AC costs. Now you have your in-depth answer to ‘how much does it cost to run an air conditioner’.
Arm yourself with this knowledge about what to keep a lookout for, and make the best choice! Pair your AC with a smart thermostat to save even more!