Cost to install central air

All prices and remodeling costs revised and updated for 2020

Read about remodeling costs and estimating labor expenses first

How much does it cost to install central air?

Labor cost to install a central air may vary from $1,300 to $6,500 and will depend on work complication and type of system. On a new construction expenses will be significantly lower in comparison with any HVAC replacement in older houses. Usually contractor will estimate the total cost for central air system installation based on expenses for man power, materials, AC and furnace unit.

Calculations of total expenses for HVAC system installation

Installation of a forced air ducted system with a separate air conditioner and natural gas furnace for a standard 2 story 1,950 – 2,200 square feet house might run from $7,500 to $20,000 for labor and materials. If installation a ducts will require extensive demolition and possible wall reframing the total cost might increase up to 20% - 55%.

Duct-free split heating and air conditioning system will cost from $1,650 for 3 ton with 13 – 14 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) install heat pumps to $8,500 or even more for 5 ton 18 – 20 SEER units. Labor expenses will be significantly lower for duct free option in comparison with a ducted system. In the total cost will be included: heat pump, fan coil, thermostat, refrigerant tubing and wires. Heat pump central air conditioning very similar to regular ducted AC systems, but the unit also works as a heater when it is getting cold outside. The installation will cost $5,900 - $16,000 for 2,100 square feet house. This this system will work alone in warmer climates with mild winter when the outside temperature won’t go lower than 25F. In the regions with temperature falling below 20F during winter gas, oil, propane or electric furnace has to be installed to heat the house.

In colder climates the radiant heating system is a good option to consider. The total cost of installation will be 20% - 35% more expensive than pumped air, but it is 25% - 50% cheaper to run and operate and it is usually last longer. Materials for 2,000 sq. ft. house will cost from $2,350 to $5,600 including expenses for manifolds, PEX tubing copper pipes and water pump plus $1,800 - $3,750 for 100,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) boiler. Total with a labor hydronic heating system will be estimated at $5 - $10 per square foot installed. Even though, there are many advantages in choosing radiant heating system it might not be the best option for while remodeling due to its cost. The installation will require opening a ceiling or get under subfloor to install pipes what will escalate the labor cost and will increase materials expenditures. However, on the new construction it is definitely one of the best heating options.

Low voltage electric floor heating system can be installed while replacing existing flooring. It might be the most cost effective option for both labor and materials to install.

Radial flooring heating systems will only heat a house and for cooling air conditioning systems have to be installed.

Additional expenses

All demotion and repair work associated with HVAC units installation will be charged separately and estimated based on hourly rates. There is often installation of 220 power line will be necessary what might add another few hundreds to the total system installation or licensed electrician will charge $45 - $55 per hour to perform require electrical work.

How much did you pay for central air installation?


* The numbers are a general idea what expect to pay for a particular remodeling project. The data was analyzed based on hundreds of home improvement projects, but on the national scale it is NOT enough to say the accuracy is high. Exact labor cost will be estimated only after contractor or installer inspects the area.