Cost of New Air Conditioner Phoenix
What does a New Central Air Conditioner Cost?
Short answer: It depends on what unit your home requires.
Here we’ve assembled a guide that you can use to make a passible ‘guesstimate’ of what a new AC system will cost for your home. It will also help you understand some of the factors that contribute to or reduce that cost.
Lastly, we’ve included a few tips and tricks you can use to make sure you pick a high-quality contractor and the best possible AC unit for your needs.
What can I expect a new AC system to cost?
The first thing most people wonder about when it becomes apparent that they are going to need a new AC soon (or worse, VERY soon) is the price. The good news is, it might not cost as much as you think!
Right now, a new central air conditioning system in Phoenix (or anywhere in the Valley) will cost you (for the average home) between $3,000 and $12,000.
I know, that’s a huge price range. But there are many different types of homes in the Valley, and many different types of systems. To make the comparison meaningful, we’ll assume you’ll need a ‘standard’ 2.5 ton AC unit, typically installed in homes of 1400 to 2500 square feet.
Here are the approximate prices of different brands of 2.5 ton AC systems, with typical installation charges.
Of course, many of you will be in the market for a larger or smaller central AC system. In this case, we can look at the averages, cross-brand, for each tonnage class:
But, we have to stress that these are fairly abstract, average prices, assuming a ‘typical’ install and no additional extras. We can’t even begin to estimate what installation would cost for you without doing a home survey. However, you can look into a few factors yourself to arrive at a kind of ‘ball park estimate’ before you do that.
…which leads us nicely to the next section:
What factors determine the actual cost of an AC system?
There are a lot of factors that affect how much a new air conditioner costs. Here, we’ll attempt to break that down and give you a better idea what you can expect.
Alternatively, give us a call at 480-900-2178, and we’ll perform a full evaluation of your needs, and give you some prices specific to your home and situation.
There are three chief factors that affect pricing: the contractor, the actual AC unit, and any additional work done at the same time as installation. We’ll look at those in detail below.
Which contractor you use?
Of course, we’d prefer you to use R&R. If you ask us, we’re the best.
Honestly, though, choosing the right contractor is important. They will perform 2 crucial steps on the install, neither of which should be skimped on.
- Initial inspection
Your contractor will examine your home, specifically considering its size, type, insulation, exposure to sun/shade, windows, etc. to arrive at what we call a ‘load calculation’. This determines how big of an AC you actually need. Too small, and it won’t give you the levels of comfort you deserve. Too large, and it won’t run as cheaply or efficiently as you’d like.
- Actually installing the AC
This often costs more than the purchase price of the unit. Air conditioner installation is very labor intensive, and generally requires several highly skilled technicians to do properly. Beware of companies that inflate their installation costs artificially, but also be careful of contractors offering very low installation costs, especially if they are low compared to other offers. It is unlikely that they can spend the time required to do it ‘right’ for so little.
- Pro-tips on hiring a contractor:
- Be careful of contractors who skip the load calculation phase, as they are not performing the full service.
- Get more than one quote. (and make sure one of them is from R&R)
- Don’t necessarily take the lowest quote – this can cost you a lot more in the long run. Choose a contractor you know you can trust.
- It can be difficult to compare per-hour quotes to flat rate quotes. Get several of both.
Which AC unit you buy
The price of the AC unit is usually the second biggest contribution to the total cost of getting a new air conditioner. There are main 4 factors that affect its price:
The SEER rating
This is the overall efficiency of the unit. You can use this to predict (fairly accurately) how much the new unit will cost to keep you cool every month, assuming you don’t make any other changes in the home. The most efficient units at a given size tend to be more expensive.
The tonnage (cooling capacity)
The tonnage of the unit is not its weight (thank goodness! We have to carry them!) but its actual cooling capacity. A ton is equivalent to roughly 12,000 BTU per hour, or 3.5 kW. Higher capacity units are usually more expensive.
Number of units
Some homes need more than one HVAC unit to cool, or simply work more efficiently with 2 smaller units rather than one large one. Of course, this may cost more to buy, and will almost certainly cost more to install. It will probably cost less to run, though.
Buying a well-known brand like Carrier, Trane or York will usually be more expensive than buying a comparable unit from a less known brand. Is it worth it? That depends on how you feel about the brand. We do find that more expensive brands tend to come with better warranties, and offer better customer service if you ever need to use that warranty.
If you would like to discuss what size or type of air conditioner you need, we’d be happy to help. Just give us a call at 480-900-2178!
Pro-tips on choosing an air conditioner
- Never go up more than one size from the suggested tonnage. Getting one that is too big will reduce your actual performance, and increase running costs. It could even result in a unit that breaks down more often that it should.
- A unit with a higher SEER rating will probably cost more to purchase, but will usually save you money in the long run. We can help you determine just how much.
- Don’t be surprised to pay substantially more (or less) than someone else in your neighborhood for a new AC. They might have selected a very different unit, or have very different cooling needs.
Additional Services and Materials
R&R will be happy to perform a variety of extra add-on services for you when installing an AC system. Not only will these help you make more efficient and comfortable use of your new cooling system, they are typically much less expensive to perform when we are already in site, and have access to the ducts and equipment, compared to having us come in and do the job next year.
Add-on services may include:
- Duct work
Your new AC might require new ducts, or this might be the perfect time to have your ducts professionally re-balanced.
- Cleaning and / or sealing your ducts
If you are keeping your old ductwork, I can almost guarantee you they need a good clean. They may also be leaky or poorly sealed. Getting this kind of service will improve their performance, and could even have health benefits.
- New or additional insulation
Insulating your attic or even your wall cavities could make your home cheaper to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. This is not always possible, of course.
- Electrical work
Depending on how old your previous system was, or how it was installed, it may be necessary or advisable to replace the electrical lines to the unit
- A new thermostat
A fancy new thermostat might be able to save you money by cooling your home more efficiently. Some of them even connect to a smart phone app, allowing you to adjust the temperature remotely.
- An extended or new warranty
You might wish to purchase a warranty plan form the contractor that will cover more than the one your AC unit comes with, lasts longer, or both.
Pro-tips on choosing add-on services
- You are more likely to save money if you get these services from contractors who will be doing the work themselves, rather than bringing in one or more sub-contractors.
- Get a 10-year (or longer) warranty on both equipment and labor. You don’t want to be paying for it all over again in 5 or 6 years.
A few things you really need to know before replacing your AC system
If your air conditioning is on the way out and you live in Arizona, there is no question – you need to get it replaced, and soon! Just the same, taking a little bit of time for research before you buy could save you a lot of money, and keep you from being disappointed in the AC system you end up with.
Here are a few points to consider:
- You need to buy the right size system – too big is almost as bad as too small.
This is one of those situations where bigger is not always better. There certainly is a minimum size which you should get, which an expert can determine by examining your home, especially its size, insulation, windows and a few other factors. But at the same time there is a maximum beyond which your performance and efficiency will drop off rapidly. You really need to stick to the ‘happy medium’ here.
The capacity of air conditioning is measures in ‘tons’. Getting too few tons of capacity for your home will mean the AC can’t keep up in the hottest part of the day. Getting too many tons will cool you faster, but will generally fail to dehumidify properly and cost you much more to run.
- You may – or may not – be able to use your existing ductwork without replacement.
If you can keep your old ducts without serious loss of comfort or efficiency, you could save a lot of money. However, if your ducts are very old, quite leaky, or balanced with a vastly different AC system in mind, they might end up costing you more in inefficiency than you would have saved.
A middle-ground solution is having your installer price out cleaning, sealing or even re-balancing your ducts rather than replacing them entirely. Whether this will be practical or not depends on a great many factors, and you should probably follow your installer’s recommendation on that rather than try to diagnose the issue yourself.
- You’ll need a high-efficiency filter to go with any new AC system.
It might be tempting to treat this as a ‘luxury’ or ‘unnecessary extra’, as a decent ‘media filter’ with an efficiency rating (MERV) of 12 or higher will add between $500 and $1000 to the cost of your AC system. However, failing to include one (or failing to use it properly) can add roughly $500 in maintenance costs every 2 years. They literally pay for themselves in 2-4 years.
Perhaps more importantly, decent filters improve your quality of life by reducing the amount of pollen, dust, allergens and even certain toxins in your home’s air. This is of particular importance to anyone who suffers from asthma, seasonal allergies or pet allergies!
Mistakes people make when buying an AC system
Too many contractors and salesmen today seem to follow the old adage ‘let the buyer beware’. To help you avoid the less scrupulous types when getting estimates, and to better sort the ‘great deals’ from the traps, we’ve written up a few pointers:
- Don’t jump for the lowest priced option.
A good deal can be a great thing, but only if it is really ‘good’. Remember, you may have to live with your choice of air conditioner for 15 or even 20 years. It can even affect the sales price of your home by as much as 10%!
Make sure you get the BEST price, not merely the LOWEST.
- Choose the right installer, not just the right AC system.
Perhaps worse than having to live with a poor quality or ill-suited AC unit for 15 years, imagine paying for a really good unit, and suffering anyway because it was poorly or inexpertly installed!
Ideally, pick a company that has a long term good reputation and plenty of experience. If they’ve been around for a long time, they are more likely to STILL be around to honor that warranty is anything goes wrong, or if problems are only discovered 5 or 10 years down the line.
Cutting corners on your installer is just asking for repair bills later.
Avoid replacing only part of your AC system.
There are really 2 halves to nay central AC system – the interior half (the coils, air handler, and ductwork) and the exterior half (the condenser and compressor unit). It is possible to only replace the external unit in some cases, and adapt it to work with your existing internal systems.
This does usually cost less, but it rarely works efficiently. HVAC systems are designed to work well as a whole, and for the best results you really want to replace both at the same time.
It is certainly more expensive to have us come back out a few years later and replace the internal components once you realize the mistake!
A few good reasons to upgrade your AC system – as if summer in the Valley wasn’t enough
If your air conditioning has finally died (and you live anywhere in the Valley of the Sun), replacing it is one of your highest priorities. However, maybe your AC is still working… but not as well as you would like. Maybe it has been under-performing for years, despite maintenance and repairs. Maybe it never really worked all that well. Maybe it is just getting too expensive to run. No matter why you are beginning to lose faith in your old AC, there are plenty of good reasons to get a replacement. For example:
- Replacing your AC before you ‘have’ to can save you a lot of money.
If you just keep it running until it does, you’ll be under a lot of pressure to get it replaced quickly, and that is no way to find the best deals. If you start looking for really good deals NOW, you can afford to be picky. If there aren’t any amazing deals just now, you might even be able to wait until winter when demand tends to fall off. You generally get the best deals then.
- Your electric bills will go down.
This is one of the biggest reasons people consider upgrades for in the first place. Today’s units can consume as much as 40% less power to cool the same amount of space as air conditioners sold even 10 years ago. If your AC is 20 years old (or more!) you’ll notice even greater savings. …and all of that is assuming that your 10, 15 or 20 year old AC is still working as efficiently as it was when it was new (and it definitely isn’t).
- You’ll be much more comfortable during the hottest days of the summer, without paying more.
The other big reason people consider upgrading their HVAC systems is simple comfort. Older units just don’t work as well as newer ones. A modern central AC system can cool different areas of the home differently, and can even have more than one thermostat to allow different people to maintain their own most comfortable temperature.
We even have thermostats that you can access through a secure mobile app. You can set your cooling to ‘Holiday’ mode as you sit down in the plane, and then remind it to cool back down for the moment you’re back in town.
If you’d like a full run down on what a modern cooling system with all the ‘bells and whistles’ can do, we’d be happy to explain your options.
- You have the time to find the perfect system for you.
If you need a new AC today (well, let’s be reasonable… this week…) even the best contractor will be limited to what is already on hand in the city. Special ordering some units will be out of the question, and everything will probably cost more.
If you start the process now, before you need to, you have time to compare different models, consult extensively with your contractor about which unit will really do the best job for you, and what installation options or extras will synergize well with your new system. In the end, you’ll be much happier with what you get.
- You can make your new AC part of more extensive – and less expensive – changes to the home.
Part of the home assessment we do before we can suggest the perfect AC for you involves coming to understand how efficiently your home keeps out the heat of the day. If your home is poorly insulated, not well sealed, and has old, inefficient windows, we’ll tell you that you need a larger AC unit, because you do.
However, we can help you plan for what the house WILL be like after you have attic insulation and double glazing put in, or whatever else you might decide on. In that case, we can recommend a much smaller and more efficient AC unit that you will keep you and your family just as comfortable, but will cost less to run.
Over the course of a few years, these things really come together to start paying for themselves. But you need to start planning now.
- Thinking of selling? A new AC can increase the sale price of your home by 10% or more – much less than it costs to put in!
Now, we’re HVAC experts, not real estate experts. We can’t be specific about how each Ac model we sell and install will affect he actual sale price of a house, but there are experts who can. Your realtor should have a pretty good idea, for example.
However, there are plenty of guides online that suggest that adding a new HVAC system to a home before selling it can add as much as 12% to the price of a home – and that’s a national average. In Arizona, it has to be higher.
- A new AC system can even help you sell the house faster.
Homes with new amenities (like HVAC systems, water heaters, bathrooms, etc.) also sell a lot faster than homes without them, or with aging units that will clearly need to be replaced soon. And summer is coming fast… Can you imagine trying to sell a home in Arizona in August that didn’t have good air conditioning? You might be better off mothballing it and trying again in the fall.
- You might be entitled to government incentives if you select ‘greener’ AC systems.
This one is a bit of a long shot, but if the resources are there, why not use them? Incentive systems can offset the higher cost of more efficient systems, leaving you with similar up-front costs, but substantially lower electric bills for the life of the system.
To see if Arizona is offering any incentive programs that apply to you, just click here.