When the Mercury rises, people scour the internet for information on new air conditioners.
What’s the best type of unit, what the best brand—and above all, how much will it cost?
Well, there are a lot of brands out there, and a lot of dealers. And if you know where to look, you can find some pretty great deals—but many people don’t realize that the unit itself only accounts for part of the overall cost. Depending on what type of air conditioner you purchase, and whether your home is already equipped to handle such an appliance, professional installation can add thousands of dollars to the final tab.
We’ll explain why this is the case—but suffice it to say, you’re better off knowing the score up-front, rather than being caught off-guard by installation costs.
First off, what about DIY?
It is, of course, possible to buy a ductless unit (also known as a “window” air conditioner) and install it yourself. Most big department stores sell them, and they come with the manufacturer’s instructions for safe installation. If you do decide go this route and cut costs by installing the unit yourself, you’ll want to educate yourself about ductless A/C installation before rolling up your sleeves.
If, however, you’re looking to purchase and install a ducted or “central” air conditioning system, DIY installation won’t be much of an option. The first reason is that it’s specialized a task with too many variables to make DIY a viable way to install. The second, more important reason is that installation of ducted systems requires the use of refrigerant, which is a dangerous substance and can only legally be handled by licensed HVAC service providers.
Ok, now on to the three factors that determine the cost of A/C Installation:
1. Do you already have a central heating system?
If so, you may be in luck. There are several types of A/C systems that make use of the fans from your furnace to distribute cooled air. In other words, it may be possible to integrate your new A/C unit into your heating system, resulting in lower installation costs. If you don’t have central heating in your home, the most cost-effective strategy in the long-run may be to install a comprehensive heating and cooling system all at once. A bigger price tag now? Yes—but more savings down the line.
2. Do you need ductwork?
The cooled air from your new A/C needs tor reach you, and for this to happens, ducts are needed. Unless your home is quite old, chances are good you already have ducts and vents, just waiting to distribute cool refreshing air from your A/C. Some older homes, however, do not provide this luxury. They used convection or other HVAC systems that did not involve ducts, and therefore, in order for a new A/C to be installed, ducts and vents will need to be installed, resulting in significantly higher installation costs.
3. Is Your Home Well-Insulated?
A poorly-insulted home is more difficult to keep cool, since the cool air continuously leaks out through the walls and windows. Homes that are built well, with good insulation, will allow for a smoother, cheaper and more effective A/C installation. If the insulation is poor, however, you’ll want to address it up-front, rather than going through with the installation and ending up with a house that doesn’t hold cool air, and therefore costs more in the long run.
It’s important to factor installation costs into the overall cost of a new A/C system. The better your answers to the above three questions, the better you’ll be able to predict the cost of installation when it comes time to contact an HVAC specialist. Good luck! And please feel free to leave questions below.