What Does It Cost to Replace a Central Air Conditioner?

Though central air conditioning systems typically provide years of service, many homeowners experience the need to replace central air systems at some point. Central air conditioning systems vary in price by thousands of dollars, and a number of factors play a role in setting the system price tag.

Installing duct work can significantly raise the price of central air.


Central air systems vary considerably in price depending on a number of manufacturer options. According to heating and air experts at Central Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, 2006 prices for entire central air conditioning systems ranged from about $2,000 to more than $15,000, and prices remained in this range or slightly lower through December, 2010. Additional installation prices, according to the pricing website Cost Helper, ranged from about $3,500 to more than $8,000 as of December 2010.

Hardware Factors

A number of factors influence the cost of a central air conditioning system and accompanying installation. According to Central Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, major factors affecting the price of central air conditioning equipment include warranty, efficiency, size and brand. Standard warranties on central air conditioning units range from 5 to 10 years, and longer warranties carry a higher price tag. Higher efficiency units typically employ the latest energy saving innovations, and this technology increases the hardware price. Larger homes require units that can move larger amounts of air, and the larger size of these units makes these units more expensive. Name brand equipment also carries a higher price tag than units from less recognizable manufacturers.

Installation Factors

Just as the size of a house affects the price of central air conditioning hardware, larger houses also require workers to spend more time installing equipment. According to Cost Helper, the price for installing central air conditioning in a 2,000 square foot house was more than twice the price for installation in a smaller 800 to 1,000 square foot house as of December 2010. A major factor affecting the price of installation, though, is whether the house has existing ductwork already installed. If the house has no ductwork, workers must run ducts through walls or under floors; when a house requires ducting, installation costs can climb to more than $10,000 as of December 2010. Some installers also charge extra for materials like insulation and refrigerant.


Though savvy shoppers may find lower prices on the most visible central air conditioning components, like the condenser that sits just outside the home, central air systems also require several other components. In addition to the condenser, homeowners must also purchase an evaporator that resides inside the duct system. A blower and air handler, located inside the home, help distribute cool air throughout the house and evacuate hot air. A series of copper tubing, which can contribute a significant amount to the cost of a central air conditioning system, depending on the market price of copper, circulates refrigerant through the system.