How Much Do Air Conditioning Contractors Charge in 2024?

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America’s Trusted Air Conditioning Buying Guide: Find air conditioning companies near you, compare local costs, alternatives, and options for repairing or installing new central AC units.

Repairing an AC unit typically includes a $50-$150 service charge. Rates average between $50 – $125 per hour, plus parts. Installing an air conditioning unit can cost anywhere from about $5000 to more than $11,000. If you’re going to spend so much on an AC unit, you want to be sure you hire an expert and trustworthy HVAC contractor. This chart breaks down the pricing for equipment:

AC Unit Type National Average Cost
Portable Air Conditioner $1500 – $500
Window AC $200 – $750
Central AC Installation $1,800 – $4,400
Ductless Split System $600 – $19,000+

Many people don’t have thousands of dollars to invest, so how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth?

AC Contractor Estimates

Price Factors in Air Conditioning Companies

Factors include unit type, the size of your house, load calculation, and efficiency. It’s important to note that prices can vary dramatically from region to region.

A/C Unit Type

There are multiple types of units, and what you pay largely depends on this. There are:

  • Window units
  • Split systems
  • Portable units
  • Central systems

Compare Home Improvement Pro PricesA window AC unit is good for smaller homes, and the average cost is on the lower side at $150 to $300. A split air conditioner is a system with two units: a condenser and a coil. The price of these ranges from $500 to $5,000.


A portable A/C unit can be easily moved around your home. It can cost from about $300 to $600.
A central system will cool your entire house, which is the preferred option for larger homes. However, they are more expensive than other types of units, with prices ranging from $3,000 to more than $10,000.

House Size – Square Footage to be Cooled

To figure out what air conditioner is right for your home, the contractor will start by calculating the size of your house in BTUs (or tons). This is the amount of heat that can be removed from your house in one hour.

If you have a big house, your unit will be more BTUs than a smaller house. On the other hand, if it’s too big, it will constantly shut on and off inefficiently, and be audibly disruptive. A small unit will always run and bump up costs.

Load Calculation

A major part of load calculation, also known as the Manual J methodology, is that the contractor determines how much air from the unit your house will lose.
They’ll take measurements for the entire home and every room, looking at square footage, any leaks, ducts, insulation, windows, the shape of your house, the climate, and more.

AC Efficiency

The load calculation is also used to find the most efficient air conditioning unit. The contractor will look at EER and SEER ratings.
EER ratings describe the cooling efficiency of a unit. It is the ratio of BTU to power in watts. A high EER means it’s more efficient. A rating of 12 or more is preferable.
SEER ratings show how efficient the unit is throughout seasons. This rating is especially important for people who live in places with very defined seasons. It’s the ratio of output during the winter and wattage. SEER must be 13 or higher.

What Size AC Unit Will I Need?

Choosing the right air conditioner is crucial to avoid costly mistakes and regret. offers guidance on selecting the correct size, cost-saving tips, and advice on when to hire a professional.

The term ‘size’ in air conditioners doesn’t pertain to the physical dimensions of the unit, but instead to its cooling power. This capacity is quantified in British Thermal Units (BTUs) or, more specifically, in BTUs per Hour (BTUh). To illustrate, a one-ton air conditioning unit is capable of extracting 12,000 BTUs of heat every hour. In other words, for effective climate control, an air conditioner requires about 20 BTUs for each square foot of a living area. This Chart should be helpful in determining what size AC unit you need:

Square Footage of Home AC Tonnage Estimated BTUs
750 – 1,000 1.25 – 1.50 10,000 – 17,000
1,000 – 1,400 1.50 – 2.00 14,000 – 25,000
1,500 – 2,200 2.50 – 2.75 21,000 – 32,000
2,300 – 2,500 2.75 – 3.50 30,000 – 35,000
2,500 – 3,000 4.00 – 4.50 45,000 – 55,000
3,000 – 3,500 4.50 – 5.00 48,000 -60,000
3,500+ 5.50+ 62,000+

Looking for an Air Conditioning Contractor

Ensure that your contractor is not only licensed but also has specific experience with leading air conditioning brands. Licensing requirements vary by state, with some mandating a formal apprenticeship.

When assessing your home for the load calculation, pay attention to the contractor’s thoroughness. They should examine aspects like vents and windows to ensure accuracy.

Buy Smarter - Spend Less Branded

After the evaluation, a written estimate is crucial for effective comparison shopping. However, remember that the cheapest option isn’t always the best choice.

It’s wise to scrutinize their reviews, ratings, and follow up on any references. This helps confirm their reliability and fairness in pricing.

Inquiring about the installation of an energy-efficient air conditioning unit is also essential.

Regarding installation costs, the average for a central air system ranges from $3,000 to $7,000. For split systems, expect around $2,500. Window units typically cost between $550 and $1,200 to install, while portable air conditioners range from $350 to $900. These prices generally include the cost of the units themselves. Note that window and portable units can often be self-installed with guidance from home improvement store instructions.

Central AC Costs and Quality

Other than paying for the contractor’s service, you’re paying for the AC unit itself. Here are some AC brands with their average costs:

  • Day & Night: $1,200 to $2,000. Energy Star qualified and 13 to 19 SEER
  • American Standard: $1,700. Energy Star qualified and up to 18+ SEER
  • Goodman: $1,000 to $3,000. Energy Star qualified. 13 to 18 SEER
  • Bryant: $1,200 to $2,500. Energy Star qualified. 13 to 20 SEER

Do AC Companies Offer Financing?

There are different options for paying for expensive air conditioning.
You can borrow from a private lender or enter a loan program. Another option is having your utility company charge you monthly for the AC unit.
A less recommended path would be to put in on your credit card. You might be stuck with high interest.

DIY Tips

AC units usually last up to 12 years. If you’ve had your unit far less than that and something seems to be wrong with it, it might be a problem you can fix.
Here are some common issues and money-saving ways to solve them:

  • It won’t turn on: Check the thermostat setting, temperature, and batteries. Check your circuit breaker
  • It doesn’t seem to be working as well as usual: Replace the filter. Go outside and make sure there is 2 feet of clearance on the unit’s sides and 5 feet above the unit
  • The bill is suddenly high: This could be the filter’s fault or you may need a new condenser coil. You’ll have to hire someone to replace the coil
  • It turns off too quickly or slowly: Move the thermostat. It may be near a very warm or very cool place in your house
  • It has water around it: Check for a disconnected tube or blockage

Make a Smart Investment

While it may be painful to pay a hefty amount to install an air conditioning unit, it’s worth it. It’s important to make a smart purchase that will save you money in the long run and will last.
Hiring an air conditioning contractor can be tricky. You have to be sure they’ll give you a quality installation for what they charge you.
There are a lot of factors to consider when looking for an AC unit and finding the right contractor. Use this article as a guide for making a smart investment.


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