Central Air Conditioning Cost per Unit: Buying Guide for Different Climates

Home and property owners like you have heard rumblings that latest central air prices are way up and are asking, “how bad is it?” This buying guide has all the details whether you are replacing an old AC or installing a new central air unit or improved efficiency.

What’s covered in this guide? Cooling Only – This guide is about adding a new central AC or replacing an old one. It does not cover the cost of a new air handler – the inside unit with a blower fan that is connected to the ductwork. If you have a forced air furnace, it doubles as an air handler to house the indoor coil and circulate air conditioned, dehumidified air.

Central AC Cost – Installed

Central air conditioners can be divided into entry-level, midrange (most popular) and premium models for the sake of discussion. Here are the latest prices and what you get for the money.

Equipment Cost Installed Cost Efficiency Stages
Entry Level $2,700 – $4,600 $4,900 – $9,600 13 – 15 1
Midrange $4,400 – $9,200 $6,600 – $12,500 15 – 19 1 or 2
Premium $6,300 – $12,700 $8,800 – $15,000+ 18 – 28 2 or Variable

Yes, those are prices for just central air conditioning, plus a new thermostat if needed.

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New Heat Pump Cost: Central Heat Pump Installation Pricing

This buying guide will help you decide whether an air exchange heat pump is the right heating and cooling option for your home. Let’s start with the bottom line: heat pump unit prices and the cost of installation.

Trane 14 SEER Package Heat Pump Installed by American Cooling And Heating


If you are only replacing a heat pump but not the air handler, then your total cost can range between $6,500 and $12,500 for the new unit and its professional installation

Did you know? Air source heat pump split system includes a heat pump and an air handler or a gas furnace and an evaporator coil. Here are the potential equipment and installation costs to expect:

The national average cost to install a new air-source heat exchange pump and a new air handler can range between $10,500 and $18,500, depending on the size of your home, heat pump brand, type, and efficiency level, overall project complexity, and your home’s location.

  • 1 outdoor heat pump: $3,000 to $5,000
  • 4 indoor air handlers: $3,000 to $4,000
  • Professional installation: $3,000 to $5,000

Heat pump unit costs: Here are the three cost tiers based on efficiency and performance, factors explored in detail below:

  • Basic heat pumps: $1,750-$3,000
  • Better heat pumps: $2,000-$3,500
  • Best heat pumps: $3,250-$6,000

Air handler unit costs: Split system heat pumps are usually paired with an air handler, but many work with a gas furnace, too. Here are the current air handler costs in two basic grades:

  • Basic air handlers and coil: $750-$1,500
  • Better air handlers and coil: $1,000-$2,250

Professional Installation Costs:

Your total cost installed will depend on the size of the unit, since the larger it is, the more refrigerant is needed. The overall complexity of the installation and whether an air handler is also being installed will significantly impact the total cost.

  • Heat pump installation, no air handler: $1,500-$2,500
  • Heat pump and air handler installation: $2,500-$4,500

Pro Tip: Make sure your contractor gets a building permit from the local building department to install your new heat pump. The permit includes a mechanical inspection to ensure the unit is properly installed.

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Central Heat & AC Installation Cost – Home HVAC Pricing Guide

Most new heating and cooling systems cost $16,000 to $18,000 this year. Premium systems can cost more than $24,000.

Price hikes of more than 20% have hit the HVAC industry over the last few years – Trane is up 25% after announced increases each of the last two years. Add to that increased costs for local installers, and the consumer is paying at least 30% more.

Buy now or wait? Will prices fall to more “normal” levels if you wait a year or two to buy? Will it pay off to pour money into an old system to keep it going in the meantime?

We’re not optimistic. The best advice is probably to buy a system now, because your dollars are losing value with each passing month. 🙁

This guide is focused on the cost of central heating and cooling systems, and explaining the top available options. Our goal is to help you get a system with the best return on investment, meaning you won’t spend more upfront than you can recoup through lower energy costs or go too cheap (inefficient) and get burned by high operating costs, since energy prices are rising, too.

How Much Does an HVAC System Cost?

Each type of central heating and cooling system is explained below with pros and cons, cost factors and best uses.

This HVAC system cost comparison shows price ranges based on system size, performance, and efficiency. They are listed by popularity – a central AC and gas furnace remain the bestselling heating and cooling system.

E.R. = Efficiency Rank among the system types listed.

System Average Cost Sizes E.R. Full Cost Range
AC & Furnace $16,500 1.5 to 5.0 Tons 5 $11,500 – $23,000
Heat Pump & Air Handler $17,200 1.5 to 5.0 Tons 4 $11,900 – $23,500
Heat Pump & Furnace $18,500 1.5 to 5.0 Tons 3 $12,800 – $24,500
Gas Package $10,500 2.0 to 5.0 Tons 7 $8,600 – $13,800
Electric Package $11,700 2.0 to 5.0 Tons 6 $9,100 – $15,000
Mini Split $13,900 .5 to 7.0 Tons 2 $3,100 – $26,000
Geothermal $27,500 2.0 to 7.0 Tons 1 $18,000 – $40,000

Average cost: These are heating and cooling prices for an average-sized system installed, which is 3-4 tons for an AC or heat pump and 80,000 to 100,000 BTU for a gas furnace where applicable.

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