This article explains all of the costs associated with HVAC installation and replacement. It is difficult to provide an exact price tag since so many factor affect the bottom line, like the size of your home, equipment price, labor costs, and extra HVAC features, to name a few. This guide provides all of the information a homeowner needs to know before paying a contractor to install a heating or cooling system.
HVAC Installation Costs
There are three different types of installations that homeowners should consider when hiring an HVAC contractor. Each one includes different services.
- Change-out Installation
- Full Installation
- Full Intallation with Additional Features
Switching out an old HVAC system for a new one is not as time-intensive or costly as the other two installation options. When a contractor recommends a change-out installation, the home already has the necessary ductwork in place. The HVAC professional is simply installing the HVAC components, and nothing more.
Keep in mind that even if your ductwork is already done, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your home is eligible for a change-out installation. Ductwork can deteriorate over time, so it must be in really good condition to qualify your home for a change-out installation.
It’s better to pay more upfront for a proper installation than run into problems a few years later. Your ductwork will need to work properly for the next 15 to 20 years, or however long your HVAC system runs.
A full installation includes the installation of the heating or A/C unit as well as ductwork. An HVAC professional will have to spend more time on a full installation, and it therefore costs more than a change-out installation.
A full installation is the most common installation type of the three. The reason for this is that ductwork can tear, break, or deteriorate over the years, and it is necessary to change it out when it’s time for a new HVAC system.
Full Installation with Additional Features
The most expensive and time-consuming of the three installation options is a full HVAC installation with additional features. Extra features, such as zoning systems or media filters, can quickly add up. Some of these features might also require custom ductwork, consequently increasing the cost and time needed to complete the project.
Although the sky’s the limit for the cost of additional features, a typical price tag for a full installation with features is $13,100 to $17,000. An expected timeline would be between three and seven days.
These extra features can improve the functionality of your HVAC system. Make sure that the features added include any additional ductwork or other foundational changes.
New Air Conditioner and New Furnace Cost
On average, a new air conditioning unit costs $1,800 and a new gas furnace costs $1,100. These are equipment costs and do not include the cost of labor to install.
HVAC Equipment Price Ranges
Heating and Cooling Replacement Cost
Unless it’s a new build, homeowners typically pay for the cost of replacing their heating and cooling unit rather than installing an entirely new system. There are several costs that go into replacing an HVAC unit.
Ductwork Replacement Cost
Ductwork is prone to deterioration over time, which can lead to problems with your HVAC performance. Sometimes, ductwork can be torn or ripped, or holes can form after years of use. Damaged ducts reduce the airflow in the home and can increase energy costs. According to Pacific Gas & Electric, faulty ductwork leaks, on average, 10% to 30% of its air before it reaches your living space.
If you notice strange noises in your ductwork, such as rattling noises or a whistling sound, that is a sign that your ductwork is damaged. Other signs are hot and cold spots around the home, more dust in the home than usual and the smell of mildew. In general, homeowners can expect to pay about $1,000 to $5,000 for replaced ductwork.
When you replace faulty ductwork, your energy efficiency and air quality increase. Additionally, your HVAC will have a longer lifespan because it will not have to work as hard to pump out air.
In order to replace ductwork, HVAC crew members will need access to attics and crawl spaces. If any items need to be moved in order to permit access, those items should be moved ahead of time. Sometimes, there will need to be drywall repairs after the HVAC contractors are finished replacing the ductwork.
The average cost of new ductwork varies greatly. It depends on the size of the home, the type of material used, the number of vents, and the repairs needed for the floors, walls and ceilings once the ductwork is completed.
Air Conditioner Replacement Cost
The average cost of an air conditioner installation is $5,000 – $7,500. Without any ductwork, the A/C installation process should take from 8 to 14 hours.
At the height of summer, the last thing you want to deal with is a broken air conditioner. Inefficient air conditioners can lead to an uncomfortably hot home or expensive energy bills. When AC units have to work hard to cool down the interior temperature, energy bills will go up and the lifespan of the unit will go down. Stay ahead of any AC issues by replacing your unit. They typically have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years.
When an AC contractor arrives for the installation, they will first need to measure your home’s square footage, as well as its insulation R-values, window types and more. Your home’s size and other important home factors will determine which size of AC unit you will need. Then, the contractor will assess the job site and prepare the work area. There may be some dust during the installation process, which homeowners should prepare for by covering furniture. The contractors might need to remove the old system, which means that they may need access to the attic, basement and crawl spaces.
Clear the space where your AC system is going to be installed and make sure pets are properly secured away from the contractor.
Furnace Replacement Cost
The typical lifespan of a furnace is 20 to 30 years. If you notice strange noises coming from your furnace, or if it has had a lot of maintenance issues, it may be time to get a new one. High energy bills or unequal distributions of heat are other signs to take note of.
There are two different types of furnaces that homeowners can have installed in their home. The installation is expected to cost between $2,500 and $6,000 in total, including the equipment. An HVAC contractor usually charges about $75 an hour. A furnace installation should take about one working day to install. The brand of your furnace can impact the cost.
How to Calculate HVAC Installation Costs
Calculating the HVAC installation costs can be difficult, especially because there are so many unknown factors that come into play. Homeowners should first accept that prices will likely fluctuate. You should budget for the higher end of the installation just in case.
HVAC contractors will consider the equipment cost, installation supplies, the cost of the labor, and the cost of travel for the job. The best way to calculate HVAC installation costs is to call contractors in the area directly to get a ballpark quote. In the meantime, read reviews or answered questions on their site, Google listing or Facebook business page. Some people might share the general costs of their HVAC installation.
Once the companies get back to you about the cost, ask for a breakdown, including the actual cost of the unit, labor, ductwork, and any other fees. If you notice that the HVAC company is quoting you for cheap HVAC equipment, this may be a cause for concern. They could be planning to persuade you to choose a more expensive HVAC system after they agree to do the work.
Factors that Affect Installation Cost
A BTU, which stands for British Thermal Unit, is a way to measure energy. It is the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. This measurement can also be used to represent how much energy it takes to remove heat and cool the indoor temperature down.
When applied to an HVAC system, a BTU rating tells you how powerful your appliance is. An HVAC system with a high BTU is able to easily heat or cool a large space. It’s important for your HVAC system to have the appropriate BTU rating for the size of your home. If the BTU rating is too low, it will have to run constantly in order to keep the temperature at a comfortable level. On the contrary, a BTU rating that is too large for the room will turn off too quickly and not effectively heat or cool the room.
An HVAC contractor will use the square footage of your room to determine the correct BTU rating needed. Your home’s insulation, window layout, and overall shape will also influence the BTU rating required for your system. Homeowners can generally expect to pay more for a higher BTU rating.
The Size of Your Home
The larger the home, the more expensive your HVAC installation will be. A large home requires a higher BTU rating and size in tons, and both cost more money. The costs continue to go up if you are in need of ductwork. The materials for the ductwork add up, and the hours and labor costs will go up if the house is large.
If you’re investing good money on a new HVAC system, you want to be reassured that it is up to the task. It’s best to pay for the correct equipment for your home size so you can have a comfortable temperature without paying exceptionally high energy bills.
HVAC units are measured in tons, but a ton has nothing to do with the weight of the unit. In the HVAC industry, a ton refers to the amount of heat a unit can remove from the home. One ton of cooling is equivalent to an AC’s ability to cool 12,000 BTUs in an hour.
Typically, residential HVAC systems are available in a range between 1.5 to 5 tons. The bigger the home, the more tonnage you will need for your system. If an HVAC contractor recommends a certain tonnage for your unit, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a bigger tonnage would cool your home even better.
Just like with the BTU rating, it’s important to have the right tonnage — not too big or too small. If the tonnage is off, you will end up spending a lot more money to keep your home cool.
Another factor that HVAC contractors have to keep in mind when selecting the right unit for your home is the SEER rating. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, rating ranks the efficiency of the cooling system. A higher SEER rating means that the system is more efficient. The minimum SEER standard accepted for air conditioners is 13, although some states have higher minimum rates. The range of SEER ratings usually runs between 13 and 21.
If your HVAC unit has a higher SEER value, you will be paying less to run it. Efficient units don’t waste much energy, so they can save you money over time. But, they will cost more upfront. You can choose any SEER rating for your HVAC system, but remember that the highest rating is very expensive, and it may not necessarily pay itself off over the years.
Air Conditioner and Furnace Brand
There are several different HVAC brands to choose from. There are budget brands, such as Goodman and Aire-Flo, and upscale brands, such as Trane and Lennox. Some of the brands that sit between those two groups are Armana, York, and Rheem. The budget equipment without installation costs about $1,000, while the more expensive brands can reach up to $1,700.
As one would expect, the pricier brands are of a higher quality. They usually have a longer lifespan, and they claim that their units experience less complications. Homeowners usually don’t go to their HVAC contractor asking for a specific brand. That decision is supposed to be left to the contractor. With that said, if you are worried about the cost of the HVAC installation, you may be able to negotiate for a cheaper brand.
Homeowners that need a full installation with ductwork can expect to pay a few thousand dollars more than a change-out installation with the unit only. First, it’s important to factor in the cost of the material itself. The most affordable material, flexible non-metallic ducting, costs about $1–$2 per linear foot while the strongest and generally most expensive material, sheet metal, has a price range of $2.30 to $13 per foot. Because the price of ducting material is measured per foot, owners of larger homes will have to pay more for ductwork.
The accessibility of the ductwork can also impact the cost of the HVAC installation. If contractors need to work in crawl spaces or other hard-to-access areas, the labor cost can go up. Damaged air ducts can reduce the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems.
Difficulty of Installation
The difficulty of the job will be considered in the total installation cost. Working in a small, difficult-to-access crawl space can be uncomfortable and potentially hazardous. Expect to pay more if the HVAC contractors are expected to work in challenging conditions.
The complexity of the job itself also affects the cost. Does the installation require a lot of custom fabricated parts? Does your home have historic features that don’t work easily with a new system? If so, the installation cost will go up.
Labor rates vary from state to state. In metro areas, labor rates are usually higher and will consequently drive your bill upwards. The minimum wage in the U.S. varies between $7.25 and $14 from state to state, so you can expect that your installation labor rates will also fluctuate.
The pay for contractors varies depending on where you live, although they should be similar between companies in the same area.
When your furnace of A/C unit needs replacement, you need to get a permit from your local city or municipality. The cost of the permit will vary between different states and cities.
A permit will help ensure that the installation work was done correctly and is in line with building codes. A permit is required by law. If you don’t pay for one, you could be fined and forced to pay expensive penalties. The cost of a permit is usually a couple hundred dollars.
Heating and Cooling System Upgrades
If you want to make your HVAC system even more efficient and/or powerful, there are a few different upgrades you can add. These common system upgrades will cost extra during the initial installation.
Variable Speed Fan
Also called a variable speed blower, a variable speed fan provides homeowners with more control over the flow of air in their homes. It has various speed options, which can lead to low energy costs and high efficiency. The fan is able to adjust to the current temperature and environment, slowing down and speeding up as needed to maintain a consistent temperature.
If you want some variability in the temperatures around your home, consider adding a zoning system to your HVAC set-up. A zoning system is created by adding dampers to the ductwork to redirect air to different “zones” in the home. A zoning system allows you to customize the temperature so you don’t waste energy heating or cooling rooms you don’t want to.
A zoning system, or zoned HVAC, is especially beneficial for homes that have upper rooms that are always warmer than lower floors, or rooms that need to stay especially cool, such as home offices or gyms. The cost of a zoning system varies greatly, but most estimates place it between $2,500 and $3,500.
UV Light Installation
UV lights, which can be placed inside of centralized HVAC systems, can reduce the amount of fungal, bacterial, and viral contamination inside of these systems. Air filters, motors, insulation and other parts of the HVAC systems are prone to mold and other organic growth. The UV light helps decontaminate the system.
A coil sterilization UV light can be added to the HVAC for about $150. Or, you could pay for a comprehensive UV light unit that sterilizes the air. The air sterilizing system is best for homes with people who suffer from severe allergies or asthma. The cost of this type of UV light is usually between $450 and $750.
A humidifier adds moisture to the air inside of your home. A humidifier can be installed in your HVAC system to humidify the air throughout the entire home. A central humidifier can combat the effects of low humidity, including dry skin and respiratory problems.
There are bypass humidifiers that work in sync with your HVAC system, or fan-powered humidifiers, which have a built-in fan and work independently of the HVAC unit. The cost of a whole-home humidifier is usually between $100 and $500.
Heating and A/C Equipment Costs
There are a few different scenarios that can influence the total cost of your heating and cooling system. The average prices vary depending on the scenario.
System Cost per Square Foot
There is no simple equation to measure the cost of the entire system installation based on the home’s square footage. The range is very large — $6,000 to $12,000 — for an HVAC system set-up in a 1,000 square-foot home. That cost includes a new furnace, AC unit and ductwork.
Larger homes will cost more to heat and cool, because the HVAC system will have to have adequate power and the ductwork will cost more to install. The cost of ductwork is between $1 and $13 per linear foot, depending on the material selected.
New Construction HVAC
When building new construction, the cost for a two-pipe system is $15-$18 per square foot. A four-pipe system can cost $18-$21 per square foot. Those costs can add up, totaling around $7,000 for a 1,500 square-foot home that is being built from the ground up.
Some homeowners choose to have their HVAC system installed on their roof. A rooftop HVAC system costs around $6,500–$7,500. The cost is typically cheaper than a traditional split HVAC system because the roof is easily accessible and it doesn’t take a lot of hours to install. A rooftop HVAC system is a good option for those that are tight on space and are on a budget.
Split System HVAC
Homeowners can expect to pay about $8,000 for a new split-system HVAC system. A split-system HVAC unit has two or three main compartments. One component is located outside of the home and the others, including the air handler and furnace, are located inside. Installing a split-system HVAC system can be moderately time-intensive and is therefore a more expensive option.
Businesses can choose from various HVAC systems, including a rooftop air conditioner, which starts at $4,000. The cost of the HVAC system will depend on the size of the office building. Typically, business owners can expect to pay more than a homeowner for HVAC piping and ductwork.
For commercial HVAC, the two-pipe HVAC system costs between $15 to $23 per square foot for a small building. Large buildings with a four-pipe system can expect to pay $23 to $28 per square foot.
Mobile Home HVAC
If you hire an HVAC contractor to install an HVAC system in your mobile home, you can expect to pay around $2,500. Mobile homes need different furnaces than the ones for traditional homes, and the furnaces are often cheaper. The duct systems in a mobile home tend to be smaller, and a particular furnace size is needed to accomodate. For this reason, they are less expensive than traditional home furnaces.
Alternative Heating and Cooling Systems
These heaters can be hardwired directly into a home’s main electrical panel, which means that installation costs are low and not too complicated. The unit simply draws cool air in, heats it with heated metal fins, and then, with a small fan, releases warm air into the room. Baseboard heaters usually cost about $100, and you’ll likely have to pay $100–$150 for the installation.
Attic fans are located in the attic, and they remove hot and humid hair to cool down the attic and the home. Attic fans vary a lot in size and cost, with the cheapest ones being about $40 and the most expensive around $200. Homeowners will also have to pay for labor costs, which generally sit around $100.
Radiant heating can be installed in the floors, side panels, or ceilings of a home. They supply heat directly from the surface to the people in the room via infrared radiation. It is more efficient than forced-air and baseboard heating, but it is also more expensive to install.
The installation usually costs between $14–$20 per square foot. The majority of that cost is due to labor costs. The installation process is relatively intense, including laying concrete and installing floor over the concrete.
Geothermal Heating and Cooling
Homeowners can take advantage of the natural energy beneath them by using geothermal heat pumps to regulate their home’s temperature. Coils buried in the ground contain a solution that helps remove the hot energy from inside of your home in the summer and swap it with the cool solution underground. It works the opposite way in the winter.
The cost, of course, depends on the size of your home and other factors, but a typical geothermal heat pump is usually $1,500–$2,500 per ton. The ground loop outside costs between $1,000–$2,000 per ton.
HVAC Efficiency Factors
HVAC systems that are more efficient will use less energy to heat or cool your home. This may mean that they have a high SEER rating, or that the specific brand selected has a good performance rating. Highly efficient systems are more expensive to purchase upfront, but they are intended to save homeowners money in the long-run.
Energy Star Certification
An Energy Star certification means that the HVAC system has met energy efficiency guidelines by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Your system will have improved performance and ultimate comfort all year. Units with an Energy Star certification usually cost more in initial costs.
Ventilation is necessary to maintain a comfortable, livable environment in your home. Proper ventilation keeps the air moving, which is important for the air quality. Mechanical ventilation can boost the home’s efficiency by controlling the amount of outside air coming in. It allows some fresh air, but not enough to drastically change the home’s temperature.
Insulation can make a big difference in your energy costs. A well-insulated home will keep the heated/cooled air inside of the home and the outdoor temperatures outside. Insulation is measured by an R-value, or thermal resistance. Good insulation will help your HVAC system run efficiently, which will extend its lifespan.
Regular maintenance can help boost performance and increase the lifespan of your HVAC equipment. The same goes for your HVAC system. It’s important to regularly change air filters, clean evaporator and condenser coils and keep the area around your HVAC system clear. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners can decrease their AC’s energy consumption by 5–15% simply by replacing dirty, clogged filters.
How to Get HVAC Discounts
There are multiple ways to save on your HVAC system and installation. First of all, it’s important to hire the right HVAC contractor. A good contractor will do the job right and not charge you extra money for unnecessary labor or add-ons. Read reviews from the contractors you are considering, and then compare estimates between a few different companies. Doing some work upfront will save you money later.
There are also some tax credits and rebates available for HVAC systems. Some local governments and utility companies provide rebates for people who choose to use high-efficiency air conditioners. The ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder can help you find savings close to your home.
Best HVAC Brands and Equipment Prices
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Best Brand Warranty Information
From the brand of the HVAC system you choose to the size of your home, there are dozens of factors that go into the ultimate cost of your HVAC system. There are some steps you can take to find deals and keep costs down, but, ultimately, homeowners can expect to pay a few thousand dollars to get their heating and cooling systems installed. In order to keep your home at a comfortable temperature no matter what, it should be considered money well spent.