Installing a central air conditioning system is one of the best ways to modernize your home, increase your resale value, and make your house a more comfortable place to spend time year round. Many homeowners experience acute sticker shock when they receive their first estimate, however. While the cost of installing a central AC system may seem high, there are often good reasons for those prices, and getting your installation done properly the first time is worth paying more up front. Still, it can be helpful to understand how these costs are calculated before you meet with a contractor for the first time.
How Much Should It Cost?
As with many home improvement projects, the average cost for central air installation can be deceiving. There are a number of variables that will greatly impact your installation costs, so simply viewing the average cost for your area will not always provide you with a good idea of how much your installation should cost. In particular, ductwork installation can be expensive. If your home is already equipped with forced-air heating and the existing ductwork is sufficient for an AC system as well, then your costs will be drastically lower. The installation of new ductwork can raise costs significantly, however.
The Cost of Ducting
Even if your home already has ductwork for a forced-air heating system, you may be surprised to learn that your existing ducts will still need to be replaced before your new central air system can be installed. It is important for the longevity and proper operation of your AC system that the ducts in your home are able to adequately support the system's airflow. Modern cooling systems can push significantly more air through the ducts than older forced-air heating systems, and this imbalance can cause your AC unit to work more than is necessary to cool your home or even damage the ductwork over time.
Because of this, a part of your installation cost will be an evaluation of the existing ducts in your home. If this evaluation determines that your ducts are sufficient, then your overall cost is likely to be much lower. If you need new ductwork, you can expect to pay both for its installation and for the design of the ducting system. Ductwork should never be treated as an afterthought, as correcting improperly installed or designed ductwork will require extensive modifications to your home's AC system in the future.
Outside of the design and installation of ducting, your next largest cost is likely to be the air conditioning equipment itself. This is the one area where you can potentially work with your contractor to reduce costs and save money. Choosing a system that is insufficient to cool your home will result in higher energy bills as the system is forced to run more often and less efficiently, but overbuying also offers no major benefits and will simply result in higher up-front equipment costs. Working with your contractor to choose a system that is properly sized for your home will save you money on energy over the long run and save you money on equipment up front.
Maximizing Your Labor Savings
Installing your AC system properly the first time will save you from large repair bills in the future, so it is never worthwhile to choose cheap, unreliable labor. This does not mean that you cannot shop around for a good deal, however. Speaking with multiple reputable contractors can give you a good idea of what your local prices are like so that you can make an informed decision. Additionally, choosing to have the work done during the colder months may mean that you can take advantage of special offers or rebates.
Contact air conditioning contractors in your area for more information.