How Much Does HVAC Installation Cost? (2024)


By Amanda Lutz Reviewed By ENERGY STAR
May 31, 2023

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A window air conditioning unit can cost as little as $70, while a geothermal heat pump may cost as much as $31,000.* It’s difficult to give an average cost for an HVAC system because the term applies to many different types of units, including air conditioners, boilers, mini-split air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps. The price also depends on the size of your home and the system’s efficiency rating. In this guide, we’ll cover the average cost ranges for various HVAC units.

*All cost figures in this article were sourced from Fixr, Angi, and HomeAdvisor.

 


 

Average HVAC Installation Cost

HVAC systems involve powerful, complicated equipment such as furnaces, central air conditioners, and ductwork that runs through the internal structure of your house. Installation, maintenance, and repairs can get expensive, but they’re a good investment in your home. Below, we’ll break down the cost of HVAC units based on unit type, house size, and more.

Cost by HVAC Unit Type

Depending on your heating and cooling needs and the climate where you live, you have various choices for HVAC systems.

Air Conditioning

Air conditioning systems lower the temperature of indoor air and act as dehumidifiers. The largest and most powerful cooling system is central AC, which consists of an indoor air conditioning unit called an air handler and an outdoor unit called a condenser. A liquid called refrigerant runs between the two parts of the system, drawing heat from the air inside and depositing it outside, where it runs through a compressor housed in the condenser

This system requires ductwork to send the cooled air throughout the building, making it one of the most expensive HVAC systems to install or replace. Central AC is also expensive to run because it requires a heavy electricity input.

There are portable air conditioners and window AC units that cost less to purchase, install, and operate. These units house the condenser and air handler in the same casing and vent air through a window. The drawback is that these units only cool spaces between 100 and 1,000 square feet—typically, a single room. They don’t require professional installation.

Boilers and Radiant Heating

A boiler is a heating system that doesn’t heat air directly. The boiler burns fuel, typically gas or heating oil, to heat water that runs through a system of pipes throughout the home. These pipes may be out in the open, as radiators are, or they may run through the walls or floors of a home, providing radiant heating. Some boilers also act as water heaters, creating usable hot water for a home’s faucets, showers, and laundry.

Ductless Mini-Splits

A mini-split air conditioning system falls somewhere between a central air conditioner and a window unit. This system can cool air in multiple rooms without ductwork. One or more outdoor condensers are paired with air handlers in each room you want to cool. These air handlers are typically mounted on the wall, though there are floor and ceiling units. 

While not everyone likes the aesthetics of a visible air handler, these systems are less expensive to install than central air conditioning and give you greater control over the temperature in your home. With a multiple-air-handler zoning system, you can set the thermostat at different temperatures for different rooms.

Furnaces

Similar to central air conditioning, a furnace uses a blower to distribute treated air throughout a home’s ductwork. Furnaces burn fuel to heat the air. Gas furnaces are the most common, but some older homes have oil furnaces. Electric furnaces are efficient but require a lot of electricity, so they’re more common in milder climates or as supplementary heating systems. Furnaces are whole-home HVAC systems that require ductwork, so they’re expensive to install or replace.

Heat Pumps

Instead of heating or cooling indoor air, heat pump systems transfer heat outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. There are several types of pumps: mini-split heat pumps, multi-split heat pumps, and centrally ducted heat pumps. The cost of the system depends on the type of pump you choose. The most common and cost-effective, an air-source heat pump, works much like a ductless mini-split AC. A geothermal heat pump that takes heat from the ground below the frost line is expensive. However, it takes advantage of a renewable energy source and is thus very efficient.

Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

Air conditioning systems dehumidify the air. Humidity condenses into moisture around the evaporator coil and drains outside. However, if you live in a humid climate and don’t have AC, you may consider installing a central dehumidifier unit. Keeping indoor humidity between 30% and 50% can increase comfort, discourage mold and mildew growth, and reduce allergens and odors.

If you live in an extremely dry climate, you might consider installing a whole-home humidifier system that connects to your plumbing. Humidifiers may use steam, mist, or evaporator pads to put moisture into the air, which can make your home more comfortable and reduce certain skin and breathing problems.

Packaged Systems

Packaged systems combine heating and air conditioning HVAC equipment in a single outdoor unit. Although these systems are expensive to install, they’re less costly than separate heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, they’re not as functional as separate systems. The life span of packaged systems tends to be shorter because the unit is located outdoors. That said, they can save floor space in small homes.

Whole-House Fans

While fans don’t lower the temperature in a space, they create airflow and can make a home feel cooler. Whole-house fans draw heat into a house’s attic, creating negative air pressure that brings cool air through open windows. This is a relatively inexpensive central cooling system, both in installation and operation. It works best in climates that don’t experience very high temperatures in the summer.

System Type Average Cost Range

Window AC

$70–$840

Radiator

$100–$2,500

Portable AC

$250–$1,800

Humidifier

$400–$2,500

Whole-house fan

$580–$1,270

Ductless mini-split

$975–$5,400

Dehumidifier

$1,300–$2,800

Boiler

$1,500–$15,000

New ductwork

$1,900–$6,000

Furnace

$2,000–$11,000

Heat pump

$3,700–$11,000

Central AC

$3,800–$7,700

Packaged system

$9,200–$10,800

Cost by House Size

The amount of square footage you have to heat or cool will determine the size of the HVAC unit. Larger, more powerful HVAC units are more expensive. For example, an air conditioning system typically costs between $2.90 and $7.20 per square foot of home space. HVAC unit size is often measured in BTU, or British thermal units. Air conditioners may also be measured by tons, which refers not to the unit’s weight but how much air it can cool in an hour.

Determining the right unit size is crucial to its operation. If you choose a system that’s too small, it will need to run constantly to maintain a consistent temperature and will likely wear out sooner. A too-large system wastes money up-front and won’t work efficiently in a smaller space. Online cost estimators can help you determine the size and power of the system you need. If you live in a climate that experiences extreme temperatures, speak to a local HVAC professional about your area to see if you need a more powerful system.

Cost by Efficiency

The more efficient a system is, the less fuel is required to power it and, generally, the more inexpensive it is to operate. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) standardizes efficiency through the use of a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the system. The DOE requires all central AC units heat pumps and to have a SEER rating of at least 15 in the southern states and 14 in the northern states.

High-efficiency residential AC units have SEER ratings of up to 22, and heat pumps can rate even higher. The efficiency of furnaces is measured with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) percentage. Anything more than 90% is considered high efficiency. Purchasing an HVAC system with a higher SEER or AFUE rating costs more up-front, but you will save money on your energy bills in the long run. You may even qualify for tax credits or other incentives for installing a high-efficiency system.

Labor Cost

A substantial percentage of HVAC system installation costs goes to labor. The exact figure depends on the project’s difficulty and scope. HVAC contractors charge between $75 and $250 per hour for AC installation. Anything that increases the time a project will take also increases labor costs. Swapping out your existing system with one of a similar size and type will likely incur the lowest installation costs

If your current system is old or difficult to access, your HVAC replacement will cost more. The same is true if the distributed parts of your system, such as radiators or ductwork, are in poor condition. Converting from one system to another, such as installing a furnace in place of a boiler, will come with additional costs. 

HVAC system work is considered a major project and will likely require paid building permits. An HVAC company will know the required permits in your area. 

Account for the removal and disposal of your old systems. Some HVAC professionals include this in the total project cost. On their own, removal and disposal cost about $150 to $250 for an old air conditioner or $50 to $200 for an old furnace.

 


 

Additional Cost Considerations

While the above factors determine much of the total cost of installing a new HVAC system, the following considerations also play a role.

Brand

The most reliable HVAC brands are those that are well-established in the industry and have a reputation for making solid products with a decent life span. HVAC units require substantial maintenance and will likely need repairs at some point, so opt for a brand that offers a long warranty. Some brands offer installation of their products.

Brand AC Unit Cost Furnace Unit Cost Heat Pump Unit Cost

Trane

$3,300

$1,300–$3,600

$1,300–$4,500

Goodman

$3,800–$6,650

$800–$1,900

$1,500–$3,900

Bryant

$4,000–$7,000

$800–$2,500

$1,600–$2,700

Lennox

$4,000–$7,150

$1,300–$4,100

$1,500–$6,000

Carrier

$4,000–$7,700

$1,000–$2,500

$1,400–$5,000

American Standard

$4,400–$7,000

$1,200–$3,600

$2,000–$3,200

Ductwork

If your ductwork needs substantial repair or even replacement, it must be completed before your new ducted HVAC unit can operate. Leaky or poorly insulated ducts reduce the efficiency of even the highest-rated air conditioner or furnace. Replacing existing ducts or adding a ductwork system to new construction costs between $1,900 and $6,000, depending on the size and extensiveness of the system.

If you want to retrofit a home with new ductwork not included in the original design, it will be more expensive. Installing a central air conditioner with all-new retrofitted ducts can cost as much as $8,650 to $20,200.

Return on Investment

An efficient HVAC system is a plus for any home buyer. Nearly 90% of homes nationwide have air conditioning, and about 66% have central AC, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Homes with central air conditioning sold for more than those without—as much as 2.5% more, according to a Zillow analysis. Homeowners can expect an estimated 35% to 50% return on investment (ROI) on HVAC systems when selling their homes, particularly if they’re high-efficiency systems.

Upgrades

Some HVAC systems can be upgraded with features for an additional cost. Adding a whole-house humidifier or dehumidifier to a ducted system is one example. You can upgrade certain parts of a system to make it more efficient. For instance, air conditioners and furnaces have blower motors to help distribute treated air throughout the house. Depending on the type of system, you may be able to add a more efficient motor that consumes minimum electricity when your heating and cooling needs are less.

Smart thermostats and HVAC systems represent another kind of upgrade. Smart thermostats allow you to operate your system from your phone and set timers based on physical proximity. For example, you could set your system to turn on whenever it senses the phone in your pocket getting near the house. These upgrades can integrate with other smart home systems such as Google Nest. On their own, smart thermostats cost between $200 and $500.

 


 

Professional vs. DIY HVAC Installation

HVAC installation, with few exceptions, is something that should be handled by professionals. Here’s why.

Professional HVAC Installation

In order to bill themselves as HVAC professionals, contractors need special training and licensing. They learn how to install, maintain, and repair various HVAC systems. HVAC units are specialized pieces of machinery, and they’re often extremely heavy and hard to work with. When budgeting for a new HVAC system, homeowners should include the cost of labor in the budget. Professionals usually offer warranties on labor, and many local HVAC contractors can provide regular maintenance for your new system.

DIY HVAC Installation

Portable air conditioners are made to be installed by non-professionals. Some smaller window AC units come with DIY installation kits. Apart from these units, don’t attempt HVAC installation yourself. Running an improperly installed system could result in high energy costs or damage to your home. Most repairs should be completed by a professional. Additionally, the warranty on a new system will likely be voided if it isn’t installed by a licensed professional.

 


 

How to Reduce Costs on Your HVAC Installation

You can save on the total cost of your HVAC installation by following these tips:

  • Look into tax rebates or green energy incentives for installing a high-efficiency system. ENERGY STAR lists a number of heating and cooling tax credits, and more may be available at a state or local level. 
  • Determine the right size HVAC system for your space. Talk to a professional if you’re unsure.
  • Consider short- versus long-term costs. Installing a low-efficiency system or failing to fix leaky ductwork may cost less now, but your energy bills will be higher in the long run.
  • Get quotes from multiple contractors in your area. We recommend talking to at least three. Be wary of anyone who charges much more or less than others.
  • Once your HVAC system is in place, keep up with regular maintenance. This includes a yearly tune-up, which most HVAC repair companies offer. This will help lengthen the life span of your system.

 


 

Our Recommendation

An HVAC system is a substantial investment but can make your home a more comfortable place to live. Costs range anywhere from $70 for a window AC unit to $31,000 for a geothermal heat pump. Expect to spend at least a few thousand dollars for whole-home temperature control. When shopping, consider your needs and the size of your home, and choose a high-efficiency system for the biggest energy savings.

Remember to include installation costs in your budget. We recommend getting quotes from at least three local contractors before making your final choice. A high-quality, properly-installed HVAC system can last for decades, so research your options and compare short-term and long-term costs.

 


 

HVAC Installation FAQ

How much is an HVAC system for a 2,000-square-foot house?

The price of a new HVAC system depends on the type you choose and how efficient it is. Here are some sample price ranges for systems powerful enough for a 2,000-square-foot house:Furnace: $900–$2,600Heat pump: $2,000–$6,000Central air conditioner: $3,800–$7,700Mini-split: $4,000–$7,000Boiler: $5,100–$7,800

What is the most common HVAC system?

The most common HVAC system is called a split system. That means it uses separate units for cooling (such as an air conditioner) and heating (such as a furnace). Most of the cooling unit is typically outdoors, while the heating unit is typically indoors.

How long does it take to install a new HVAC?

It can take up to three days to install a new HVAC system. The project length depends on the size and complexity of the system and whether ductwork is involved.

Can you install an HVAC yourself?

No, you can’t install an HVAC system yourself. These complicated systems require specialized training to install. The exceptions are portable air conditioning and some window air conditioning units that are meant to be installed by homeowners.



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