If you need a new air conditioner, the first thing on your mind is probably cost.
Here in Colorado, the cost to install an air conditioner ranges from $4,026 to $17,081.
We know—it’s a big investment. And you might be wondering why the price varies so much.
The reason the AC installation costs vary is because the price depends on the following factors:
- The type of AC you choose
- The warranty you choose
- The difficulty of the installation
- The contractor you choose
Let’s take a look at each of these factors in more detail to give you a better idea of what you could pay for your new AC.
Want a quote to install an air conditioner? We can give you an honest, accurate estimate today!
Cost factor #1: The type of AC you choose
The price of an AC can vary depending on the unit’s specifications.
These specifications include:
- The size of the AC
- The SEER rating of the AC
- Add-on comfort and performance features
We’ll go into more detail about each of these specifications below.
The bigger the air conditioner, the more expensive it will be.
When we talk about an AC’s “size”, we’re not talking about the physical dimensions of the system, but rather its cooling capacity.
Air conditioners are sized according to their tonnage, which is a measurement of how much heat the system can remove from your home in one hour. Most residential air conditioners range anywhere from 1.5 to 5 tons. The higher the tonnage, the more cooling capacity the AC system has.
After reading that, you might think that getting a bigger AC is better. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Just like you wouldn’t buy shoes that are too big or small for your feet, you don’t want to get an AC that’s too big (or too small) for your home. Getting an AC that’s over or undersized leads to higher energy bills and more frequent repairs.
To help you determine which size AC is right for your home, an air conditioning expert will perform a special “load calculation”.
This calculation, called a Manual J, takes into account factors such as:
- The square footage of your home
- Your home’s insulation levels
- The number of windows and doors in your home
- The number of rooms in your home
- And much more
Considering all of these factors together is a complex process, which is why it should be left to a professional to determine the right size AC for your home.
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures how energy-efficient your AC is, and is expressed as a rating that ranges from 13 to 25. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the AC, but the more expensive the unit will be.
Most homes in our area opt for a 14- or 16-SEER AC system, since they are more energy-efficient and will save you more money compared to older ACs (which can have SEER ratings of 10 or lower).
Add-on comfort and performance features
When you choose an AC, you can select certain comfort and performance features to upgrade your system. Of course, adding these features will raise the overall cost of the system.
Some examples of comfort and performance features you can add include:
- Variable-speed technology: “Variable speed” means the AC blower motor and compressor can incrementally adjust their speed to match the cooling demand, which prolongs the life of the system and cuts down on energy consumption.
- Noise reduction features: ACs can be loud. However, some systems have dampening strips, compressor mounts or noise-reducing fan blades to lower the overall volume of the system.
- Smart thermostat: A smart thermostat allows you to control your AC from your smartphone. Additionally, a smart thermostat can learn your family’s daily schedule to automatically adjust the temperature to a comfortable level when people are home, and raise the temperature when people are away to save money.
Cost factor #2: The warranty you choose
When you purchase a new AC, it automatically comes with a limited parts warranty from the manufacturer. This warranty covers the cost of expensive replacement parts if the AC breaks down within the warranty period (usually 5 to 10 years).
Pro tip: After your AC is installed, you’ll need to register it with the manufacturer in order for it to be covered by the limited parts warranty.
Some manufacturers offer the option to purchase an extended parts warranty, which could extend the period of warranty coverage by an additional 5+ years. This warranty may also cover more components than a limited parts warranty.
In addition to an extended parts warranty, you may be able to purchase an extended labor warranty from the contractor who installs your AC. This warranty covers the cost of labor should something go wrong with your AC after it’s installed. While most contractors automatically guarantee their work for 6 months to 2 years after the installation, purchasing an extended labor warranty could extend that guarantee to up to 5 years.
Purchasing an extended parts warranty and/or an extended labor warranty will provide peace of mind and potentially save you money in the long run but it will also increase the upfront cost of your AC installation.
Cost factor #3: The difficulty of the installation
Some AC installations are more difficult, requiring the contractor to spend more time on the project. Increased labor time raises the overall cost of the installation.
Factors that raise the cost of the installation include:
- The location of the AC: Air conditioners in hard-to-reach places such as a crawlspace or small closet will take longer to replace.
- Upgrades or modifications to the ductwork: The AC contractor may need to upgrade or modify your home’s ductwork to accommodate the new system, which increases labor time and cost.
- Electrical modifications: If the installer needs to add an outlet or upgrade your electrical panel to power the new AC, there will be an additional cost.
Cost factor #4: The contractor you hire
Here’s the bottom line: More experienced contractors charge more for their installation services. That said, you’re typically paying for an installation that is done well the first time—and that saves you a lot of money compared to an AC that’s installed incorrectly and costs you extra money in utility bills and expensive repairs.
Since an air conditioner is such a big investment, you want to make sure your system is installed correctly so you don’t face expensive repairs down the road.
Unfortunately, less experienced contractors often offer lower labor costs. That means, in order to make a profit, they’re often forced to cut corners during the installation, which just leads to more system breakdowns and higher energy costs over time.
Our opinion? It’s best to find a reputable, experienced contractor to install your AC to avoid those problems.
To find a high-quality HVAC contractor, try the following tips:
- Verify the contractor is licensed and insured
- Ask what guarantees and warranties the contractor offers on AC installations
- Check to see if the contractor has good customer reviews on sites such as Google and BBB
- Make sure the contractor offers estimates upfront (in writing) so you know there are no hidden fees
Want a quote to install your new air conditioner?
Since 1978, we’ve provided Colorado homeowners with high-quality AC installations and 5-star customer service. We give upfront estimates in writing, so you can rest assured that you’ll only pay the price you agree to in the beginning.
Luke Cooper is the General Manager of the Cooper Green team and son of Gary Cooper, owner and CEO of Cooper HVAC. After years in the field, Luke took his talents to management and has helped thousands of Colorado homeowners during hot summers and frigid winters. His decade of experience in the field and guiding the company makes him one of the most knowledgeable individuals in Colorado on HVAC, plumbing, electrical and other home services.