This spring, a lot of people began wondering, “how much does a new central air conditioning system cost?”
Every January, a nice letter crosses my desk from the manufacturers of all the HVAC systems we use. They let me know the cost of their equipment will be rising again in 2020. The cost of new air conditioning systems has been increasing by a few hundred dollars every year. This is a reliable fact, and there is no chance of those prices going down for obvious reasons. Let’s review some of the factors affecting new air conditioning costs in 2020.
When it comes to replacing your air conditioning system, people seem to be driven by one of three things: low prices, good value, or top-of-the-line gear. When it comes to the overall price range for a new air conditioning system, you should factor in a few things.
It’s a lot like buying a new car. Some people will get the most basic thing that will get them to work, or they’ll seek out the nicer but middle-of-the-road car they’re proud to own, and it’s very reliable. Others will look for the latest and newest smart car on the market. In much the same way, the price for a new central air conditioning system in 2020 will run anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000 depending on which contractor you use. When you bought your new car, you probably got some upgrades. The seat warmers and self-park feature were a must! You can get a similar variety of upgrades when choosing your new air conditioning system too, and it doesn’t have to be anything overly lavish, either.
In 2020, your first consideration when purchasing a new HVAC system should be the efficiency rating. Finding a company that will give you three or four options, not just one, for your new air conditioner, is important. You’re limiting yourself if you don’t.
In 2020 you should see options from 14 SEER up to 25 SEER. This SEER rating is like miles per gallon in your car. That’s a great way to think about it. The higher the SEER rating, the better and more efficient the equipment will be. If you chose the 14 SEER or the 25 SEER, you can expect either system to last about 15-25 years. “Anything after 20 years,” I tell people, “and you’re on borrowed time.” And that’s fine too because 20 years from now, you’ll probably want that next generation of central air conditioning systems for your home.
A 14 SEER system will cost you anywhere between $7,000 and $16,000 in California, depending on where you live and which contractor you choose. But a lot of that has to do with the type of installation you want for your new central air conditioning system. Some people are DIY’ers who thrive on the challenge of replacing their home appliances themselves. Changing an HVAC system is hard work, but it can be done.
The most popular upgrades after choosing your efficiency are:
- Dividing your home into two or more “zones”
- Smart thermostats
- Wireless thermostats
- Contactor containment (SureSwitch contactors)
- Compressor start assist kits
- Condensate flood switches
- Air quality products
- Virtual assistants / smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa)
- Insulation blown into attics
- Whole house fans
- Surge protectors for furnaces or air conditioners
- Thicker air filters
- Ductless mini-splits
- Compressor sound blankets
- New higher insulated ductwork
If you ask most people why they get upgrades on their newly purchased vehicle, they’ll say it’s about getting what they want the first time, so they don’t have any regrets down the road. There’s a lot to be said for that when the time comes to buy a new central air conditioning system.
I suggest finding a contractor that not only offers you the new air conditioning system but many of these upgrades as well. It’s not uncommon for a company to throw in the upgrades in the price.
An upgrade like a compressor start kit will add years of life to your system without you even knowing it. This device cuts down the start-up time of a compressor, which increases the lifespan of your AC system by years! Wouldn’t you rather just have that on your system from the start rather than having a technician sell you that part later on down the road? Of course, some upgrades are too costly to be “thrown in for free,” but little things like that add a lot of value to the cost of a new air conditioning system.
DIY HVAC Installation
Some people thrive on the chance to replace their own appliances. There’s nothing wrong with that! Installing HVAC is not rocket science, but there are some licenses and certifications required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to safely handle the refrigerant that goes into a new HVAC system. Some people will buy their system online for as low as $2,000 – $12,000. You can now buy systems and have them delivered to your door. The purchaser installs the system according to the installation manual, and when it comes to the refrigerant lines, they’ll have a technician come in to do the rest. One word of warning: manufacturers do not like to warranty their products when an unlicensed technician installs them.
Air Conditioning Cost for 2020: Price-Only Shoppers – The Most Basic Systems
Some people who can’t or don’t want to install their own system will reach out to a contractor, or some guy on Johns List where they’ll pay someone to install the system. I know of HVAC contractors and other handymen in California who can get a basic 14 SEER system into your house for as low as $7,000, maybe even less. Have you ever heard that another company with more employees and a bigger shop will sell a similar system for $16,000? In 2020 that can happen.
Value-Driven Customers Usually Pick in the Middle
When you have three or four options, the middle options will be where most buyers make their purchase. They’re looking for something good for their home, but maybe not the absolute best on the market technology-wise. These “middle options” were the top options years ago. The technology has been perfected and mainstreamed into quality homes everywhere. You will find these air conditioning systems in the price range of $10,000 to $20,000, depending on which contractor you choose.
Best of the Best Air Conditioners
Elite customers are looking for the latest in technology and will tolerate the bumps in the road that can come with such technology. They prefer systems that are whisper quiet and run at ultra-low amps, making their electric bills much lower! The technology in 2020 that continues to make a splash is the inverter technology of compressors offered in new air conditioners. Someday these will be mainstream. But for now, they come at the premium price of $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the contractor.
Depending on Your HVAC Contractor
Will they be there when it counts, down the road? That’s a big question when it comes to the warranties on your new air conditioning system. Those warranties won’t matter if they aren’t around to make it right for you. These companies charge too little to keep a legitimate company going for long.
It’s a game we as contractors always have to play to earn your business. If we price too high, you won’t take us seriously; if we price too low, it only entices the price shoppers. When you hear me say a 16 SEER system could be between $10,000 and $20,000, it’s best to find a contractor whose price lands in the middle of those two. Your best value will fall in this range. That’s why it’s important to get different quotes when you get your new air conditioning system. You’ll learn that the price for the same 16 SEER system will be somewhere between that ten and 20-thousand-dollar mark.
Good luck with your upcoming purchase decision. There are some great products you can add to your system to enhance its value for many years. When it comes to new air conditioning cost in 2020, choose your contractor wisely. Choose someone who is going to be there down the road; someone who has good reviews online. It really is all about customer service. HVAC companies should be trying to take care of you not only for the day of the install but after the install. Maintenance and preventive cleanings are essential.
Thanks so much, and we’ll see you on the next blog!