The average cost of installing central air & heating system

Written by amy wolffing
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When the weather starts to change, homeowners may think about changing or updating their current central air conditioning and heating system. But since cost is always is a consideration, many people like to know how much they might need to spend before they call a contractor. Several factors can have a huge impact on price, especially if you are looking to retrofit central air into an existing home.

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Heat-gain calculation

All central air and heating system contractors should start by performing an Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual J load calculation. This determines the heat gain of your home. This lets the contractor know how large your heating and cooling unit needs to be, and it can also be an opportunity to identify areas of your house that could use better insulation and weatherproofing.

The type of central air & heating system unit

Many central air conditioning systems are a "split system." With a split system, the heaviest, noisiest, heat-generating components are installed outdoors while other components are indoors. Another option is a packaged central air conditioner, in which all components are in a cabinet installed on the roof or next to the house. Consider the space around your home, how you close you are to your neighbours and how much noise you can tolerate.

Existing Ductwork

If a home already has a forced-air heating system, then adding central air is rather straightforward provided no additional air ducts need to be added. This should take about two days, and for a house of 2,000 square feet, it will most likely cost £2,600. However, if additional ducts need to be added, this could easily double the cost.

No Existing Ductwork

For a house that needs ducts, for example a house that uses baseboard heat or radiators, the costs and work time go up considerably. But a contractor experienced in retrofitting an older home with a central air and heating system can hide ductwork behind walls, in the backs of closets, and so on. Even so, plan on spending at least £5,200 to £6,500 for central air.

Older Homes

For older homes that do not have ducts, there are several options when installing a central air and heating system. A contractor can install traditional ducts without a lot of visible cuts in ceilings or walls. Registers will need to be installed, but the ducts themselves can be hidden. And there is also the option of flexible mini-ductwork, which looks like a vacuum-cleaner hose. This flexible ductwork and its registers can be placed very discreetly, which is preferable if you have an older, historic home and you do not want to change the aesthetics. The downside to mini-ductwork is it tends to be noisy, as air has to travel through much narrower ducts to heat and cool the space. In addition, mini-ductwork is considerably more expensive than traditional ductwork and should be installed by an experienced contractor, as this is a specialised area.

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