The Average Cost to Install Central Air Conditioning

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star website, central air is a major source of energy consumption. The Energy Star website says heating and cooling devices account for two-fifths of all energy consumed in an average American home.

So when determining the average cost of installation, it is important to factor in several related issues, such as buying costs, installation and maintenance. These can be highly subjective.


Central air units come in two types. There are split system units or packaged units. There are some mechanical differences between the two regarding the methods by which they cool the home, but when considering the cost of purchase and cost of maintenance, the EPA reports that there are no major differences between the two. The main difference you must consider when purchasing a central air unit is the difference between the Energy Star-approved model and a conventional one, which can be quite considerable. Energy Star is a program created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Energy. Its function is to certify models that are energy efficient and meet minimum energy conservation qualifications, to help consumers find energy-efficient products. An Energy Star-rated unit must meet strict guidelines for maximum energy use.

Upfront Costs

The initial, one-time price of a central air can vary from one brand to another. Capacity also makes a big difference. The cost of buying a 2.5-ton central air is quite different from the cost of buying a higher capacity. The capacity you will need is determined by how large your home is. A contractor or air conditioner installer can provide you with the best information regarding what capacity unit you will need based on the space you need to cool.

You must also decide between an Energy Star model and a non-Energy Star model. The initial coverage cost between these differs dramatically. For example, as of 2009, the average cost for an Energy Star-certified model is £2,080 for a 2.5 ton system, according to the EPA. An uncertified model can cost about £536 less.

Operating Cost

Although the upfront cost of an Energy Star-rated unit is more, it can save you money in the long run over the life of the unit. An EPA-approved model has an average operating cost of around £325 a year. These costs include energy and maintenance. Non-Energy Star appliances can cost £65 or more dollars per year more than the cost of an Energy Star model.


The purchase price normally includes installation. These are accrued at the time of installation. Maintenance, which is generally required every few years to clean the filters and service the unit, also needs to be considered. On an average, these labour costs work out to around £13 an hour.


Some central air devices may be susceptible to mechanical problems, such as distributing air unevenly among the rooms. This issue can be addressed by getting high-quality ducts installed. If you do not already have high-quality ducts installed as part of your heating and cooling system, this can raise the cost of installation, depending upon the size of your home and the system you have in place.