If you’re in the market for a new central AC unit, you’re probably wondering how much it’s going to cost you. On average, the cost to install a new AC unit in Tucson is anywhere from $6,319 to $11,590.
The range is wide because a variety of factors affect the cost; the five main ones include:
- The size of the AC
- How efficient the AC is (SEER rating)
- The length of your warranty
- Any additional features or services
- The HVAC contractor you choose
We’ll discuss each of these cost factors in detail so you’ll have a more accurate picture of how much a new AC will actually cost you.
Cost Factor #1: The size of the AC
The bigger the AC unit, the more expensive the unit will be.
When we talk about how “big” an AC unit is, we aren’t referring to physical dimensions like cubic feet. Instead, ACs are sized by the amount of heat they can remove from your home per hour, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). For reference, one BTU is equal to the amount of heat produced by one lit match. As an example, a 13,000 BTU AC would remove the heat of 13,000 lit matches in one hour from your home.
If your reaction is to think one lit match is a tiny amount of heat to measure, you are correct. This is why the “size” of an AC unit can seem very large (from 12,000 to 60,000+ BTUs).
Now that you know how AC systems are sized, you may be thinking that a bigger AC system is “better” is cooling your home. Think again. Bigger is not always better.
An AC that’s too big for your home will cool your home quickly and then shut off — over and over again. This constant on-and-off is called short-cycling, and can cause issues like high energy bills, uneven temperatures throughout your home and a shortened lifespan for your AC.
On the other hand, an AC that’s too small for your home will struggle to cool your home properly, causing the system to compensate by running all the time. This constant usage will lead to the same issues that short-cycling causes (i.e. high energy bills, uneven temperature and the AC wearing out sooner than it should).
So, how do you figure out the right AC size for your home?
An HVAC tech will have to perform a Manual J Load Calculation, which will tell you exactly what AC size is needed.
This load calculation is important because it takes into consideration multiple factors related to your specific home, like:
- The quality of the ductwork
- The insulation levels
- Height of the ceilings
- Type of flooring (carpet vs wood)
- Size, layout, orientation of the home
- Number of and age of windows
- Number of people living in the home
- Number of doors in the home
- Type of roofing
If the tech you hire tells you they can determine what size AC you need based only on your home’s square footage, we’d suggest finding a different technician. Going by square footage alone ignores all of the other factors listed above, which can result in the wrong size AC for your home, which most likely will cost you money in the long-run.
Cost Factor #2: How efficient the AC is (SEER rating)
The more efficient your AC system is (the higher the SEER rating), the more expensive it will be.
What is SEER exactly? SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and calculates the total amount of cooling a system provides (in BTUs) by the amount of energy it consumes.
The higher the SEER rating, the less energy your AC uses to cool your home. SEER ratings range anywhere from 13 to 25+.
As we mentioned before, the more efficient your AC system is, the more it costs upfront. However, the more efficient your system, the more monthly savings you’ll likely see when it comes to your energy bills.
If you are on a tight budget, our advice would be to buy an AC with a SEER rating of 14. Tucson homeowners must have a minimum 14 SEER rating for their ACs, per government regional standards. According to the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator, a 14-SEER AC compared to an old 10-SEER AC will roughly save you $930 over 5 years, $1860 over 10 years and $2790 over 15 years.
If you have a larger budget and can afford the higher upfront price, we recommend that you invest in a 16+ SEER AC. Tucson experiences many hot days, which requires ACs to work harder to cool your home, and a high-SEER AC will provide better energy efficiency and higher monthly savings. According to the Lennox Energy Savings Calculator, a 16-SEER versus an old 10-SEER AC will save you approximately $1220 over 5 years, $2440 over 10 years and $3660 over 15 years.
These SEER recommendations are only a starting point. Without an HVAC professional visiting your home, it’s hard to say which SEER rating is right for your home.
An HVAC professional will be able to take into account factors like:
- The quality of your home’s ductwork and insulation
- The size of your AC
These factors determine the actual cost-savings you would receive if you buy a high-SEER AC. For example, if you have leaky ducts and poor insulation, even a high-SEER AC has to still work hard to cool your home, negating any cost benefits. A tech can help you predict and get the most out of your cost-savings before you invest in an AC system.
Cost Factor #3: The length of your warranty
You will pay more upfront for extended warranty coverage.
However, paying for a comprehensive warranty policy upfront could save you money on expensive AC repairs in the long-term.
Most ACs come with two types of warranties:
- The limited manufacturer’s warranty: Most manufacturers include a 1-10 year warranty on important AC parts, like the compressor but not smaller parts like the air filter. This warranty kicks in only if the hired contractor can prove that the part had issues because of a mistake on the manufacturer’s side.
- The limited labor warranty: Most quality HVAC installation contractors include a labor guarantee for typically 1-2 years on AC repairs due to installation mistakes.
All warranties start from the installation date. If you want coverage for a longer period of time, you can opt for an extended manufacturer’s and/or labor warranty. An extended manufacturer’s warranty can cover parts for 10-15 years total, meanwhile, an extended labor warranty from the HVAC installer can cover the labor to repair parts for 5+ years total.
Also, an important thing to remember is that it’s possible to accidentally void your (limited or extended) manufacturer’s warranty.
You can avoid paying for a full repair that would have been covered by doing three main things:
- Registering your AC on the manufacturer’s website within 90 days (on average) of the installation date.
- Having a professional HVAC tech perform annual maintenance. Scheduling maintenance seems like a pain but it’s better than no longer having a warranty if a pricey repair comes up.
- Double checking if any repairs use off-brand replacement parts. Manufacturers usually require that repairs use the original parts.
Choose the warranty length that works for you. For example, if you’re going to move homes in the next 5 years, you probably shouldn’t splurge on an extended warranty because you won’t see the cost benefits.
Cost Factor #4: Any additional features or services
When installing a new AC, you can pay more for additional features and services that will improve your home’s comfort, cost-savings and energy efficiency.
Some of the additional features and services include:
- Smart thermostats: You can program automatic schedules to help you save money on energy bills. In addition, you can conveniently adjust your home’s temperature from your smartphone.
- Air quality improvements: UV purifiers, high-efficiency filters and humidifiers will all improve your home’s air quality, but they will also increase your AC installation cost.
- Noise-reduction features: Loud ACs disrupt the peace. You can add features like dampening strips, compressor insulation/mounts or noise-reducing fan blades to make your AC quieter.
- Ductwork cleaning and sealing: Leaky ductwork is terrible for AC efficiency. You lose your cool air before it even leaves your ductwork. To ensure your new AC system can actually work efficiently, you may choose to have your AC contractor seal or replace your ducts at the same time they install the new AC.
During the initial consultation, an HVAC technician can help you determine whether you’d benefit from any of the above features and services.
Cost Factor #5: The HVAC contractor you choose
The more experience and skill a contractor has, the more they will charge for their labor. However, don’t let a bigger upfront cost scare you off. Installing a new AC is a big commitment, so you want to be sure to hire a contractor who has the knowledge to properly size and install your new AC.
You’re better off hiring high-quality techs who know what they’re doing, rather than skimping on quality to potentially save money now just to have to pay more for repair work in the future.
As you search for a top-notch HVAC contractor, make sure that ...
- They have been in business for at least 10 years, so you have a track record to check.
- They are licensed, insured and offer guarantees in case there are unforeseen problems. You can check the contractor’s website for a license number, it should look something like:
- They give you an upfront estimate in writing so you aren’t surprised when you get the final bill. A written estimate protects you from any unexpected cost increases.
- They perform a Manual J Load Calculation. As we talked about in the sizing section, you’ll want to stay away if a contractor provides an installation price based on your home’s square footage.
- They tell you if the installation cost is flat-rate or hourly. Contractors who charge hourly tend to end up costing more if they take longer than expected.
Need a new AC for your Tucson home? Contact Advantage Air Mechanical
If you’re looking for a smooth AC installation process, we’re the team to call. Our Comfort Advisors will perform a load calculation, determine what AC size is best for your home and then provide you with an upfront, written estimate. After the installation, your Comfort Advisor will check the installation for quality and teach you how to use the system.
Schedule an appointment today by clicking on the button or calling us at 520-792-9400.