Top 10 Best Central Air Conditioners in 2021: Costs by AC Unit

Central AC Unit Costs

There are plenty of cheap central air conditioners, but there is more to value than low price.

On the other end of the spectrum are high-priced, high-performance ACs with variable capacity cooling and communication technology. They’re not what anyone would call a value choice either.

The sweet spot in the middle is where quality and reasonable cost meet to provide good value for the money. You’ve got a good selection of central air conditioners that are considered an excellent value.

Climate must be considered, too, because a value air conditioner in Jackson, Mississippi is not the same as a value AC in Jackson, Minnesota. We’ll explain why.

via Hamilton Home Comfort

Covering all climates, below are the top 10 Central AC options:

1. Day & Night Performance 17 N4A7
2. Rheem Classic Series RA17
3. York LX YCG
4. Goodman GSXC18
5. Day & Night Performance 16 N4A6
6. Rheem Classic Series RA16
7. Goodman GSXC16
8. Rheem Classic Series RA14
9. Day & Night Performance 14 N4A5
10. Goodman GSX14

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Central Air Conditioning Cost in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Staying cool during the sweltering heat of summer takes power. A fan helps but doesn’t quite cut it. Portable air conditioners and window units are decent for a single room use.

Central Heating and Air Conditioning system outside the house
via Red Star Air

For the whole house, you’ll want a central system that can maintain steady temperatures in multiple rooms. Central AC delivers on power, yet there are many units to select from in the current market. Our buyer’s guide will walk you through the primary considerations such as the appropriate models, installation costs, and other relevant factors to help you make the most informed decision.

Cost

The national average cost to install a new split-system central AC is $5,500. This includes a new mid-range 17-21 SEER (2-stage) outdoor unit and evaporator coil (split system), professional (warrantied) installation, any required site assessments and building permits, and the workmanship warranty from the installer. It is assumed that most of the required ductwork is already in place, with only minor alterations or updates required to be made to the existing ductwork.

The numbers provided above translate to a licensed HVAC contractor installing the most feasible central unit with a minimum 17 SEER (2-stage) rating for your home. The installer’s expertise draws upon many factors, not the least of which is evaluating your current ductwork strengths and weaknesses, along with how well your home is insulated, and will therefore retain the cool energy in your home.

All else being equal, higher SEER efficiency AC units with 20-26 SEER (variable-capacity) ratings will cost more (between $5,500 and $6,500+ installed) than typical mid-range 17-21 SEER (2-stage) units (between $4,000 and $5,500 installed).

Wider (80%) Pricing Range: Most homeowners spend between $4,000 and $8,500 for a full installation (replacement) of a split-system central air conditioner across the US. The total cost of a project depends on the brand and type of the AC unit (SEER and ERR ratings) being installed, project specifics (AC unit size in tons/BTUs, project complexity), and your home’s location (local real estate market dynamics).

Did you know? Central Air Conditioners come in two types; a split-system unit or a packaged unit. If your home already has a heating furnace, but no AC, then the split-system central AC unit is the most economical option to install.

Central AC Unit Costs
Typical “per Unit” price list, with models organized by Climate requirements

Did you know? Energy Star has a list of Most-Efficient Central Air Conditioners and Air Source Heat Pumps. To have an Energy Star rated unit appear on that list, a minimum rating of 18 SEER and ERR of 13 is the table-stakes.

Modern Central AC units are 20% to 40% more efficient than Central ACs from 10 years ago. So, if your home happens to have an older central AC unit, then getting a modern Energy Star rated central AC might prove to be a smart and economically-sound decision, especially if your current AC is not performing well and/or is in need of an expensive repair.

central AC average installation costs breakdown
Professional Installation Costs breakdown (not including the cost of the AC unit itself)

via US Veterans Home Services Inc.

Did you know? When added to an existing forced-air heating system with the already existing ductwork already in place, a new central air unit for a typical 2,000 sq. ft. home will cost between $4,000 and $6,500 to install.

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