If your current air conditioner is aged, inefficient, or needs major repairs, replacing the entire unit may be the wise long-term choice. Let’s walk through the typical process and cost of replacing AC unit, so you know what to expect with this major home project.
It starts with an in-person visit from an HVAC technician to inspect your existing setup and discuss replacement options. Expect them to:
- Evaluate your home to determine the appropriate BTU capacity needed.
- Inspect the condition of current ductwork and electrical.
- Take measurements for proper sizing of the new system.
- Recommend potential efficiency upgrades like zoning.
- Provide an estimate of total costs, both parts and labor.
This thorough consultation is crucial for a smooth replacement.
Selecting the New AC Equipment
Many key decisions select the right cooling equipment for your home:
- Determine the fuel type – electricity or natural gas.
- Choose an efficiency rating like SEER 13, SEER 15 or higher. The higher the SEER, the lower your operating costs.
- Decide on furnace and AC combo or a packaged heat pump system.
- Identify any desired smart technology features.
- Select a reputable brand like Carrier, Trane or Lennox that includes robust warranties.
- Choose matching condenser and evaporator coil models.
Your HVAC technician helps navigate the options for your budget.
Permits and Documentation
Your HVAC company handles completing permits required by local regulations. This includes:
- Submitting the replacement documentation to the building department.
- Coordinating electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits.
- Obtaining a final inspection by the municipality once work is complete.
- Providing a full work order and invoice detailing the job.
Leave the paperwork to the professionals.
Removal of the Old AC Equipment
The process begins by:
- Disconnecting and extracting the old condenser unit from your property.
- Removing the air handler or furnace evaporator coil.
- Prepping the existing connections and electrical for the new system.
Proper disposal of old refrigerant and equipment is completed.
Installation of the New System
The installation process typically involves:
- Mounting the new condenser in place on a concrete pad or brackets.
- Attaching refrigerant lines to the condenser.
- Installing the new evaporator coils in the furnace or air handler.
- Reconnecting ductwork and cutting in new sheet metal or flex duct as needed.
- Running electrical connections to the condenser and air handler.
- Confirming proper drainage slopes on condensate lines.
Startup and Configuration
To complete the replacement, your technician will:
- Evacuate existing lines and properly recharge the system with new refrigerant.
- Configure thermostats and WiFi-enabled controls if present.
- Verify voltage to the condenser and air handler.
- Test for refrigerant leaks using nitrogen or fluorescent dye.
- Power up the system and check operation and airflow.
With a full system replacement, the costs add up:
- Air conditioner unit – $1200 to $4000 depending on size, efficiency and features.
- Evaporator coil – $500 to $1500 based on aluminum or copper construction.
- Labor – $1000 to $5000 depending on system complexity and access.
- Permits/fees – $50 to $500+ depending on region.
- Miscellaneous supplies – $200 for refrigerant recharge, lineset, fittings etc.
While not cheap, replacement costs are worthwhile for energy savings and comfort.
When purchasing an AC replacement, favor equipment warranties over labor warranties. And remember – the more efficient the system, the faster energy savings add up. Stay cool through the sweltering summers ahead with your new and improved AC!
AC Replacement FAQ
Get the inside scoop on common replacement questions:
Should I repair or replace my aging AC?
Once a system is over 10-15 years old, replacement often makes better financial sense long term rather than sinking money into repairs.
How do I size the AC unit correctly?
Your HVAC technician will perform a “Manual J” calculation based on home size, layout, insulation and your local climate. This ensures the right-sized AC.
Should I upgrade to a higher efficiency system?
If you plan to stay in the home long term, investing in a higher SEER rating for increased energy savings can be worthwhile.
What maintenance is required on a new AC system?
Plan on annual checkups and cleaning to keep the system operating at peak efficiency. Refrigerant and parts may need occasional replenishment over time.
Should I bundle AC replacement with heating system replacement?
Bundling upgrades can save on labor costs. Have your HVAC technician assess the lifespan of your furnace as well during consultation.
How can I finance such a large replacement cost?
Many contractors offer low-interest financing or payment plans. Some utilities also rebate portions of high-efficiency equipment costs.
With proper professional installation and maintenance, your new AC system will provide cool comfort and energy savings for over a decade.
Warning Signs That Replacement Shouldn’t Be Delayed
If your AC unit displays any of the following, replacement decision time has likely come:
- Age over 15 years old
- Refrigerant leaks requiring frequent refilling
- Costly compressor repairs or replacements
- Electrical issues including shorts and shocks
- Pervasive mold or mildew indicative of drainage issues
- Substantially higher electricity bills than neighbors
- Inability to keep home cool during hot weather
- Rusting or deterioration of exterior condenser unit
Don’t gamble with patched up repairs – major issues like the above justify replacement.
Key Considerations When Buying a New AC System
- Hire an HVAC company experienced in complete system changeouts – this is beyond DIY.
- Have them properly size equipment to match the home size and layout.
- Invest in the highest efficiency system within your budget.
- Opt for durable name brand equipment with strong warranties.
- Bundle AC replacement with any heating system upgrades needed.
- Confirm all permits and inspections are handled by your air conditioning contractors.
While initially pricey, think of long-term value. An efficient, warrantied AC system keeps you cool for years to come.