On average, installing a central AC in San Antonio can cost anywhere between $3,500 and $30,000.
The range is so wide because multiple factors can impact the cost of your installation, the main eight being:
- Whether you need a single component or complete system installation
- The efficiency level of the AC
- The system features you choose
- The accessories you add to your installation
- The condition of your ductwork
- The installation requirements for your AC
- The warranties you choose
- The HVAC contractor you hire
In this blog, we’ll break down each of these factors so you’ll have a greater understanding of whether your new AC will be on the low or high end of this range.
Want a free quote for a new AC installation specific to your home and budget needs? Contact Jon Wayne.
Factor #1: Single component vs complete system installation
If you decide to install a complete matched HVAC system, that will be a higher investment than just installing one component.
What is the difference between a single component and a complete system installation? For example, replacing just the outdoor condensing unit would be considered a single component to install.
On the other hand, matched systems are designed to work together. So, if you install a matched system, you would have to include all the components that work together as part of your HVAC system.
Factor #2: AC’s efficiency level
The more efficient your AC system is (the higher the SEER rating), the more the initial cost will be.
So, what exactly is a SEER rating?
It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and measures how efficiently an AC operates when it is running. Modern ACs range from 13 to 25 SEER.
While a higher SEER AC (i.e. 16+) is more expensive initially, it is more energy-efficient and can recover the extra upfront investment saving you money on energy bills down the line.
However, if you’re on a tighter budget, a 14-SEER AC is still highly effective and is the federal minimum requirement for Texas homeowners.
Factor #3: System features
If your AC has a two-stage or alternatively a variable-stage compressor, you will pay more upfront for the installation in comparison to a single-stage AC installation.
Both two-stage and variable-stage ACs will provide higher levels of comfort, noise reduction, energy-efficiency and humidity control compared to the basic single-stage AC.
What is the difference between a two-stage and single-stage AC?
Two-stage ACs can operate on two levels (e.g. high and low) in comparison to single-stage ACs that only have one setting. Single-stage ACs always run on full-blast then turn off.
A single-stage AC consumes a lot of energy because every time an AC turns off, it uses a lot of energy to start back up. On the other hand, a two-stage AC can generally use its low setting to fulfill your cooling needs, so it conserves more energy since it doesn’t need to start up as often as a single-stage AC.
The best system in terms of energy efficiency would be a variable-stage AC, which can adjust its capacity no matter the thermostat setting. Since a variable speed AC can circulate conditioned air steadily throughout your home, it rarely turns off so it doesn’t waste energy or your money.
Factor #4: Accessories added to your installation
Accessories can help improve your indoor air quality, decrease your energy bills and protect your AC from damage. However, accessories will increase the cost of your installation.
To enhance your HVAC system, you can add the following accessories to your installation:
- Media filter: It removes particles and allergens as air is pulled into your HVAC system and passes through the media filter.
- UV lights: They are installed inside the ductwork. UV lights kill microbial contaminants like bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc. They are also capable of alleviating odors, vapors and chemical toxins in your home’s air.
- Smart thermostats: Are WiFi-enabled and can be operated from your smartphone. You can use smart thermostats to save on energy bills, monitor your home while away on vacation and increase the comfort of your home.
- Surge protectors: If a thunderstorm comes along, you’ll be happy that you invested in a surge protector. If an indirect lightning strike creates an electrical surge and the surge current reaches unsafe voltage levels, the surge protector diverts the extra voltage into the ground, away from your home and AC.
Factor #5: Condition of ductwork
If your ductwork is in poor condition and needs work, your installation will cost more.
Just swapping out your AC system without paying attention to the ductwork is an epidemic in the HVAC industry. It’s why people might not ever see any real energy savings despite having a high-efficiency AC system. No matter how efficient your new AC system will be, the air you are paying to condition will never make it back into the home..
To get the comfort and efficiency you’re paying for, look for an HVAC contractor that will inspect your ductwork during the initial evaluation for the installation. After the inspection, a high-quality contractor will, as needed, replace, modify or clean and seal your duct system. You will pay more upfront for the additional ductwork service, but it will be well worth the long-term savings and improved comfort.
Factor #6: Installation requirements
Certain services are required for your installation to be code-compliant or for your new AC system to work in a physical space. The below installation requirements will add extra cost to your installation:
- If you need code upgrades
- If your return air chamber is improperly sized and needs to be enlarged
- If your refrigerant lines are improperly sized and need to be replaced
- Modern high-efficiency equipment tends to be physically larger than what is being replaced so your closet may need to be rebuilt, door trims removed, or attic ladders removed possibly even permanently enlarged.
Factor #7: Warranties that you choose
An extended warranty will usually make the installation cost more but can save you money on pricey repairs in the future and bring you peace of mind.
That said, there are two warranty types:
- Manufacturer’s warranty: The manufacturer of your AC will cover parts if you can prove they’re faulty because of a manufacturing mistake or defect. Normal manufacturer’s warranties usually last 2-10 years while the extended warranties last 10-15 years.
- Contractor’s warranty: The contractor you hired for the installation will cover labor costs for any repair work needed because of an installation mistake. On average, this warranty will last 1-2 years post-installation. If you purchase the extended warranty, it will usually last 5 years after installation.
To get the most cost-efficiency out of your warranties, we recommend that you purchase extended warranties only if you’re going to live in your current home for 5+ years as most manufacturers and contractors may not allow it to be transferred to the new homeowner anyway.
Factor #8: The HVAC contractor you hire
Higher-quality contractors will usually charge more for their labor but can save you money in the long-term by increasing the longevity and dependability of your system.
Since a new AC is a big-ticket item, we understand wanting to save money. However, hiring a contractor just because they offer a low price can often backfire if you have to make repairs due to installation mistakes.
So, how do you look for an HVAC contractor that is high-quality and won’t rip you off?
Our suggestion is to get bids throughout your area and look for a business that:
- Has been around for 10 years
- Offers upfront, written estimates
- Performs a Manual J Load calculation
- Puts their license number on their website
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