What is the Cost of a New Central AC Unit?

How can you logically compare the cost of central air unit replacement with continued repair work on an older system? In the greater Phoenix area, AC units get a real workout, so while national averages might be one measure, locally you get a whole different picture of a system’s lifespan, efficiency and cost. So, how much does an AC unit cost? Keep reading to see the factors involved.

Cost of New Central AC Units

Do your research while your current system is still working, because a summer in Phoenix without central air conditioning is not something you want to face. Below we discuss the cost of new air conditioners in Phoenix.

Repair Costs

Despite their apparent complexity, most central air conditioning systems consist of the same six parts:

ACE Home Services Phoenix - How Much Does a New Central A/C Cost - Parts

  1. Condenser
  2. Compressor
  3. Evaporator coil
  4. Air handler
  5. Filter
  6. Ductwork

Add-ons can make your particular system a bit more complex, but each of these parts has its own repair cycle. That is, with an annual or (better) semiannual inspection and service, your HVAC technician can anticipate failures of this pulley or that drive belt, or the time to switch out this part or that. Incorporating these small repairs into the annual visit helps you save money.

With age, the various parts of your central air conditioner begin to fail with greater frequency, so you see your HVAC repair person not only at annual inspections, but for emergency calls, too. These are squeezed into the contractor’s schedules and are more expensive.

Even with increasing spending on repairs, you will still eventually need to replace your system. In the greater Phoenix area, getting 10 years of top-notch performance from an AC unit is typical. Stretching it to 15 years is rare.

Only you can decide how much money you want to pour into an old system. Its efficiency (which translates into your power bill) will not increase with increased tinkering. Your comfort will gradually erode, and you could actually damage your furnishings from an older system’s inability to properly dehumidify the air.

ACE Home Services Phoenix - How Much Does a New Central A/C Cost - Unit

Tipping Point

At some time in the life of a central air conditioner, you reach a tipping point where the cumulative costs of repairs are not worth the decreased efficiency of your equipment. For all Phoenix homeowners, this tipping point can mean different things:

If you plan to sell and move out in a year or two, you will opt to repair and hold onto an inefficient system, saving yourself:

  • The cost of new central AC unit;
  • Having to add the new system’s cost to the asking price of your home, making your home less affordable;
  • Funds for fixing up a new home, possibly including upgrading the central air conditioning.

If you plan to remain in your Phoenix home for another decade, that tipping point could arrive early with a quick decision to replace your entire system and benefit from improved energy efficiency and system-wide comfort.

Typical Cost of a New Central Air Conditioner in Phoenix

The experts at Home Advisor peg the average cost of a new, residential central air conditioning system for the Phoenix area at $5,267. This average is affected by many factors, though:

Replacing an existing system

Here your biggest concern is not matching the old unit’s size, but getting an accurate measurement of your home’s cooling load.

Installing a system from scratch

Expect to pay more for running new ductwork for both return and supply lines.

Level of quality

A handful of manufacturers make more than 20 labeled brands of central air conditioners, in at least three pricing levels from low end to high end; the level you choose could save or add thousands.


You can save up-front costs by choosing a less efficient system, but pay for many years in far higher energy bills than if you had opted for a more efficient (but more expensive) system in the first place.

Depending on your choices and home particulars, you could pay as little as $1,800 or as much as $10,000 for a complete, professional installation of new central air conditioning equipment in your Phoenix home.

Energy Efficiency

Efficiency definitely can bump up the average cost of new ac units. While brand name, reliability and installation are all critical factors in considering a new system, energy efficiency is the step most people gloss over, both on the sales side and the buying side. This is because, frankly, many people do not understand the importance of the numbers.

At ACE Home Service we really want our customers to be happy, not just this month, but every month when they receive their power bills. This is why we stress the importance of a couple of numbers:


Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is a yardstick for comparing one central air conditioner to another. It is the ratio of the cooling output of an air conditioner over a typical, regional cooling season divided by the energy it consumed in watt-hours. While 15 SEER will be the new minimum for Arizona by 2023, look for the highest number you can afford (up to 25 SEER),to save the most energy over the life of your system


Energy Efficiency Ratio sounds almost the same as SEER, but it is not. It is an instantaneous calculation of the energy used by a cooling system assuming a constant outside temperature of 95 degrees, a constant inside temperature of 80 degrees and a humidity level of 50 percent. Though used mostly for window air conditioners, it is very handy for comparing different brands without regard to geographic or seasonal differences (such as the typical low humidity of our desert landscape).

By paying attention to both these numbers, you can home in on a system that will not only provide cooling and comfort, but will be kind on your budget, too.

Brand Names

ACE Home Services - HVAC Definitions: Condenser

No two-part central air conditioner is ever finished in a factory. Unless you opt for a package unit, you will have an outside component (the fan, compressor and condenser) and an inside component (the evaporator and air handler). The last step of assembly for your new central air conditioner is completed by a talented, knowledgeable technician on site.

So while brand names are important, correct installation is actually more important. A good technician can install and balance a mid-range brand and model and have it outperform a high-end model installed incorrectly.

No more than about seven manufacturers produce all 150-some major brands of central air conditioning equipment in the United States today, as the experts at Consumer Search point out.

ACE Home Services - HVAC Definitions: Compressor

And even those seven manufacturers depend on a very small handful of parts makers, so most of the central air conditioners sold use all the same parts.

The secret to a great installation is not, then, the actual brand name (though one manufacturer will produce a good-better-best product line), but the installer.

Professional Installation

You will pay additional charges for installation. Depending on your home’s characteristics, new ductwork may be needed, or changes may be necessary based on the new equipment’s footprint. A good installer will do more than remove the old unit and reconnect the new one using the same set-up.

Everything from the programmable thermostat to every register in the house must be accounted for in the new installation. Balancing a system means ensuring adequate airflow (no hot or cold spots), good filtration and no drop in air pressure or volume from cool air on the supply side to stale air on the return side.

Making a Choice

If we had to recommend a strategy for selecting and financing a new or replacement central air conditioner, we would suggest to our friends:

  1. Get an assessment of your current system’s health and life expectancy.
  2. Pick a reliable brand and then select the highest EER and SEER product you can afford.
  3. Communicate with your HVAC contractor to ensure new calculations for cooling load will be made before purchase and installation.
  4. Purchase a new system sized correctly for your cooling load, no larger.
  5. Be very particular about installation details and add-ons (deep-media filter, Wi-Fi thermostat, variable-speed air handler and so forth).
  6. Determine all financing details with the HVAC contractor before signing.

You will be absolutely delighted with your new, more energy-efficient central air conditioner if you strike a balance between logical economics and your family’s desire for comfort through the long Phoenix cooling season. More, you will be delighted with your continued savings by arranging smart financing, buying an energy-efficient system that holds down monthly power bills and carries low maintenance and repair costs.

Call ACE Home Services for All of Your Cooling Needs

When you are ready to learn more, remember you have a choice. You could go online and type in a search like “cost to replace central air conditioner unit,” hoping you land on a helpful (and honest) contractor’s page. Or you can contact the friendly professionals at ACE Home Services. We can outline your options, discuss current specials and help you choose the right central air conditioner for your home. Call (602) 943-2000 to schedule AC service today.