Until forty years ago a minority of Middle Tennessee homes were outfitted with some form of air conditioning. Today, most area homeowners consider air conditioning to be indispensable for getting through the dog days of summer, when average daily high temperatures in Nashville are near ninety degrees Fahrenheit and routinely approach a hundred degrees.
“Back in 1960, only 12 percent of U.S. households had any form of air conditioning, and most of that capacity was in the form of window units,” begins Stan Cox in his book Losing Our Cool. “By 1980, 55 percent of homes had adopted some form of air conditioning. In 2005, the figure had risen to 82 percent, most of that being central air.”
Today that figure is even higher, so more and more residential air conditioning systems are in line for replacement. This explains why one of the most common questions we are asked at Jewell Mechanical is: How much will it cost me to install new central air conditioning? The answer is: it depends.
Residential Central Air Conditioning: Cost Factors
To begin, a few of the biggest cost factors are:
- the size of your home
- the type of system being installed
- whether your ductwork needs to be replaced
- the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of the unit
- the brand you choose
Air conditioner size is measured in tons, and a ballpark rule in Middle Tennessee is that it takes one ton to cool approximately five to six hundred feet of floor space. In other words, a three ton unit would generally be appropriate for a 1,500- to 1,800-square-foot house.
Be aware though that some contractors lean towards over-sizing “because if a system is sized conservatively and then the customer complains of inadequate cooling, replacement is costly,” notes Cox in the aforementioned Losing Our Cool. “But contractors often over-oversize … because excess power can hide the faults of a system that is inherently inefficient or poorly maintained. [Yet] a wrong-sized compressor uses more energy than a properly sized one doing the same job,” hence the importance of working with a contractor with extensive experience in determining ideal system size.
Meanwhile, other major factors include the type of system being installed, whether ductwork needs to be replaced, and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of the unit you choose. (As you may know, SEER is a measure of the air conditioning unit’s efficiency, and the higher the SEER value, the lower the operational costs.)
As for ductwork, in only a small minority of cases does it typically make sense to change out the unit without changing the ductwork; in most instances it makes sense to replace the ductwork when replacing an old unit.
Last but not least, the brand you choose can be a big factor in terms of cost. Just because a brand is the most expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best or most reliable. At Jewell Mechanical, we install and service a diverse array of HVAC equipment brands (including Rheem, American Standard and Mitsubishi) and can help you determine which brand is right for you and your home.
Residential Central Air Conditioning on a Reasonable Budget
Considering the sticky heat this summer we probably don’t need to sell you on the benefits of central air conditioning. But you might not be aware that today’s air conditioning units are not only more efficient and more durable than those of the past, they are quieter too. According to energystar.gov, “replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115.”
In other words, some of the cost of installing a new residential central air conditioning unit can be offset via the money you’ll save through added efficiency and comfort.
If you have questions about whether it’s a good time to replace your A/C unit, contact us online or give us a call at (615) 469-5965 to schedule a free estimate for your system replacement. Jewell Mechanical technicians are trained on the latest HVAC equipment and we can get your new system installed and operational quickly and efficiently, minimizing the inconvenience for you and your family.