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How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Heating and Cooling System?

Because of the sheer variety in homes, equipment, contractors and installation types, giving any sort of single estimate would be meaningless. Your HVAC system replacement costs fall in a wide range depending on the job you need and the equipment you select.

Typical installation prices cost between $5,000 and $15,000 for a single heating and cooling system replacement. You can expect to add $5,000-$8,000 more for factors like putting in new ductwork, having old systems removed or tinkering with things like circuit breakers. Switching from an old system to a modern central system will also require running wire through the foundation of your home, cutting holes in the walls or floors for registers and a whole host of other factors.

Since “who knows?!” is not an answer homeowners want to hear, here are various factors that influence HVAC system replacement costs along with some tips on how to get the most value out of your system replacement.

  1. Determine What Type of System You Need

Take a look at our respective articles for the different types of [AC systems] and [heating systems] available for your home. This information will help you determine what type of system needs replacing and whether or not you want to consider upgrading or downgrading your system to a new category.

Most homes in America will have a split central AC system connected to a gas or electric furnace, which allows both heating and cooling to run through the same ductwork. Other homes may have a heat pump installed, a mini-split ductless system or an older system like baseboard radiators. Match the system you need with the climate you have, your home’s characteristics and your personal preferences.

Complicating factors like needing to change from a ductless system to a ducted one will quickly add time and expense to the job cost. Homes with multi-zone heating or cooling will likewise need extra consideration before work can begin.

  1. Decide What You Need or Want Replaced

Before you go about ripping out your HVAC system and replacing it with a new one, figure out what the components are that you need to replace to get the results you want. Maybe your central AC unit just has a bad evaporator and you do not need to replace the whole system. Maybe your heating bills are high because of your insulation, not your furnace. Also, consider whether or not you want to add new features like radiant floor heating or an upgraded thermostat to increase the comfort or savings your HVAC systems can provide.

Make a laundry list of the components that you think will need to be replaced, and perform some research to ensure that these are indeed non-functional or no longer needed.

  1. Select the Equipment You Want

Once you know the type of equipment you need, you can then find out the exact model or range of models you think would work best for your home. There are so many different HVAC unit models out there that narrowing it down may feel impossible, but go ahead and perform some research to get a ballpark idea of the system you think would work best for your home’s heating and/or cooling needs.

You need to weigh factors like:

  • Capacity — The size of your home and how many BTUs and tons you need to keep it comfortable. Capacity can be adjusted depending on your climate and how well insulated your home is
  • Efficiency — There are two main efficiency numbers, SEER and efficiency percentage. The percentage is a straight fuel-to-work-produced calculation, and a SEER rating is how cost-effective the system will be over a typical season. Higher SEER numbers are more efficient. Keep in mind that more efficient units will cost more up front, but could save you thousands in the long run.
  • Size — Some homes or floor plans have strict space requirements that could limit your options. Pint-sized furnaces or AC units with normal capacity often cost more.
  • Noise — AC units in particular can be loud at over 80 dB. New models are usually less noisy, and upgraded versions are even quieter.
  • Fuel type — This factor only applies to heating since cooling almost exclusively uses electricity. When selecting a furnace or boiler, you need to select a fuel type that reflects your area’s availability. Some neighborhoods or cities do not have gas hookups, for instance. Homeowners with multiple options are best off choosing natural gas furnace units.
  • Features — Wanting to do multi-zone heating or cooling or wanting a feature like being able to tie in solar energy adds cost to the job and equipment, but could fit your needs better.
  • R-22 Refrigerant — Put bluntly, do not buy a new AC unit that uses R-22 refrigerant! It is now an illegal chemical to use, meaning equipment can be serviced but never recharged with more refrigerant. If you have an existing R-22 unit, strongly consider replacing it.
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  1. Determine Job Factors

Is your AC unit in an enclosure? Is your basement finished? Is your breaker from 1953? Factors like these increase labor costs and job times. You will also have to pay extra to have someone wire in a new thermostat or haul away your old system.

  1. Request a Bid Quote from Multiple Contractors

Once you have an idea of what your replacement job involves and the equipment you will need, you can then request estimates. You want to compare several contractor bids to help give you an idea of what the work costs in your area. Use at least 3-4, but more is generally better.

Keep in mind that any online or over-the-phone estimates are just that — estimates. If the contractor arrives on site and is surprised to find out that your ducting is unsecured to anything and full of holes, they will have to reassess their bid and probably order more materials. Be as up front as possible when giving job information and use pictures to avoid these kinds of setbacks or bid increases. Even without surprises, a contractor estimate can change based on their current work load or other considerations.

  1. Select Your Contractor Based on the Best Long Run Experience, Not Lowest Price

HVAC brand and even equipment does not matter half as much as the knowledge of the person installing it. Installation problems can lead to high power bills, voided warranties and even permanent damage to your home. Only use contractors that are licensed, insured and have a good reputation for quality work and personable service.

You will want to arrange for some sort of service plan as well as follow up calls in case something goes wrong within the next couple of months. Try to find a flexible contactor that can work you in with this type of arrangement to ensure a quality overall experience.

Conclusion: Know What Your Job Involves, Your Needed Equipment and Find a Dependable Contractor

With these key factors in mind, you can have a better range of job costs to work from.


Are you in the market for a new heating and air conditioning system? Click here to get free custom quotes from reputable HVAC contractors. You’ll receive upfront pricing without having to invite a contractor to your home or even enter your contact information!



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