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How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air in an Older Home?

by The Cooling Company, on Dec 20, 2018 3:18:19 PM

cost to install central air in an old home

Old homes can be great places to live—but they can have unique problems, too. One of the classics is the ability to add an air conditioning system. Many old homes have plaster walls, which can complicate or invalidate installation procedures, while some also run off of water heat as opposed to forced air. This is significant because there are no ducts in the house to re-purpose for air conditioning.

However, that does not mean it is necessarily impossible to install central air.

If you're a homeowner in Las Vegas who needs answers about a residential HVAC installation, schedule an appointment with The Cooling Company. (702) 567-0707

Can You Put Central Air in Any House?

In short, yes: with a few asterisks. The first question comes down to whether you have ducts or not, shortly followed by if you want ducts or not.

This is because pre-existing heating ducts can be re-purposed to function as air conditioning ducts with minimal cost and effort, as long as the ducts are sound and don’t need significant maintenance or repair.

If you don’t have ductwork already present in your home, you have to choose if you want to pursue duct installation or if you would rather opt for a zone-based ductless cooling system.

Related: What Is the Cost to Install HVAC System With Ductwork?

Adding Ducts to Your Home

Adding ducts to an old home can be a tricky affair. Many older homes have plaster walls or fancy woodwork which complicates the installation process and can make cleaning up afterwards an awful time, aesthetically. The typical solution to this problem is to install the vents for the system in closets or ceilings, and run ducts accordingly. However, this is where the individual struggle of your older home comes into play.

What If You Can’t Add Ducts?

For homes with unique challenges, ductless cooling systems exist. They are typically more expensive to install than a traditional ducted system but can lend to better efficiency since each cooled area is a separate zone with a separate cooling unit. The primary drawback to these systems is once again aesthetics: the individual zone units are installed on exterior-facing walls, and to say they are less attractive than a nice painting would be an understatement.

Of course, they will still function and cool your home, so ultimately it comes down to knowing your home, knowing your budget, and knowing your priorities.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air in an Older Home?

A general price range would be anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the season you want the work completed, the region you live in, and the complexity of the installation.

Factors That Will Drive Up Central Air Installation or Replacement Cost

Some of the most significant factors which can affect costs include:

  • Time/season of installation. As with many seasonally based activities, air conditioning installations are more common in the summer months when everyone wants to be cool and dry. Seeking an installation in the winter can result in cheaper costs by as much as 20%.
  • Size of the cooling unit. The larger your space, the larger the cooling unit you’ll need, and thus, the more expensive the cost. However, the size of your space is not the only thing which can affect the cooling unit you’ll need. Every cooling contractor you consult should offer you a heat-gain calculation, which takes into consideration not just the size of your space, but also factors such as the size, age, and number of your windows, how your home sits in relation to the sun’s rise and fall, and how well insulated your home is. All of these will have an effect on the cooling unit your home requires.
  • How much work needs done. Labor and material costs make up a sizable percent of the cost of an air conditioning installation, and the less man hours and materials you need, the cheaper your installation will be. This covers whether you’re reusing pre-existing ductwork or if your installation is particularly challenging due to a unique home layout or problems encountered along the way.

The low end of that $3,000 - $15,000 range would be having the installation completed in winter months and the installation only involving a simple addition to a forced hot air heating system, reusing the existing ducts. The other end, then, would be a summer installation for a house which needs complicated ductwork added or is opting for a ductless system.

Regardless of the struggles along the way, central air conditioning is a wonderful goal for any home, with numerous advantages over solutions such as window based units or just choosing to be hot instead. Adding central air to your home will also increase your home’s value accordingly, making it an even more attractive home improvement option.

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