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What’s the Cost of Installing a Central Air Conditioner in Phoenix, AZ?

August 30, 2016

Updated September 2022

The cost to replace/install your central air conditioner in Arizona will range between $6,000-$20,000. The cost varies based on a few factors, including the:

  • Unit’s size/capacity
  • Unit’s SEER (energy efficiency) rating
  • Add-ons
  • Contractor you hire

If you’d like to know more, contact us for a free estimate or just keep reading and we’ll explain the above factors in more detail.

Price factor #1: Size/Capacity

An air conditioner‘s size or capacity, measured in tons, refers to how much heat it can remove in a specific amount of time. For the most part, the larger the size, the more expensive the central air conditioner.

Tech specs of a York central air conditioner. Source:

Getting the right size is important because:

  • If the unit is too small, it will struggle to keep you cool, especially on super hot days (aka: Arizona’s specialty).
  • If the unit is too large, it will cool the home too quickly. What’s so bad about that? Well, if the A/C cools the home too quickly it will turn on and off too often (called “short cycling”), which can increase your energy bills, fail to properly dehumidify your home, and wear down the unit quickly.

So, how do you find the right size?

Well, good news: You don’t have to! An AC technician can find it for you. He’ll need to come to your home and perform a “Manual J Load Calculation” to determine the central AC size that fits your home like a glove.

Pro tips:

  • Never let a contractor assume that the unit size you need is the same as the one you currently have. Your current system may be under or oversized and you just don’t know it!
  • Never let a contractor determine the size you need with a “rule of thumb” such as going solely off the square footage of your home. There are other variables that need to be kept in mind such as the temperature of the region and other variables that cause the home to gain heat.

Price factor #2: SEER rating

The SEER refers to the energy efficiency of your air conditioner. A higher SEER unit means a more costly unit, but it also means you can save more money each year.

The minimum SEER is 13 and the maximum is 20+.

Pro tip: Not sure what SEER rating you want? Ask a contractor to provide estimates for units of different SEER ratings and then provide potential annual savings of each. Most professional contractors will offer this as part of a free in-home estimate.

Price factor #3: Add-ons

After understanding what central air conditioner unit you need, a contractor may suggest some of these add-ons:

Ductwork sealing
Old ductwork is leaky, meaning it’s losing some of your conditioned air before it gets to your living spaces. Sealing the ductwork will ensure that your new energy efficient system actually works efficiently.

Programmable or smart thermostat
These high-tech thermostats can help you save you even more by running the A/C only as much as it needs to at the times you need it.

Warranty options— Contractors will usually provide various options for labor and manufacturer warranties:

  • The manufacturer's warranty covers the cost of the part in case it breaks.
  • The labor warranty covers the cost of labor to replace those parts.

Choose the warranty that works for your situation. For example, If you’re going to move to another home within the next 5 years, you probably won’t want to splurge on an extended warranty.

Price factor #4: Contractor you hire

Your labor cost will be a large bulk of the final price. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell who you should hire based on price alone.

What we can tell you is what to look for in a contractor:

Has good reviews
What are their ratings like on Yelp? Or the BBB?

Has a professional building— You don’t want to hire a guy who works out of his truck. Otherwise, he could install your system one day and be gone the next, making it hard to get a hold of him if there’s an issue with your system.

Do this: Look for an address on the contractor's website and put it into Google Maps. Use the street view option to see what their building looks like.

Does their due diligence
Did the contractor give you a price over the phone based on just your home’s square footage? Did they fail to do a Manual J Load Calculation? Stay away! Only hire someone who takes the time to understand your family’s and home’s cooling needs.

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