The cost to install a central AC in San Antonio can fall anywhere between $6,000 and $18,000. Most homeowners pay roughly $9,500.
Wondering why that’s such a big range? Well, your central AC installation cost depends on these factors:
- Size of the AC (cooling capacity)
- The unit’s efficiency (SEER rating)
- Optional features
- The length of your warranty
- The company you hire
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Cost factor #1: Size (cooling capacity)
When we talk about the “size” of an AC unit, we’re talking about its cooling capacity—measured in tons and BTUs (British Thermal Units)—not physical dimensions. The higher the cooling capacity, the more expensive your AC installation will be.
Here’s the thing: You can’t just get a unit with less cooling capacity to save money. Well, you could, but it won’t end well.
See, if your unit is too small for your home, it will run constantly without cooling your home to your desired temperature, resulting in high energy bills and a hot, humid home in Texas summers.
On the other hand, if your unit is too large for your home, it will cool your home very quickly and then shut off (this is called “short cycling”). This might sound good, but actually causes issues like:
- Higher-than-normal energy bills
- Uneven cooling throughout your home
- Shortened AC lifespan
How do I find the right AC size for my home?
You’ll need to contact a professional to do what’s called a “Manual J Load Calculation”.
A load calculation takes into account many things, including:
- The size and shape of your home
- How many windows and doors you have
- Local climate
- How many trees surround your house
- Your lifestyle and temperature preferences
- And much more
It’s a complex process, but a licensed company and design consultant will have the tools and know-how to do it.
Cost factor #2: Efficiency (SEER rating)
As energy efficiency increases, so does the cost of the AC.
AC energy efficiency is measured by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The higher the SEER (ratings range from 13 to 26+), the more efficient the unit.
Although energy-efficient ACs are more expensive upfront, they use less energy, which means they cost less to run. The required minimum SEER for Texas is 14, but we recommend a 16+ SEER AC in Texas because you’ll:
- Pay less in energy bills
- Get better, more even cooling (what you want in Texas summers)
Cost factor #3: Optional features
If you opt for an AC unit with more operating modes, higher cooling speeds or other comfort features, you’ll pay more upfront.
However, more modes and speeds mean better efficiency and, therefore, lower energy bills each month.
AC operating modes and cooling speeds
When we talk about…
- Operating modes, we’re referring to a unit’s compressor. The higher the stage, the more expensive the unit will be.
- Cooling speeds, we’re talking about the speed of the unit’s blower motor. You’ll may more for higher speeds.
You have 3 options for both operating modes (stages) and cooling speeds:
- Single-stage/Single-speed: The least efficient of the 3, this type of AC has just one operating mode/cooling speed: ON. When it’s running it’s running at 100%.
- Two-stage/Multi-speed: With two modes/speeds (HIGH and LOW), these units fall somewhere in the middle on price and efficiency.
- Variable-speed: The most efficient (and expensive) of the 3, variable-speed units can run anywhere from 10% to 150% capacity.
Adding other features, like the ones below, will increase your overall installation cost:
- Noise reduction features (such as dampening strips, compressor insulation/mounts or noise-reducing fan blades)
- Air quality improvement (UV purifier, high-efficiency filter, humidifier, etc.)
Cost factor #4: Warranty length
Most AC units come with a manufacturer warranty, but the length and coverage varies from brand to brand. You’ll pay more for a longer, more comprehensive warranty.
While an extended warranty will be more upfront, AC repairs can get pricey. Paying for a good warranty now could actually save you money down the road.
What to look for in an AC warranty
When comparing AC warranties, you’ll want to look at 3 types of warranty:
- Parts (manufacturer) warranty: Most manufacturers include a 10-year warranty on parts. The warranty will typically cover important components like the compressor, but not smaller components like air filters or fan belts. Most manufacturers will actually have a separate warranty for compressors (the most expensive part of an AC), so make sure your unit has a good one (at least a 15–20 years).
- Extended warranty: You can normally buy a 5- to 10-year extended warranty, which gets added onto your parts warranty. Be careful with these though, as poor-quality contractors will push them to increase your bill. Check a unit’s reviews and Consumer Reports ratings before purchasing an extended warranty.
- Labor warranty: Most quality HVAC contractors include some kind of labor guarantee, in case you have an installation issue not covered in the manufacturer warranty. (We include a 1-year labor warranty on all ACs we install.)
Cost factor #5: Company you hire
Companies that employ techs with more skill and experience will charge more for their labor.
Don’t let this keep you from hiring a good company, though. A quality AC installation team will have the tools and know-how to find out what size AC your home needs and then properly install it.
You’re better off hiring a good tech that knows what they’re doing, rather than risk a cheap tech that does poor-quality work (and pay for repairs in the near future).
Not sure what to look for in a company? We recommend hiring one that:
- Is licensed and insured, in case anything goes wrong during the installation
- Has good online reviews (look at sites like Better Business Bureau, Google and Yelp)
- Has been around for 10+ years (they’re less likely to go out of business)
- Gives you a written quote, so you know the total cost beforehand
Need an AC installation quote? Call a San Antonio pro.
We’ll send one of our design consultants out to calculate what size AC you need and give you the price in writing upfront. For more info about our services, check out our AC installation service page.