Central Air Conditioner Installation

For the vast majority of households, installing central air conditioning is too risky and complicated to attempt without professional help. This is due to the specialized knowledge required, the complicated regulatory permissions and licensing procedures, and the possibility of voiding warranties if the components are fitted incorrectly.

What do Central Air Conditioners do?

Using the furnace’s air handling capabilities, a central air conditioner cools the air in one location before distributing it throughout the house. This distinguishes it from mini-split systems, window air conditioners, and wall air conditioners, which all cool relatively small areas and need numerous units to cool the entire house.

Split systems are used by the majority of single-family homes in the US with central air conditioning. This suggests that the system consists of an exterior compressor and an indoor evaporator coil.

Working With Professional Central Air Conditioner Installers

Ask the contractors how they plan to approach the task when you speak with them. Observe the questions they pose as well! To ensure that your preferences and decisions are reflected in their estimate and the finished product, an installer should clear inquiries.

Central Air Installation Planning

The installation of central air conditioning is a significant project that necessitates much planning beforehand. A protocol check and confirmation that they will handle any required permits or other necessary papers should be requested from your contractor.

Talk to your contractor about how much you prioritize long-term savings over one-time costs. Discussing the location of the condenser unit and the kind of thermostat you select at this time is also a great idea.

Sizing for your Central Air Conditioner

You can get help from your contractor choosing the right-sized central air conditioner for your house. While a unit that is too large will cool the house too quickly and turn off before completing a full cycle, a unit that is too small will run almost continuously.

In the latter case, the system is taxed by the rapid on and off. The evaporator coil may freeze as a result, and a frozen coil will inhibit airflow. As a result, a large air conditioner might not cool as effectively as a smaller one.

To determine the best unit for your home, your Air Conditioner installer will perform a calculation known as a “Manual-J.” This will take into account all of the parameters mentioned above and more, yielding the most precise size possible.

We understand, however, that many homeowners prefer to have a general idea of what size they require ahead of time. So, here’s a ballpark figure for central air conditioner size: To calculate the Btu required, multiply the conditioned area of your home by 25, then divide by 12,000 to get the tonnage.

However, keep in mind that this is only a rough estimate, and there are several factors to consider. If the first floor of your home has 12-foot ceilings, the air conditioner will have more air to chill. Also, keep in mind that windows with southern exposure will receive more sunlight and natural heat. If you have a lot of those windows, you may require more cooling.

Getting an Estimate for a Central Air Conditioner in Florida

After you’ve gone over the basic plan and discussed model options, the contractor should give you an estimate. As always, get written estimates from multiple providers. The only exception is if you’re installing air conditioning in a new home, because the builder will almost certainly handle it.

When working with a builder or independent HVAC contractor, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or expense breakdowns. Even if the contractor is unable to detail everything, they should be able to communicate effectively enough to put you at ease about the procedure.

The Central Air Installation Process

The installation should take about a day to complete. The major steps are outlined below.

  • Duct work installation or modification
    • Any duct work should be limited in homes with existing furnaces or air conditioning, generally no more than an extra return line.
    • If ducts must be placed, work with your contractor to disguise them in closets or soffits to minimize expensive drywall repairs.
    • Duct work should be done before drywall is put in new construction.
  • Interior unit
    • The evaporator coil is installed within the furnace plenum.
      • The plenum is the part of the furnace on each side of the air handler where air enters and exits the home.
      • The evaporator coil will enter the supply plenum, which serves as the furnace’s “outflow.”
  • Exterior unit
    • Several considerations influence the positioning of the outside unit, including:
      • The distance between the inside unit and the electrical service panel;
      • The levelness of the ground;
      • The proximity of the loud external unit to windows or doors;
      • Distances needed by code from gas or water meters (refer to your local building department for specifics).
  • Connect the line set
    • A pair of copper pipes connects the two parts of a split system, forming the direction the refrigerant will take.
    • The most direct route from the evaporator to the condenser will primarily decide the course of the line set.
      • If you have any issues regarding the route, communicate them to the contractor as soon as possible.
      • To avoid water infiltration, the penetration to the external should be sealed.
  • Connect the Electrical Supply
    • An outside cutoff will be required for the condenser unit.
    • The electrical line will connect the condenser to the shutdown, then to the electrical service panel.
    • If your circuit panel is already overloaded, you may need to update it to withstand the extra demand of the air conditioner.
      • If the project was planned properly, any work on the panel should already be included in the project estimate.
    • There will also be a low-voltage wire connecting the condensing unit to the furnace so it can be controlled by the thermostat.
  • Condensate Drain Line
    • All air conditioners generate condensation, much like the sides of a glass of ice water. That condensation needs to be drained.
    • Units located in a basement typically run to a floor drain.
    • Units located in attics may pipe water outside, or may use a drain pan that allows water to evaporate — the same way refrigerators allow condensation to evaporate.
  • Thermostat
    • When installing central air conditioning in a new home, you must select a thermostat.
    • If you’re retrofitting central air conditioning into an older home, you may need to replace the thermostat with one that can also manage cooling.
    • This is one phase in the process that is ideal for a little do-it-yourself effort.
      • Some homeowners buy a basic thermostat for the installation and subsequently upgrade to a programmable or smart thermostat on their own.

How Much Does Central Air Installation Cost in Florida?

As with any significant project, prices vary depending on the local market and the task details. A typical split system central air installation using an existing furnace should cost between $3,000 and $7,000 or more in labor and supplies. That cost will be split roughly 60/40 on average, with labor accounting for the majority of it.

It is possible to purchase the AC system on your own and have it installed by a professional HVAC technician. Keep in mind, however, that you will most likely be paying full retail rather than receiving a commercial discount, so the total cost of the project may not be less than the contractor’s estimate. You’ll also be responsible for performing your own sizing and being held accountable if there are any issues with the equipment.

If you’re replacing an existing central air conditioning system, expect to pay more to remove and dispose of the old system and refrigerant. When constructing a furnace and air conditioning system, the cost of each component is frequently reduced, despite the fact that the overall cost of the work is increased.

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