How Much Does It Cost to Install a Central AC in Tampa, FL?

March 08, 2018

The cost to install a central AC in Tampa can fall anywhere between $3,900 and $9,500. The average install costs about $6,000. Your specific install cost all depends on:

  • System size (cooling capacity)

  • Energy efficiency (SEER)

  • Comfort features (cooling speed)

  • Manufacturer warranty length

  • The contactor you hire

How do these factors impact cost? We’ll break them down for you.

Want a more accurate price to install an AC in your home? Just give us a call and we’ll give you one. Or, schedule a consultation with one of our certified technicians today.

Cost factor #1: System size (cooling capacity)

When we say “size”, we don’t mean the physical dimensions of an AC unit, but rather its cooling capacity (measured in tons or BTUs). Larger capacity AC units will be more expensive than smaller ones.

What are my sizing options?

Typical residential AC units range from 1–5 tons, and include half sizes (1.5-ton, 2.5-ton, etc.) The more tonnage an AC has, the more the unit will cost.

So, sure, getting a smaller capacity unit will save you money upfront (in installation fees) but it won’t necessarily save you any money in the long run. Here’s why...

Why does AC size matter?

For the same reason proper shoe size matters: it will keep you comfortable and prevent a wide range of problems down the road.

If your AC unit is too small, the unit will run constantly without cooling your home to the temperature you want, causing high electric bills and a hot house in Florida summers.

If your unit is too large, it will “short cycle”. Short cycling happens when an AC unit cools a home very quickly and then shuts off. This might sound good, but it actually causes a lot of problems, including:

  • Higher energy bills

  • Uneven cooling in your home

  • Shorter AC lifespan

How do I know what size I need?

To get a properly-sized AC for your home, you need a professional “load calculation”, also known as a Manual J Load Calculation.

There are a lot of factors that go into properly sizing an AC, including:

  • The square footage of your home

  • Height of your ceilings

  • Layout of your home

  • Quality of your home’s insulation

  • How much shade your home gets

  • And much more

A Manual J Load Calculation is complex, but a certified HVAC technician will have the tools and know-how to do it.

Learn more about AC sizing in our post, “What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need for My Florida Home?

Cost factor #2: Energy efficiency (SEER)

While energy-efficient ACs are more expensive to buy, they’re less expensive to run.

An AC unit’s energy efficiency is measured by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the SEER, the more energy-efficient the AC will be.

The federal minimum requirement for Florida is 14 SEER, but you can buy units up to 26 SEER. Don’t go out and buy the highest SEER unit you can find though.

While higher SEER units are less expensive to run, you need to determine if the savings on utility bills over its lifetime will be worth the initial installation cost. You might actually spend more money in the long run than you would have with a lower SEER unit, since ACs only last about 10 years in Florida.

When shopping for AC units, look for:

  • 14–18 SEER rating: In Florida, anything between the federal minimum (14 SEER) and 16–18 SEER will be your best bet to keep overall AC installation costs down.

  • ENERGY STAR® logo: ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards for efficiency and quality.

  • EnergyGuide label: Federal law requires most appliances to have this label, which shows the annual energy consumption and operating cost for the appliance.

Cost factor #3: Comfort features (cooling speed)

AC units come in three cooling speeds: single-stage, two-stage and variable-speed.

Single-stage ACs are the least expensive and variable-speed are the most expensive, butsingle-stage units are less efficient (more costly to run) and variable-speed ones are more efficient (less costly to run). Two-stage units fall somewhere in the middle on both cost and efficiency.

Here’s the difference between the three:

  • Single-stage (13–15 SEER): Common in older and low-end new units, these ACs are either on or off. It’s the least efficient of the units because when it’s on, it’s running at 100%.

  • Two-stage (16–19 SEER): These units have two operating stages, making them more efficient than single-stage ones. If the weather calls for it, the unit will run at 100%, otherwise it will run at the more efficient operating stage (at about 60%-70%).

  • Variable-speed (20+ SEER): The most efficient kind of AC, variable-speed units can operate at many different levels tailored to your home. It can run from 100% down to 20%, and anywhere in between, reducing cooling costs greatly.

Cost factor #4: Manufacturer warranty length

All AC units will come with a manufacturer warranty, but their lengths and terms vary across brands. The longer and more comprehensive the warranty, the more it will cost.

Although a longer warranty will cost more upfront, AC repairs can be expensive, and it could save you from paying for those in the future.

What should I look for in an AC warranty?

Here’s what you want to look at when comparing AC warranties:

  • Parts warranty: Most manufacturers include a 10-year warranty on parts, but this usually only covers labor for a couple of years (if at all). The warranty also might cover integral components like a compressor, but not smaller components like air filters or fan belts. In fact, most manufacturers will have a separate warranty for compressors (the most expensive part of an AC), so make sure yours has a good one (at least a 15-20 year compressor warranty).

  • Extended warranty: You can usually buy a five- or 10-year extended warranty on parts or labor, but be careful with these. Some contractors push extended warranties just to make a sale. Check out a unit’s reviews and Consumer Reports rating, or talk to a reputable AC contractor, before buying an extended warranty.

  • Installation (labor) warranty: A good HVAC contractor will offer some kind of labor guarantee in case you have an installation-related issue not covered in the manufacturer warranty (Red Cap offers a three-year performance guarantee on all AC installations).

Cost factor #5: The contactor you hire

Most professionals will charge an installation labor fee of $1000+. Generally, the better quality the contractor, the more they’ll charge for time and labor.

Why is that? A quality contractor will be properly trained on how to install the best AC for your home and needs. Improperly installing an AC unit, or installing one that has too much or too little cooling capacity for your home, will cost you more money down the road (in electric bills and additional installation costs).

The bottom line? You’re better off hiring a slightly more expensive contractor who knows what they’re doing.

Need an HVAC contractor in Tampa, FL?

or schedule an appointment online and we’ll send one of our experienced techs out to give you a free and fair AC installation estimate.


Related articles