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What’s the Cost to Install a Central AC Unit? A Michigan Tech Answers

The cost to install a central AC in Michigan is as much as $11,000 to as little as $6,500, with most consumers investing an average of $7,800.

We realize that’s a pretty wide range, but it’s because there are a variety of factors that impact the cost of installation.

These price factors include:

  1. Unit size
  2. Efficiency level
  3. Contractor you hire
  4. Additional features
  5. Level of difficulty of the installation

Below, we’ll walk through the details of each of these price factors and discuss how they will impact the cost of your AC installation.

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Cost Factor #1: Unit Size

The larger the AC, the more expensive it will be.

When we talk about AC “size”, we aren’t talking about physical dimensions. Instead, we’re referring to its cooling capacity.

There are two ways cooling capacity can be described:

  1. BTU output
  2. Tonnage (also called “tons”)

BTU output- BTU (British Thermal Unit) output measures the amount of energy used to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. Most residential ACs vary in BTU output anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000. For context, one BTU roughly equals the heat produced by burning through one match.

Tonnage- Tonnage is just an easier way of referring to an AC’s BTU output. For example:

  • A 1-ton AC unit= 12,000 BTUs
  • A 2-ton AC unit= 24,000 BTUs
  • A 3-ton AC unit= 36,000 BTUs
  • Etc...

How do you know what size your home will need? It depends on several factors:

  1. Volume of home
  2. Type of walls and roof
  3. Type and condition of your windows
  4. Quality of insulation
  5. Infiltration of sun exposure
  6. Plus more

Only a licensed professional can determine this. All quality AC companies will first evaluate your home and cooing needs to help you determine what size AC system you need.

Cost Factor #2: Efficiency Level

The efficiency level of a central AC system is measured by the SEER rating, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.

The higher the SEER rating of your AC system, the more expensive it will be.

However, the more efficient a system is, the more long-term savings you’ll likely see.


SEER refers to the cooling output an AC provides divided by how much electrical energy is consumed to produce that output. So, the higher the number/ratio, the less energy the unit needs to cool your home. And that means more savings on monthly cooling bills.

Cost Factor #3: Contractor You Hire

Installing a new central AC is a big commitment, so you want to be sure you hire someone who will do the job correctly.

That being said, the more professional and experienced a contractor is, the more expensive their time typically will be.

However, this is not a factor you want to skimp on. A faulty or incomplete installation could cost you a lot of money in repairs or replacements down the road. The most important day in the life of an air conditioner is the day it is installed. Improper installation is the most common factor ACs fail prematurely or perform below expectations.

When choosing between contractors or companies, you should look for:

1. Good reviews- What kind of reviews does the company have on sites like Google or the Better Business Bureau? If there are negative reviews, does the company take the time to respond to them and make the situation right (if possible)? A company that offers great service to other Michigan homeowners will likely offer great service to you.

2. Guarantees- What kind of guarantees does the company/contractor have? Do they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee? You want to ensure that you are hiring a company that will install your central AC correctly (and will make it right if something goes wrong).

3. Processes used- A quality company will have processes in place to make sure the installation of the AC is done properly, and with the necessary permits in place. Trained HVAC installation professionals will also follow a process to ensure the unit is installed correctly and the consumer knows what was done.

4. License and insurance- Is the company or contractor licensed and insured? There are two main reasons you need to hire someone that has a valid license and insurance:

  • Liability- If anything goes wrong on the job, insurance protects you from any potential liability
  • Warranties- Most manufacturers require that you have your system installed by a licensed professional. If you don’t have your AC installed by a professional, your warranty could be void.

How do I verify license and insurance?

  • Check a company’s website for a license number, this could look something like:
  • Check the BBB’s website. Any company listed on this site has a valid license and insurance.
  • If you can’t find proof of insurance online, you can call the company or contractor and ask for their license number.

5. Written estimate- Will the company or contractor provide a written estimate? If not, this is a red flag. A written estimate protects you from any surprise cost increases. If a contractor isn’t willing to provide you with a written estimate before work begins, you should look for a different contractor.

Cost Factor #4: Additional Features

When installing your AC, there are features outside of the AC system that can increase the price of your installation, like:

  • A smart thermostat
  • Duct updates (repairs to leaky ducts, better insulation, etc.)
  • Noise reduction devices
  • Air quality products
  • And more

During an in-home consultation, a quality comfort specialist will determine whether you could benefit from any of the above features.

Cost Factor #5: Level of Difficulty

As the difficulty of the installation increases, the cost of your installation will also increase (labor costs, additional infrastructure, etc.).

Some factors that make an AC installation more difficult include:

  • How accessible your current AC unit is (if it’s in a location that is hard to locate, it will be more difficult to remove)
  • If a tech has to make modifications to your current ductwork
  • If any electrical wiring needs to be altered or the electrical panel needs to be upgraded

Ready to install a central AC system? Hire our experts!

Whether you’re ready to install a central AC system or you want to talk with a specialist about your options, our team of comfort specialists is here to help. Learn more about the central AC installation process or…

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