Even though North Carolina didn’t rank as one of the ten hottest states in the country—our neighbor to the south ranked 8th—summers here are still hot and muggy. We rely heavily on our air conditioners!

If your home cooling system is 10-14 years old, you’re likely ready for an upgrade.

Whether you’ve already ordered a new AC or are still in the shopping phase, you should know a few things about installing an AC unit.

Who Will Install Your New AC?

If you enjoy DIY home maintenance projects, summer is a great time to take care of things like improving your landscaping, painting trim, or power washing your deck. Installing an AC unit isn’t a project the average person should tackle on their own.

When you trust an AC technician to do the job, you won’t need to study codes and regulations or pull permits. You also won’t need to worry about dealing with electrical components, which can pose a safety hazard.

Another issue you might not have thought about is that DIY AC installs may void the warranty on your new equipment.

No matter how well you follow instructions or how good you are with your hands, professional AC unit installers have the expertise and the tools to do the job right. The pros will have your new system installed much faster than you could (even if you asked a buddy to help).

How Long Does Installing an AC Unit Take?

The time it takes to install a new AC unit depends on several factors.

If you only have the air conditioner unit installed, it should take around 4-8 hours. Replacing a furnace and an AC unit together will likely take between 8 and 14 hours.

The size of the AC unit, its location, and the size of your home determines how long your installation takes.

Do you need multiple units to cool your home? If so, that will mean additional time for installation.

Another factor to consider is whether you’re doing a changeout or a total system replacement. If you’re only replacing the AC unit, the installation will take less time than if you need to replace all equipment, including ductwork.

The HVAC contractor you choose also determines installation time. You want to look for one with a reputation for efficiency.

How to Prepare for Installing a Central AC Unit

Preparing your home before the AC techs arrive will help the installation run more smoothly. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your home is ready:

  • Make room for the new AC unit
  • Clear a path for your contractors
  • Clean and seal ductwork if it’s dirty

Clearing the area where the installers will place your new AC unit helps the team work more efficiently. It also helps provide a safe work area.

You should also review the system before the installers begin the job. A quick check to make sure the arriving AC equipment matches your order will give you peace of mind and save you from headaches later.

Steps the Contractor Should Take During Installation

Most AC contractors follow similar steps when installing a central air conditioner. Unless you have unusual circumstances, the process should look something like this:

Remove the Old AC Unit

Before they take your old equipment out, your contractors will likely look around the space where the current system is located. This gives contractors a good idea of how much workspace they have available.

Before they disassemble the old AC unit, they’ll cut the power. Next, they evacuate the refrigerant. Finally, the team dismantles and removes the old equipment.


Unless you need a total replacement of ductwork, installers can take care of repairs— like sealing holes and reattaching loose duct pipes and trunks—on the spot.

Installation of the New AC Unit

Depending on the AC equipment you ordered, the installation team may work inside and outside your home.

The outside unit consists of the compressor, condenser coil, fan, and a concrete pad where the unit sits. Tubing, filled with refrigerant, runs between the outside and inside units.

Inside, central air conditioner units include the evaporator coil, a.k.a. A-coil, blower, the air handler, and air return and supply ducts.

If you’re replacing your thermostat, the installers will do that during installation.

Time for the AC System Check

Once they complete installation, your contractor will put the AC unit through several checks.

They inspect electrical connections to ensure when the AC unit runs, and it doesn’t trip any circuit breakers. Your contractor will also perform pressure and vacuum tests on the new system.

After the unit passes the initial checks, refrigerant is added to the system. Once it’s charged with refrigerant, the AC is powered on, and the installer checks air flow, cooling power, and thermostat operation.

At this time, someone from the installation team will review the new system with you and answer any questions about operating it.

Cost to Install an AC Unit

We’ve primarily covered installing a central AC unit. Maybe you decided to go with ductless split air conditioning or a packaged central air system. There’s a cost difference between the three types of systems.

Central AC Unit

HVAC retailers base the price of central air conditioners on size cooling capacity. The average price of a central AC system is between $2,500 and $9,000. If you need new ductwork, you could pay up to $12,000.

Ductless Split Air Conditioning System

Also called a mini-split, a ductless AC system consists of three parts. Inside your home, you’ll have the air handler and evaporator coil. Outside your contractor will install a condenser and compressor unit.

The cost of a split system runs between $2,000 and $14,000.T

Packaged Central Air System

This AC system contains the same components as the ductless split system. Instead of splitting the parts between two units, manufacturers bundle everything into one unit. That unit usually mounts on the roof or the side of your house.

Packaged central air systems cost between $3,900 and $7,5000.

Have More Questions About Installing an AC Unit?

We’ve covered what you should know about installing an AC unit, including what the installation process looks like. We also briefly went over pricing.

Don’t let the sweltering summer days creep up on you without ensuring you can cool your home effectively.

If you have questions about purchasing, installing, and maintaining a new air conditioning system, the experts at Unique Air are happy to help. Reach out today, and we’ll get back to you quickly.