How Much Does It Cost To Install Central Air Conditioner With No Existing Ductwork?

Cost To Install Central Air Conditioner With No Existing Ductwork

Installing a central air conditioner in a home without existing ductwork can present a significant challenge. Prior to engaging an HVAC contractor, it’s crucial to understand the cost implications associated with this type of installation. Our research aims to provide insights into the expenses involved, with a focus on to install central air conditioner without pre-existing ducts.

The typical cost for such installations varies between $5,000 and $12,000. Homeowners commonly pay around $7,000 for a 16 SEER unit, inclusive of new ductwork. Various factors contribute to the overall installation cost, and we delve into these considerations below.

 Do You Require Ductwork for Central Air Conditioner Installation?

Central air conditioners rely on ducts for air supply and distribution, distinguishing them from traditional units that utilize evaporators for cold air circulation. As a result, the presence of ductwork is imperative for their proper functioning.

 Cost Estimates for Central Air Installation without Ductwork

For those contemplating the installation of HVAC systems in basements or homes lacking ductwork, the average cost for central air installation is approximately $4,800 for smaller units and $7,000 for larger systems. Additional factors influencing costs include:

1. House Size:

The larger the home, the more substantial the air conditioner required, leading to higher costs.

2. Duct System Location:

Installation in basements, interior walls, or attics may necessitate extra tools, impacting costs.

3. System Type:

Different system types, with additional features and accessories, can contribute to increased costs.

4. Temperature Control Zone:

Opting for individual room temperature control may incur extra charges.

5. Number of Vents:

More vents necessitate additional ducts, raising installation expenses.

6. Duct Material:

The choice of duct material (tin, fiberboard, wire carbon) can affect overall costs.

 Types of Air Conditioners

1. Split AC:

Suitable for integrating air conditioning into existing furnace and duct systems, offering quiet operation with the evaporator and fan located outside.

2. Package Air Conditioner:

Comprising a single outside unit, ideal for smaller homes but requiring more maintenance.

3. HVAC Package Unit:

Includes all HVAC components in one package, offering ease of switching between heating and cooling.

 Top Central Air Conditioner Manufacturers

1. Goodman: Reliable and efficient with SEER ratings starting at 13, providing cost-effective options.

2. Lennox: Known for high SEER ratings (energy efficiency) up to 28SEER, available in different price levels.

3. Trane: Offers advanced cooling technology with precise temperature control, albeit at a higher cost.

4. Amana: Packed with advanced technology, offsetting high installation costs with efficiency.

5. Carrier: Recognized for quiet operation with a 51-decibel silencer system.

 SEER Evaluation of Central Air Conditioner

Efficiency is measured by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Higher SEER ratings indicate better efficiency:

– 13-15 SEER: Suitable for cold climates with occasional AC use.
– 16-18 SEER: Ideal for warmer climates or higher AC demands.
– 19-21 SEER: High-efficiency units suitable for harsh climates and large homes.
– 22-24 SEER: Intended for long-term air conditioning in commercial buildings.

 Tips for Cost Savings on Central Air Installation

1. Timing:
 Schedule installation during off-seasons to avoid higher prices and longer waiting times.

2. Multiple Estimates: Obtain quotes from three HVAC contractors for competitive pricing.

 Qualities to Look for in a Contractor

License: Ensure the contractor is licensed, indicating expertise and proficiency.

– NATE Accreditation: OPT for NATE Certified contractors with additional HVAC system installation training.

Insurance: Choose an insured contractor to cover potential damages.

– Factory Approval: Select Factory Certified Contractors for reliability and efficiency.

– Reviews: Consider customer reviews to gauge service quality.


The installation of a central air conditioning system without existing ductwork may cost between $5,000 and $12,000. Alternatively, a ductless mini-split system can be considered if duct installation is not feasible.


1. What HVAC system works without ductwork?
– A VRF system, a ductless air conditioning system, operates without ductwork, utilizing one outdoor condenser unit and multiple indoor units.

2. How long does it take to install central air if no ductwork is present?
– If replacing an older AC unit with a similar model, the installation typically takes one day or eight hours, known as a changeout.

3. Is it possible to install central air without existing ductwork?
– While possible, installing central air without ductwork may not be ideal for all homes, potentially resulting in insufficient cooling and higher utility bills.

4. Which is better, ductless or central air conditioning?
– Ductless systems may offer higher efficiency, leading to lower utility costs, despite a higher initial investment.

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About the author


I am Ben , a seasoned HVAC specialist with over 6 of experience in the HVAC industry. I holds HVAC Certification and has a proven track record in providing expert advice on HVAC systems.