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If you run an air conditioner in your home, there will likely come a time when you’ll need to replace it. Whether that’s due to maintenance issues, a new budget, or an upgrade, this can be a costly project.
To help you prepare for this, we’ve broken down the average cost to replace an air conditioner, factoring in unit type, labour costs, and more.
Should I repair or replace my air con?
Before diving in, it’s a good idea to consider if replacing your air conditioner is the best option for you. If you’ve kept up with maintenance and the unit remains safe and efficient, you may want to stick with your current system.
Some signs that it might be time to replace an air conditioner include:
The average lifespan of an air conditioner is between 7-10 years, and with newer models offering more efficiency and reliability, it might be time to move on.
Check the star rating on your air conditioner and work out how much it is costing you to run. If the numbers are looking a little scary, a replacement might be a good option.
A few fixes here and there aren’t much of an issue, but if you’ve got a repairman on speed dial, replacing the system could save time and money in the long run.
There’s no point repairing something that doesn’t work for you and your home. Perhaps the family has grown, and you now need to cool more rooms than before. Or maybe your budget has shrunk, and your current system won’t work for you financially. Whatever the reason, finding a unit that suits your needs will be a must going forward.
Sometimes you’re just looking for something a little more up-to-date and have decided that it’s time for an upgrade. Whether you’re aiming for more energy-efficient living, an off-the-grid system, or wanting to run the entire thing via an app on your smartphone, replacing your air conditioner with an upgraded model may be top of your wish list.
If you need a little more help making the call, we’ve put together a guide on whether you should repair or replace your air conditioner.
And for those of you ready to take the plunge, let’s look at the average cost to replace an air conditioner.
Replacing an air conditioner
When pricing up an air conditioner replacement, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- What type of unit are you installing, and what brand?
- Will you be replacing the entire system, or just part of it? Sticking with the same system type and replacing individual parts can save money, as contractors will be able to follow original piping and pathways.
- What do the ongoing costs look like? And will spending more now save more in the future?
- Will you require a licensed professional to install it? In most cases, the answer will be YES! Any electrician working with air conditioners should hold the appropriate ARC licence and have undergone specific accredited training.
- Where do you live? In Australia, prices and labour costs will vary state to state.
- What time of year is it? This one might sound silly but hear us out – certain seasons will bring incentives and sales from retailers, suppliers, and tradies. If you can book the installation during a quieter period, you might be able to save some cash!
Once you’ve done your research and got a plan and budget in place, it’s time to get to work! Let’s take a look at some common air conditioner systems and how much it could cost to replace them.
When replacing a portable unit, the only costs you’ll have to factor in are the air conditioner itself and the running costs from using it. You can expect to pay anywhere between $300 for a basic unit, with more powerful, more energy efficient models costing in excess of $1000. Portable air conditioner units can be bought from most electrical retailers, meaning you can potentially take advantage of offers and sale prices.
As mentioned earlier, there are similarities between a split system and a window unit, with an outdoor condenser linked to a unit inside the home. Where a split system differs is that the indoor unit is usually mounted on the wall and can also be connected to multiple other units inside the home, all leading to the single condenser outside. As well as being a larger scale system than a single window unit, this means they are essentially built into the home, and so replacement is a much more costly business.
Units vary in costs, from as little as $600 to well into the thousands, depending on brand, model, size and capacity. Some newer units can also come with smart features, compatible with virtual assistant technology such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. This can also ramp the price up but is becoming more and more of a must-have for some people.
As with most other systems, bringing in a professional for installation is an absolute must. The estimated cost of this is between $600 and $800, though getting quotations from various tradespeople will give you a better idea of what you can expect to pay in your area. Remember that you’ll be paying by the hour for this, so it may change if issues arise during the installation process.
Ducted systems are run from an indoor unit, usually hidden away in an isolated part of the building, such as a roof space. Ductwork is concealed behind walls and ceiling panels, with vents blowing the treated air into the room. It’s more commonly seen in commercial and office spaces, but newer homes might also have a ducted system in place.
Installation costs are high, given that this is a system that ideally needs to be included in the building’s plans from the get-go. When replacing an air conditioner, it’s possible to install a ducted system on an already finished building, but bear in mind that you’ll need to bring in specialists to do so, which will definitely increase costs.
General installation prices place ducted systems at between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on the space that needs covering. This will usually include labour costs but always check before committing.
With rising energy costs and with people looking for more environmentally friendly ways to stay cool, you may find replacing your current system with a solar-powered air conditioner an attractive option.
It’s possible to blend this with your current system, using solar panels to power your air conditioners. The air conditioner itself remains your choice, with all the installation costs that come with it, but the inclusion of solar panels can offer some long-term savings on your electricity bills. You’ll also be able to use them to power other appliances in the home.
You can also choose to install a standalone solar-powered air conditioner, though this is a less common option.
Installation costs can range from around $4,000 to around the $10,000 mark, with home solar batteries costing between $1,000 – $2,000 per kWh of storage. You’ll also need to factor in maintenance for the solar panels as well as the usual air conditioner maintenance.
There are, however, incentives available for choosing solar power, and you will gradually recoup costs over the years. Do some research and you might find adding a solar upgrade or replacement to be a fantastic long-term solution for you.
If you’d like to know more, check out our breakdown of how solar-powered air conditioners work, and their benefits and costs.
Window units work in a similar way to a split-system, with a condenser outside and a second unit inside. You’ll usually see them secured to windowsills, or inside the home with a pipe leading to the window. Unlike a split-system however, they don’t need to be fixed permanently in place, making them ideal for renters.
Replacing a standalone system like this can range in price anywhere from $400 to $1000+ for the unit itself. While you can DIY the installation to save some money, we’d certainly advise calling in a professional, as the windowsill units can be quite heavy and must be held securely in place, especially on upper levels and dwellings with small children and pets.
Portable units are a great option for renters or for small spaces, as they can be moved not only from home to home but room to room with minimum effort. They plug into wall sockets and will need floor space for the unit itself and somewhere for the exit pipe to go, such as a window or a sliding door.
As we’ve seen, replacing an air conditioner will come with varying installation and labour costs dependent on a wide variety of factors.
The key thing to remember is that the project will be unique to your home and your needs, so be sure to research your options thoroughly and reach out to licensed professionals for advice and up-to-date quotes.
- Luciana Lawe Davies, 2022, “How much does air conditioning installation cost?”, Canstar Blue
- Pru Engel, 2021, “How much does an air conditioner cost to install or replace?”, Choice
- “How much does air conditioner installation cost?”, Airtasker
- “5 Signs Your Air Conditioner Needs To Be Repaired Or Replaced”, EnergyAustralia
- “How much does an Air Conditioner cost?”, Oneflare