How Much Does It Cost to Install Central Air in an Older Home?

AC outside an older home | Lee Mechanical

Many people who own older homes love their classic features. When you bought your older home, whether it is in Downtown Kenosha or in Pleasant Prairie, you thought how much you loved the unique molding, slanted ceilings, and built-ins. 

You might have even convinced yourself that some of your older home features were updatable, like the roof and windows.

If you were really excited, you might have even thought something silly like you could live without air conditioning. You loved the features of your older home so much you were willing to be hot and overlook the little flaw of no air conditioning. 

Then you spent a hot summer month wilting in your older home. Now you are wondering about the cost to install central air. You might even be wondering if you can install central air in your home, at all, because of its age and lack of ductwork. 

Read on to learn everything you need to consider and what options you have for getting central air installed in your older home.

House Evaluation

Once you are done sweating it out and you’ve made the decision something needs to be done, the most obvious step is to meet with a trusted local HVAC contractor, such as Lee Mechanical.

Our team will visit your home to evaluate the situation and take a close look at your current system and how it delivers heat to your home. 

Some questions to consider when it comes to your house evaluation are:

  • Do you have ductwork?
  • Can the ductwork be tapped into for air conditioning?
  • What are the options if there isn’t ductwork?
  • What kind of unit will work best with the layout and size of the home?

Our HVAC team will want to do what is called a Manual J Load calculation. In short, our HVAC specialist evaluates how the airflow moves in your home. How does your current system deliver heat to the house?

It will also help us to understand what you would need in terms of an air conditioning unit for your house. This calculation helps the Lee team to know how much air you will need to cool your house. It can also evaluate the efficiency of your current system. 

Getting Air With Ducts

Often one of the first questions is whether your home has a ductwork system that could be tapped into to deliver air conditioning throughout the home. If you have existing ductwork, the air conditioning unit could be connected to this system to deliver the cool air, the same way the heat is delivered throughout your home. 

Simply, already having a system of ductwork makes installing an air conditioning unit easiest. This would keep your costs down if you can use the existing ductwork to deliver the cool air. 

The premise is that you purchase an air conditioning system. It gets installed. Part of that installation involves tapping into the existing ducts to deliver the cool air throughout your house. 

There are some things that might need to be done to the existing ductwork to make it work.

  • Upsizing the furnace blower because an undersize blower won’t move enough air through the coils potentially making them freeze-up
  • Sealing the ducts for optimal efficiency
  • Swapping out older supply registers so more airflow can more evenly distribute through  the rooms of the house

Even if you have existing ductwork, it may be necessary to revamp some of the ductwork so it can handle the modern airflow from a new air conditioning unit. Some modern units might produce airflow that isn’t cohesive with the ducts that are in place. Better to fix these ducts than to have to start from scratch.

Installing Ducts

If our team tells you there are no ducts for air conditioning, don’t give up and resort to a life of no sleep and sweat. 

There still might be a way to install some ductwork that can get you air conditioning. That can likely even do it without tearing open walls and cutting holes here and there. 

Our experienced HVAC experts will look at your current situation. They will consider how they might use closet space to run some ductwork to move the air to the spaces they need it to get to. 

Ductwork is often 12×6 inches or 10×8 inches, making it not that difficult to fit into even small closets.  Once the ductwork is in place, the ducts need to be connected to vents which will be installed or cut into spaces on either the floor or the ceiling. 

Now, it might be messy and you might lose a little closet space, but if it’s possible to work in some ductwork, this is the way to go. 

No Ducts, No Air?

What if you have plaster walls and uncooperative closets that make installing ductwork virtually impossible? There are some older homes that won’t allow for the ductwork to be added. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The expert team at  Lee Mechanical can help.

There is an option called a spit system.  The condenser part of the AC unit is typically placed outside. The fan and coil part of the system goes inside the house. Theruns on the outside of the house like exterior ductwork. Sometimes it even hides  along gutters and downspouts.

Then the lines are cut into the house and registers are put in either the ceiling or floors.  

Choosing the Right AC Unit For You

Once you get past whether you can circulate air conditioning through your house, you will need to determine what unit is best for your situation. There are a number of factors to consider when selecting a unit. 

One of the biggest considerations is what size unit you will need. Lee Mechanical is ready to help you choose the best unit for your home.  We will help you consider the square footage of your house, the climate conditions and how much demand will be needed from your unit. 

Getting the size right is extremely important. If you put a unit in that is too small to save a little money, you will regret it. The unit won’t cool effectively and will run more than it should, trying to get the job done. If you put in a unit that is too big, it won’t properly handle humidity control.

Other considerations for the correct unit should be:

  • Efficiency
  • Type of unit
  • Placement of the unit

Again, our team is ready to provide the answer to these questions and find the best unit for your older home. 

How to Save Money On Air Conditioning Installation

There are so many factors in estimating the cost for an AC unit, it’s challenging to name a specific amount. Factors like ducts versus no ducts will make a big difference in the cost. Then the type of unit you buy and when it gets installed  will factor into the overall cost.

Here are some ways to save some money on the installation of your AC unit.

Season of Installation

It’s not hard to figure out that HVAC specialists, like Lee Mechanical, are going to be busy when it is really hot or really cold. If you want to get air conditioning installed in your home, especially when it will take some time and labor, do it when the HVAC technicians are less likely to be busy on emergency calls. 

Choose either spring or fall for your air conditioning installation.

Tax Credits and Rebates

Because you are buying a new unit, this is the time to consider optimal efficiency. Many states will offer tax credits for purchasing units with a higher level of efficiency. You can often get rebates from your energy company for high-efficiency units. 

Evaluate Options

If it’s going to cost a fortune to put in ducts and require significant construction to get them installed, there might be some other options to consider. You can use a ductless system or a room air conditioner. If you feel like you only need to cool a bedroom for sleeping, then maybe you don’t need to install a whole system to cool the entire house.

There are so many factors to consider with installing air conditioning in an older home, it is challenging to name a specific price without considering the many involved variables. 

Our experienced HVAC team can give you estimates and plans for a wide range of options that take into consideration  your own needs and budget to find a system that will work best for you.

Understanding the Cost to Install Central Air In Your Home

While your older home comes with great charm and character, it can also be hot without air conditioning. While it might be tricky, it can be done.  Investigate your options and cost to install central air and decide if it’s worth it to add to your lovely older home.

Contact us today for a free consultation and estimate for your AC options.