5 Things to Know Before Adding Central Air

Central air conditioning can change your life. No more sweaty days or nights. No more lugging window units around, or making do with portable fans.

If you’re thinking of upgrading to central air, the money mavens at Money Magazine say you should be prepared to pay between $6,000 – $15,000, depending on the size and complexity of the job. And know that the new system will add about 10 percent to your overall property value, according to Twin Cities appraiser Alan Hummel.

But before you decide, there are five other things you should consider:

Sizing it right is essential. Air conditioning is measured by the ton. You’ll pay about $2,000 – $4,000 per ton, and a typical two-story, 2,000-square-foot house might require 3 – 3.5 tons of air conditioning. An oversized system will cool the house too quickly to dehumidify the air. Too small and it will run almost constantly, increasing your energy bills. Your contractor will factor in such things as your location, cubic feet of living space, number of windows and orientation to the sun.

Some states incentivize efficiency. Check to see if your state offers an energy incentive program. It could save you money and possibly reduce your cooling costs.

You may not need new ducts. If you have an old central air system or forced air heat, your contractor should be able to connect the new AC equipment to the ducts that already exist – assuming they are in good condition.

You do need a filter. A high efficiency filter will clean the air as it moves through the system, reducing pollen and dust and keeping the inner workings of your system clean. It will add $500 – $1,000 to your cost, but reduce your maintenance costs by about $500 every two years.

Choose your time to buy. In cold weather, contractors are looking for work to keep their crews working, and may knock off 10 or 20 percent or more from the cost of your job.

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