How to Install Central Air Conditioning – Homeowner’s Guide

Posted by: Mas Broto
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One thing that’s important to understand is that the installation of a central air conditioning really is a job best left for professionals.

Qualified professional HVAC installer have spent years in training and on the job running complete the installation and even they encounter problems from time to time. What can be performed by most homeowners is the basic preparation on how to install central air conditioning youself.

This guide will still give you information on setting up the central ac and the steps that the professionals take to get your home HVAC system ready. Central Air Conditioner installation is 10X more elaborate than installing a portable ac or even a split duct system.

How a Central AC Works?

A central air conditioning unit is the be-all-end-all for home comfort. Once the system is in place a house can enjoy optimum coolness and even warmth without worry. Individuals who have dealt with window air conditioners or even just fans their whole life will never go back after enjoying central air conditioner.

An air conditioner is a system designed to stabilize the air temperature within the house. Typically using a refrigeration cycle but sometimes using evaporation, commonly for comfort cooling in residential and commercial buildings.

The typical central air conditioning system is a split system. With an outdoor unit contains the condenser coil, compressor, electrical components and a fan. And an indoor evaporator coil, which is usually installed on top of the furnace in the home.

Central air conditioner requires three components to cool air in a home, a compressor, condenser, and evaporator. The job of each component is essential to the effectiveness of the air conditioner. In most cases, the compressor and condenser is located on the outside of the home, while the evaporator is located inside, normally within the furnace. 

Most people think that air conditioners work lower the temperature in their homes simply by pumping cool air in. What’s really happening is the warm air from your house is being removed and cycled back in as cooler air. This cycle continues until your thermostat reaches the desired temperature.

What to Prepare For Installing a Central Air Conditioner

In order to make the process on how to install central air conditioner go as smoothly as possible, there are things a homeowner should prepare. With so that the technicians can simply come in and do their job.

You should create a clear path to and from where the furnace is going by removing any obstacles and cleaning up dirt and debris. Lay down plastic if the job is going to be done in inclement weather otherwise make sure grass and weeds are trimmed from where the outside condenser is going to be installed.

You may be able to save on some labor costs by removing either the old cooling unit or drywall that needs to be taken down for duct or wiring access. Always check with the installers before proceeding with this step.

Central Air Conditioning Installation: Step-by-Step Guide

An in-depth look shows there is a lot of detail involved in installing a central air conditioner. At the surface though it’s not that hard to understand the basics involved in the process:

  1. Shut Down Power
    Before any of the old HVAC equipment and wiring is removed the power needs to be shut off.
  2. Remove Refrigerant
    When replacing a central ac the old refrigerant needs to be effectively removed according to stringent environmental laws and ordinances.
  3. Remove Old Equipment
    In order to make room for a new central air, the old system – whatever it may be – has to be taken away and either recycled or broken down for parts.
  4. Install New Equipment
    The main parts of the central air installation are the outside condenser unit, the inside air handler, and the ductwork to deliver the cool air through the home. Electrical fuses should also be replaced and new disconnect boxes outside the home.
  5. Pressurize and Testing
    One reason installing an air conditioner is a professional job is the specialized tools required to test for proper pressurization and operation and to make sure there are no leaks.
  6. Add Refrigerant
    The material that essentially cools the air and cycles from gas to liquid is refrigerant. Once the system is pressurized the refrigerant can be carefully installed.
  7. Install Thermostat
    Nowadays a programmable thermostat is installed with a new central air conditioner to maximize energy efficiency. The thermostat is mounted and tested at this step.
  8. Startup and Initial Run
    The HVAC installers will run the system for an extended period of time and check it before signing off on a complete job.
  9. System Walkthrough
    Before the installers leave they should walk the homeowner through every step of the central air system from how to shut it down in an emergency to how to program it to how to inspect it.
  10. Checkup Inspection
    The service personnel should check back in a couple weeks time just to make sure everything is working up to par and to answer additional questions that may have arrived.

Common Spots For a Central Air Conditioner

As far as where to install central air conditioning unit, the locations are actually kind of limited. The condenser will always be placed outside in a place that is both easy to access for maintenance but also out of the way of general lawn traffic.

The condenser can be placed either on a slab on the ground or on a hanging bracket off the surface. The air handler is installed inside the home however and can be kind of loud.

The most popular locations for the air handler are in a basement utility room or a dedicated space in the garage.

Safety Tips

For the most part a properly installed central air conditioning system will run will little to no alterations from the homeowner.

  • Of course the thermostat will need programming and the filters need replacing but otherwise the system is very self-sufficient.
  • Keeping the outside condenser and the air filters clean is a form of safety tip since an impure cycle can cause allergies, eye irritation, and will bog down the system.
  • Otherwise homeowners should be very familiar with the outside disconnect box, checking the fuses near the air handler, and should always remember to shut off the power when cleaning or troubleshooting the condenser.

Dos and Dont’s

The do’s and don’ts of cental air conditioning installation and running are pretty self-explanatory.

  • Do – inspect a thermostat regularly and learn how to program a digital thermostat for energy efficiency.
    Don’t – set your thermostat to the coolest setting.
  • Do – clean and maintain the central air before every cooling season begins.
    Don’t – let refrigerant fluctuate to unsafe levels which could damage the compressor.
  • Do – take some time to get comfortable with all the different parts of the condenser and air handler.
    Don’t – let the installation technicians leave without having them answer any questions you may have.

Central Air Conditioner Installation Costs

A lot of factors determine the overall cost when you decide to go with a central AC system. An HVAC contractor you choose, your location and additional items will affect the cost to install central AC.

Installing central air conditioning typically costs between $2,500 and $5,000. Complicated installation projects in a large homes can go as high as $12,500.

It’s important to have a professional HVAC technician to perform inspection in your home before the unit’s installed. They’ll perform a pre-installation inspection and calculations to determine the size of central air conditioner needed, how well your home is insulated and whether there are existing ductwork.

Find a qualified HVAC technician in your area and get free quotes. We will guide you to find a licensed contractor who knows how to install central air conditioning systems properly. All you have to do is fill out the form here, and you’ll be connected with a top-rated local HVAC pro.

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Mas Broto
Have been in the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry for over 20 years. He is person that will grow and thrive to learn more about the HVAC industry throughout his career. Mas Broto is also a blogger, who's dedicated to bringing you the best knowledge to get ahead in the game of life.