If you’re planning for a new residential HVAC system, the significant variation in the HVAC installation cost from vendor to vendor may have caught you by surprise. If several vendors gave you an HVAC installation estimate, you may be even a bit confused about a new HVAC installation cost because of the divergent quotes you received. Not only is the new HVAC installation cost complicated, but the variety of equipment doesn’t make things easier.
So what exactly are you getting for your money? As a luxury homeowner or property manager, you are probably not an HVAC expert, too, so you might find it hard to decipher the work and equipment included in an HVAC installation estimate. Here’s a primer about residential HVAC installation cost to help you compare options, understand why prices vary and aid you in your decision on which proposal is right for you.
Understanding the basics about HVAC installation cost
Each proposal for HVAC installation cost includes the HVAC installation labor cost and the equipment and materials costs. You might assume the best way to compare is to look at the hourly rates and the markup on materials, but that method can lead to inaccurate comparisons.
Here’s why that approach is misleading. Some companies charge a higher hourly rate because the rate includes costs such as insurance, supervision, warehouse costs and project management. Another vendor might supply you with a proposal containing a significantly lower hourly rate, but with separate line items for things like insurance, truck delivery of “general conditions,” and a lot of different charges can fit under that umbrella.
Our best advice? Ask for a breakdown. A trustworthy HVAC installer will be glad to break down their numbers for you so you can accurately compare the contents of their HVAC installation estimate. Once you receive that comprehensive breakdown, you’ll be able to compare the HVAC installation cost in the following categories:
- Piping & ductwork
- System startup
Let’s take a peek at factors that can shift HVAC installation cost for each of those areas.
HVAC installation cost: Equipment
It should be no surprise that equipment cost varies based on the type of equipment you are installing and the number of pieces of equipment you need. When you ask yourself, “How much does HVAC installation cost?” don’t forget the other side of the equation. Though some equipment is expensive upfront, it may pay you dividends down the road in terms of longevity and energy-savings. For instance, a VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) system is more costly initially, but this technologically advanced system is more efficient to operate and will save you a substantial amount in energy costs.
And, yes, just like when buying anything from clothing to a car, brand does matter when selecting HVAC equipment. In New York City where residential space is at a premium, you may pay extra for a brand that carries smaller units that take up less space. When reviewing the HVAC unit installation unit cost, your HVAC vendor might recommend more expensive equipment known for its quality, reliability and longevity.
TIP: Be wary when an HVAC company recommends bargain-basement priced equipment. You could be in for a bait and switch. Some installers will cite cheap equipment prices when giving you an HVAC installation estimate and convince you to buy more expensive equipment after they have the job.
For more information on residential HVAC systems, check out our free guide: The Ultimate Guide to Air Conditioning for NYC Luxury Residential Spaces.
HVAC installation cost: Add-ons
Though increasing the HVAC installation cost may be a concern, some extras might be worth the investment because of the comfort and improved air quality they provide.
While ordinary filters in many central HVAC systems help remove dust from the air, these basic filters don’t remove minuscule particles that can harm your health. Central air purification systems, which are installed in the ductwork of your HVAC system, remove dust, mold, bacteria and viruses from the air circulated throughout your HVAC system.
Once the humid days of summer are over, some residences become plagued with dry air that can cause health issues such as irritated sinuses and throats, dry skin and other annoying problems including flyaway hair and shocks when shuffling along the carpet.
When the air is uncomfortably dry, the humidifier adds moisture (water vapor) to the air circulating throughout your space via your HVAC system. The central air humidifier/central heating humidifier, which is hardwired to your furnace and hooked up to your plumbing system, produces humidity by using water and heat from your furnace. Your HVAC expert can go over in detail each type of humidifier and how these devices can benefit you.
HVAC installation cost: Controls
The complexity of your HVAC equipment drives up costs and the same is true of your controls. You may have a simple local thermostat for your home or several thermostats for different zones. If you want state-of-the-art features like remote connectivity to a smart thermostat, that will increase your HVAC installation cost. However, WiFi thermostats can save you money by efficiently monitoring heat and air conditioning.
With top WiFi thermostats, you can program temperatures that are compatible with sleeping, waking up, for when you’re away from home and for when you return home.
Learn more: What’s New With Smart Home Thermostat Technology
Another cost relative to controls is connection points. Basically, the more connection points in your system, the higher your HVAC installation cost. If you run a wire from one unit to a thermostat, that’s two points. Add a remote sensor and that’s four points. So, a more complex system drives up your cost.
HVAC installation cost: Piping and ductwork
Your residential HVAC installation cost will include the piping installed in the walls and ceilings to distribute water (if you have a water-cooled system) or refrigerant (if you have an air cooled system). Many systems require ductwork to channel cooled air throughout your rooms. If you are replacing an existing system, your costs will be lower if you can use old pipes and ducts. Your vendor will provide you with an HVAC installation cost per square foot for your distribution system.
HVAC installation cost: system startup
The new system startup process also adds to you installation cost. Labor charges are the bulk of startup costs, but for air-cooled systems, there will also be refrigerant costs. The startup costs will depend on the complexity of the system. The equipment requires thorough testing before it gets the go-ahead for daily use. Look for permit, filing, basic inspection costs and costs related to different types of building department inspections (depending on your equipment).
Beyond installation: don’t overlook maintenance
When you choose an HVAC vendor for your equipment installation, it is critical that they are ready, willing and able to service the equipment they sell. Installers that don’t service the equipment they install might come up with designs that are not conducive to servicing and might not consider easy access to equipment for servicing. Difficult access can extend service time and drive up service costs.
Lastly, consider a preventative maintenance contract to keep your new equipment in tiptop shape and extend its life.