If it feels like your air conditioner (AC) is heating your home when it’s supposed to be cooling it, you may have a problem with your AC compressor. An air conditioning compressor is one of the most significant parts of your AC system. Unfortunately, it’s also expensive to replace. You could pay as little as $800 for a new compressor, but some cost as much as $3,000 or $4,000.
This guide breaks down the average cost of an AC compressor and other essential information.
What Is an AC Compressor?
An AC compressor is a device in your HVAC system located in the outdoor unit. It compresses and circulates your AC’s refrigerant, or the chemical needed to produce a cooling effect.
First, cold, liquid refrigerant absorbs the heat inside your home, transforming into a warm vapor. The compressor heats and pressurizes the refrigerant, helping to remove the heat. The compressor then pumps the refrigerant to the condenser, which cools the refrigerant and releases the heat outside. The refrigerant travels to the expansion valve, which depressurizes the refrigerant and turns it into a cold liquid to repeat the process. If the compressor isn’t working properly, this cycle can’t be completed.
AC Compressor Cost
You’ll pay an average of $1,500 for an AC compressor, though this price can range from $800 to $4,000. Where your cost falls on this spectrum depends on your AC’s refrigeration ton (RT) and the type of HVAC system you own.
AC Compressor Cost by Size
Refrigeration ton refers to how much air a compressor can cool. AC units come in half-ton increments. The larger your home is, the more air there is to cool, so you’ll need a larger AC unit. An average-sized 2,200-square-foot home typically requires a 3.5- or 4-ton AC unit.
AC units are often measured in BTU (British Thermal Units). This measurement refers to a unit of heat energy per hour. AC units consume around 12,000 BTUs per ton. Therefore, a 3.5- or 4-ton unit consumes approximately 44,000 BTUs.
In short, the larger the AC unit, the more expensive it is to replace the compressor. Here’s a breakdown of the average AC compressor price by size:
AC Compressor Cost by HVAC System Type
Compressor cost varies by the type of HVAC system you have, as some systems are more complicated. For example, replacing the compressor on a small window AC unit will be cheaper because the compressor is much smaller and easier to access.
Central air conditioners and other larger units cost more. However, the price to replace an AC compressor is relatively the same for all of these more extensive units because they cool air similarly.
Here’s a breakdown of the average home AC compressor replacement cost by HVAC type:
- Window unit: $200–$700
- Central AC: $800–$3,000
- Heat pump: $800–$3,000
- Mini split: $800–$3,000
Other Factors That Determine AC Compressor Cost
Your system’s size and type mainly determine how much you’ll pay to replace a compressor, but a few other factors can influence the price.
A brand-name AC unit comes with a high price tag, and so do its replacement parts. Opting for a replacement part from a lesser known brand can save you several hundred dollars. However, we recommend consulting an HVAC professional to determine the best option.
A generic, budget-friendly compressor can save you money, but a technician may suggest using the same brand as the rest of your unit to ensure performance. If this is the case, you may still have a few options, as multiple brands might be under the same parent company and thus be compatible with your existing unit.
Air conditioner compressor replacement and repairs typically require professional assistance. Installation costs usually make up 30% to 50% of the overall price. That adds up to $400 to $1,200 for compressor replacement. HVAC contractors typically charge $75 to $150 per hour for smaller jobs, depending on their experience level and the project’s complexity.
Many replacement compressors come pre-charged with liquid refrigerant. If your HVAC technician needs to add refrigerant to the unit or fill it from an empty state, you may have to pay an additional $100 to $350.
Repair vs. Replacement
Minor repairs are typically less expensive than replacement. Simple compressor repair costs $100 to $300, while installing a totally new AC compressor costs around $1,500. Only a professional HVAC technician can determine whether it’s better to try to fix the compressor or replace it.
Most HVAC professionals charge a premium during their busiest season in winter. For this reason, we encourage homeowners to test their HVAC systems during summer or fall. This will help you determine if there’s an issue with your compressor so you can get it fixed before the costly winter repair months.
Type of Compressor
There are three types of compressors: single-stage, two-stage, and variable speed. Single-stage compressors run at full capacity until the air temperature reaches the level set on your thermostat. These are the least expensive models, costing around $250 to $1,000. However, they’re also the least efficient.
Two-stage compressors have a high and low setting. The low setting will run the unit at 60% to 70% capacity when the air temperature is close to your desired temperature. This makes the unit quieter and more efficient. Two-stage compressors cost around $1,000 to $2,000.
Variable-speed compressors operate at any capacity from 0% to 100%. These compressors allow for the most precise temperature control and greatest efficiency. However, they’re also the most complex and expensive, ranging between $1,500 and $3,000.
Contact a Professional
AC compressor replacement is not a do-it-yourself (DIY) job and is best handled by a professional. Hiring a professional ensures proper installation. Many HVAC pros also include a warranty in case of future problems.
Frequently Asked Questions About AC Compressor Cost
When to Consider a Broader Home Inspection
When purchasing or selling a home, it is critical to complete a thorough inspection to understand the condition of the property. A standard home inspection includes an assessment of a home’s systems and physical structure. After the process, the inspector will provide a report detailing their findings and recommendations.
If you are thinking about buying a home or putting your home on the market, we strongly recommend finding an ASHI home inspector in your area.