Central Air Conditioner Compressor Replacement Cost Guide 2018

Like the old joke about what time it is if an elephant sits on your fence, we could ask, “What time is it when your AC compressor fails?” It might be time to get a completely new AC/heat pump unit, not just a replacement compressor.

However, repair might be the answer if the AC is less than 10 years old and if the unit is under warranty.

This AC compressor repair cost guide has all the details plus our pro recommendations for air conditioner repair vs. replace scenarios.

Note: This compressor cost guide applies to heat pumps too. The compressors are the same.

Compressor Under Warranty: What’s Covered?

Warranties differ on compressors, so it’s important to know what coverage you have. If you don’t have information on your warranty, it can be found online from the manufacturer.

The most common options are:

  • 5 years: Cheaper ACs and base models from leading brands like the Lennox Merit Series.
  • 10 years: The most common coverage for ACs from most leading brands.
  • 12 years: Compressor warranties on some models from American Standard, Trane, Maytag and a few others.
  • Lifetime warranty: Some Goodman and Amana ACs in current use have lifetime compressor warranties.
  • Unit replacement warranties: Most warranties cover just the compressor. Heil, Tempstar and other ICP brands, Rheem, Ruud and a few other brands cover the compressor with a complete unit replacement guarantee. If the compressor fails, the entire outdoor unit, called a condensing unit, will be replaced.

Labor warranties are separate. Labor to replace the part probably won’t be covered if your unit is more than two years old and there is no extended warranty on it. By the way, we don’t recommend buying an extended warranty. See why in the section on warranties in our Trane vs. Carrier vs. Lennox AC guide.

If labor isn’t covered, you will pay the labor cost of removing the old compressor and installing the new one. That fact must be considered when deciding whether to repair or replace the AC, a topic addressed in detail below.

That’s why we list parts and labor separately in the table below before giving a total installed cost

AC Compressor Costs and Cost Factors

The compressor is the part responsible for circulating refrigerant through the system. The refrigerant picks up heat inside your home, in the evaporator coil in or connected to your furnace. The refrigerant cycles outside where it sheds heat in the condenser coil located in your AC. Compressor problems mean limited or no cooling at all.

CapacityPart CostInstallationTotal cost
1.5-2.0 ton$445-$925$450-$625$895-$1,550
2.5 ton$500-$980$535-$710$1,035-$1,690
3.0 ton$595-$1,065$615-$840$1,205-$1,905
3.5 ton$650-$1,235$700-$925$1,350-$2,160
4.0 ton$735-$1,450$765-$995$1,500-$2,445
5.0 ton$815-$1,600$845-$1,150$1,650-$2,750
Note: Compressors are also priced by the BTUs of heat they can move per hour. Each ton equals +/- 12,000 BTU

The table shows a broad range of costs. Where your heat pump or AC compressor replacement costs fall on these ranges depends on these factors.

  • Warranty coverage: If the compressor is still under warranty, the part will be provided at no cost. You will pay installation costs only.
  • Type of compressor: Compressors are available in three performance levels. They are single-stage ($$), two-stage ($$-$$$) and variable-capacity ($$$$). Your AC requires the same type of compressor it was manufactured with. Upgrades of the compressor are not possible.
  • Unit size: The more capacity the unit has, the larger its compressor will have and the more refrigerant will be needed to fill it.
  • Brand or Generic: Some ACs and heat pumps require brand-specific replacement parts, and they cost more than generic/universal replacement parts that can be used with most AC brands.
  • Cost of living: Where on the cost spectrum your estimates will depend on the relative cost of living in your area.

Installation Costs

Replacing a compressor or the entire unit takes 4-6 hours. The total cost for installation includes more than just the labor. These extras will be factored into the AC compressor replacement cost estimate:

  • Removing any remaining refrigerant from the system and disposing of it
  • Disconnecting, removing and disposing of the old compressor
  • Installing the new compressor plus required fittings
  • Adding refrigerant and testing the system for the proper refrigerant charge
  • The company’s overhead costs including wages, insurance, travel, equipment and tools.
  • Fair profit

AC Repair vs. Replacement

Sometimes it makes more sense to put your money toward a new central air conditioner or heat pump instead of having it repaired.

We recommend replacing the entire AC or heat pump if:

  • The unit is no longer under warranty and has already had repair issues.
  • You would prefer a more efficient AC/heat pump to lower your energy use and cost.
  • You want to upgrade to a two-stage or variable-capacity model for improved temperature balance and climate control.

Our Trane AC Guide includes a section on Repair or Replace that applies to any brand AC or heat pump. It’s worth a look here.

Using Our Free Estimate Tool to Compare Repair and Replacement Cost

By using our free estimate tool, you can get at least 3 quotes (both repair and replacement) in minutes from your local contractors. Then you can compare and decide if you need to replace the whole unit according to the above guideline.

For further research on central air conditioners and heat pumps, see our comprehensive guides that include an explanation of efficiency and performance options with costs for each:

AC Buying Guide

Heat Pump Buying Guide

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