This guide will discuss air handler brands and costs plus factors that affect cost. Air handler brands are listed by quality with prices too – details you won’t find anywhere else. Here’s in-depth, professional information you can use to make an air handler buying decision you’ll be satisfied with now and in years to come.
- Do you Need an Air Handler (Fan Coil Unit)?
- 4 Factors in Air Handler Cost
- How to Size an HVAC System for your Home
- Air Handler Prices from Leading Brands
- Air Handler (Fan Coil Unit) Prices By Size
- Air Handler Installation Costs and Extras
- How to Get the Best Prices
Do you Need an Air Handler (Fan Coil Unit)?
Heat pumps and AC-only forced air systems require an air handler to push heated and cooled air through ducts and grates into your home while pulling untreated air into the system. Air handlers are also called fan coils for an obvious reason. Their key internal components are:
- A blower motor/fan combination to circulate air
- A coil used to circulate refrigerant and transfer heat in and out of the air that passes over it
You’ll see these abbreviations when browsing: AHU – air handler unit / FCU – fan coil unit.
4 Factors in Air Handler Cost
Why do air handler prices start below $700 and range to more than $2,000? Due to three cost factors:
1. Air Handler Quality
Like all consumer goods from cars to furniture, air handler brands vary in quality. Here is how they break down. We’ve grouped brands together that are identical because they are made by the same parent company:
- Budget brands – Lowest cost, +/- 15-year durability: Examples are Goodman, Aire-Flo and Payne
- Standard brands – Average cost, 15 to 18-year durability: Examples are Amana/Daikin, Rheem/Ruud, Armstrong/Ducane, York/Coleman/Luxaire, Heil/Tempstar/Arcoaire/ComfortMaker/Keep Rite, Maytag/Westinghouse/Tappan/Broan/NuTone/Frigidaire
- Premium brands – Highest cost, 18 to 22-year durability: Examples are Lennox, Carrier/Bryant, Trane/American Standard
Note on brand quality: Most brands make models in more than one quality level. For example, Carrier’s Comfort Series models are standard-quality air handlers. Infinity and Performance Series are premium series. Goodman’s top models are standard-quality while the rest are budget-quality. Just keep in mind that the series of the unit you’re looking at is important. You can check the manufacturer’s website, like this page from Carrier, to see if the unit you’ve been given an estimate on is from a basic, better or best series.
All brands make models in a range of performance levels:
- Basic performance: Single-speed or constant-torque PSC blowers that support single-stage ACs and heat pumps
- Better performance: Multispeed PSC or ECM blowers that support single-stage and two-stage ACs and heat pumps
- Best performance: Variable-speed ECM blowers that support two-stage and modulating ACs and heat pumps
Note: It’s important that the performance features of the equipment you choose for the system be compatible in performance.
As you shop for fan coils/air handlers, you will see them listed by tons and/or BTU in these common sizes/capacities:
- 1.5 tons = approx. 18,000 BTU
- 2 tons = approx. 24,000 BTU
- 2.5 tons = approx. 30,000 BTU
- 3 tons = approx. 36,000 BTU
- 4 tons = approx. 48,000 BTU
- 5 tons = approx. 60,000 BTU
The BTU rating is the amount of heat per hour the system can move into or out of your home.
- Carrier Infinity
- Trane ComfortLink
- Rheem/Ruud Comfort Control System
- Lennox Icomfort
- Goodman ComfortNet
How to Size an HVAC System for your Home
The larger a central AC or heat pump is, the more air it can cool or heat. To accomplish the expected level of cooling and heating:
- The air handler’s coil must be large enough to handle the refrigerant capacity of the system
- The blower fan must be large enough to push/pull the right volume of air without being so powerful it circulates air before it is properly cooled or heated
Sizing the HVAC system is one of the most important tasks an HVAC technician does, and the technician must be trained and experienced to get it consistently right. We’ll talk later about the importance of carefully choosing your HVAC installer. For now, keep in mind that a poorly sized HVAC system won’t heat or cool effectively and will be prone to mechanical failure.
Now, sizing the unit properly is based on a range of factors including your home’s size, how it is built and the temperature range in your climate.
We have covered this topic in detail in our Central Air Conditioner Buying Guide where you will find a US Climate Zone map and a list showing the number of BTUs per square foot homes in each zone require for comfortable heating and cooling.
Air Handler Prices from Leading Brands
The most popular size air handler is a 3-ton, 36,000 BTU unit with a variable-speed fan. All brands make smaller and larger units too, but we use that size as a baseline for our cost table below. You’ll note that while some brands are identical, their costs differ. Reasons for the differences include:
- The amount of money spent marketing each brand (Trane’s and Carrier’s marketing budgets are higher than American Standard’s and Bryant’s, for example)
- The market niche each brand targets
- Some brands have shorter warranties than sister brands to keep prices down
Air Handler Brands
Uni Only Price
Unit with Installation Cost
|Day and Night||$700||$2,000|
Air Handler (Fan Coil Unit) Prices By Size
The price is the average price from 20 common brands above. The air conditioner efficiency baseline is 15 SEER with the installation.
Fan Coil Size
|1.5 ton||600-1000 sf||$705|
|2 ton||1001-1300 sf||$790|
|2.5 ton||1301-1600 sf||$870|
|3 ton||1601-1900 sf||$950|
|3.5 ton||1901-2200 sf||$1,060||$2,590|
|4 ton||2201-2600 sf||$1,150||$2,770|
|5 ton||2601-3200 sf||$1,365||$3,125|
Air Handler Installation Costs and Extras
We included air handler installation costs in the table, but let’s break down the costs to show you what estimates you get might include.
Basic air handler installation:
Air handler installation involves setting the air handler, connecting it to the ductwork, installing the indoor coil and running refrigerant lines from the indoor coil to the coil in the outdoor condensing unit.
From that starting point, let’s break down installation costs into three categories based on the amount of work required:
$1,200-$1,450 | Single-speed air handler, use of the same sheet metal connections
$1,400-$1,900 | Multispeed or variable-speed air handler, new sheet metal connections
$1,600-$2,100 | Variable-speed air handler, new sheet metal connections
New ductwork: Ductwork is installed in new homes, when existing ductwork is due to be replaced or is the wrong size.
$8-$13.50 | Air supply and return ductwork per linear feet plush grates
Ductwork Repairs: Old ductwork might be the right size but leaking. Tightening up ductwork and sealing it with mastic before insulating it too will reduce energy loss and lower heating/cooling bills.
$2-$4 | Ductwork repair per linear foot of exposed duct
Permit and inspection: Most communities require a permit for the installation of a new HVAC system. The permit includes one or two inspections to ensure the work is done properly.
$50-$125 | Air handler permit and inspection
Thermostat: Today’s thermostats offer energy savings and the convenience of a programmable schedule. Some are Wi-Fi enabled to monitor and control from anywhere using a smart phone. Here are common costs:
$12-$100 | Non-programmable thermostat
$15-$124 | Basic programmable thermostat
$135-$375 | Wi-Fi programmable thermostat
Our Thermostat Buying Guide will prove useful if you’re planning to replace your thermostat control.
How to Get the Best Prices
Making it your top priority to get the lowest price on installation could lead to problems. Cheap contractors often cut corners or don’t size the unit properly, and these issues lead to mechanical failure and a house that isn’t as comfortable as it should be.
Firstly, When you looking for the best deals for air handler, keep in mind that installation quality is always the most important thing for residential HVAC project.
- So never sacrifice contractor quality for lower price.
- Secondly, remember to look up the latest tax credit and rebates.
- Thirdly, ask for at least 3 bids before you make the decision. You can click here to get 3 free estimates for you local contractor, and this estimate already takes rebates and tax credit into consideration and filter unqualified contractors automatically.
At last, once you chose the right contractor, remember to use the tactics from this guide: Homeowners Tactics When Negotiating with HVAC Dealer to get the final best price.