A furnace and AC combination continues to be the split system of choice each year for millions of homeowners replacing their old system. It makes sense to replace both units at the same time with a “matched” furnace and air conditioner designed to work together to deliver the energy efficiency and indoor comfort that matches your climate and/or budget requirements.
What is the average cost of HVAC system replacement? This guide gives complete details with the current heating (furnace) and ac unit combo costs for basic, better and best equipment.
We have also completed a Furnace Prices Guide and a Central AC Prices Guide that provide more detail on current costs, properly sizing your HVAC system, brands and choosing the right size and efficiency for your purposes.
This post focuses narrowly on heating and AC combination costs with links to additional research information we’ve prepared.
Let’s get right to the cost ranges for basic, better and best equipment. From there, we discuss cost factors and other details that will assist you in making an informed decision on a heating and AC split system.
Heating and AC Unit Combo Tiers
|Tier||Furnace AFUE||Furnace Type||AC SEER||AC Type||Installed Cost|
|Basic||80% to 93%||Single-Stage||13 to 15 SEER||Single-Stage||$3,600 to $6,000|
|Better||94% to 97%||Single or Two-Stage||16 to 20 SEER||Single or Two-Stage||$4,500 to $8,250|
|Best||97% to 98.5%||Variable-Capacity||19 to 26 SEER||Variable-Capacity||$6,300 to $11,750|
What are the differences between basic, better and best systems? Here’s a brief overview of your three options with their pros and cons.
Single-stage furnaces and ACs are the most affordable but have the highest operating costs due to their low efficiency. They run at full capacity when on, so there are slight temperature fluctuations, and single-stage systems offer few performance features.
Furnace blower motors are either single-speed and run at full speed when on, or multi-speed motors that speed up and down in 3-5 steps during the heating cycle.
Basic thermostats cost as little as $24, though programmable thermostats and popular thermostats like nest, ecobee, Lux Geo and Honeywell Lyric work with these systems too.
Two-stage furnaces and air conditioners offer a combination of moderate cost with improved performance that appeals to homeowners. They run on low up to 65% of the time to maximize efficiency and climate control. Two-stage systems run on high when a significant boost in heating or cooling is required due to rapidly changing outside temperatures or an adjustment to the thermostat.
Variable-capacity blowers slowly speed up and slow down as the furnace heats up and cools off during the cycle.
Variable-capacity systems are the most expensive, but they produce the lowest heating and AC costs due to their higher efficiency. They also deliver the best climate control including maximum dehumidification in AC mode.
Most HVAC brands offer an upgrade to their best lines called “communicating technology.” It offers premium efficiency and climate control, but it is a high-risk, high-reward option. Communicating thermostats are brand-specific and cost $400+. See our information on communicating HVAC systems before choosing one for your home.
Hint: We don’t currently recommend them.
Furnace and AC Combo Cost Factors
The range from $3,600 to almost $12,000 is quite broad. Where on the spectrum your furnace and air conditioner cost will fall depends on these factors.
Efficiency and performance: As discussed above, the better the equipment is, the more it will cost.
Capacity: The more heating and cooling capacity the system has, the more it will cost. Central air conditioners range in size from 1.5 tons (18,000 BTU) to 5.0 tons (60,000 BTU) capacity. Furnaces start at about 45,000 BTU and range up to 150,000 BTU.
Installation complexity: Furnace installation in attics and tight crawlspaces take longer and are therefore more costly than easy installations.
Where you live: The cost of living in your area affects costs, just as it does with other consumer goods.
Minimum Efficiencies in Your Area
In 2015, the minimum efficiency standards were raised. Furnaces in the North must be 90% efficient or higher, while 80% furnaces are allowed in southern states.
ACs in the Southeast and Southwest must be a minimum of 14 SEER, while 13 SEER is still acceptable in the North.
These maps show minimum efficiencies in your state. Keep in mind, though, that the lower the efficiency of the heating and air conditioning system, the more energy it will use, leading to higher utility costs.
Images Credits: denverwinair.com
Sizing your Furnace and AC System
It’s crucial that your furnace and air conditioner are sized properly to adequately heat and cool your home. Efficiency, performance and durability will be affected if the system is too large or too small.
We’ve discussed proper sizing for a furnace here and correct sizing for a central AC here. The information will assist you in discussing the size component with contractors when you get written estimates.
The Right Efficiency for your Climate
Apart from minimum requirements, it’s important to take your climate and other factors into account in deciding how efficient your system should be.
In short, a high-efficiency furnace in cold climates and a high-efficiency AC in warm climates will quickly return the higher equipment cost in the form of lower energy costs.
Furnace efficiency is discussed in this section of our Furnace Buying Guide.
Information on AC efficiency from our Air Conditioner Buying Guide is available here.
Furnace and AC Cost Comparison
This system combination is one of three common central HVAC choices. The other two are:
Heat pump and air handler: These systems are growing in popularity in warm and moderate climates. Newer ultra-efficient heat pumps are also suitable for cold climates.
Heat pump and gas furnace: Also called a dual fuel system, the heat pump in this type of HVAC system handles the heating duties when temperatures are above freezing. The system switches to furnace heating in below-freezing temperatures, the range where heat pumps lose efficiency and can become ineffective.
3 Types Heating and AC Unit Replacement Cost
Furnace & AC
|Basic||$3,600 to $6,000||$3,850 to $6,400|
$4,150 to $6,825
|Better||$4,500 to $8,250||$4,925 to $8,785|
$5,250 to $9,100
|Best||$6,300 to $11,750||$6,775 to $12,100|
$7,150 to $12,450
How to Get the Best Furnace and Air Conditioner Prices
- Firstly, 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 as we talked above.
- Thirdly, ask for at least 3 bids before you make the decision. You can click here to get 3 free estimates for your local contractor, and this estimate already takes rebates and tax credit into consideration and filter unqualified contractors automatically.
Lastly, 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.