Average Price of An AC Unit in Ontario


Average Price of an Air Conditioner in Ontario

To ask what “the average price of an Air Conditioner in Ontario is” is sort of like the old retort “how long is a piece of string”! I’m not trying to avoid answering the question but there are so many factors that can affect price – but for discussion purposes I would say that the average price is between $3500 and $4500. Now that I’ve got that on the table, let me share with you some of the things that can affect that price. They can go for as low as $1800 – and as high as $7500 it just depends on your preferences.
There are two major factors that affect price – size and efficiency. Other things can affect price but these are minimal compared to these two.

Size

This one is kind of obvious. The more cooling you need, the bigger the coil, which means more material. Air Conditioners are measured in tons (12,000 btu / ton) and come in ½ ton increments in the smaller sizes. They usually start as low as a ton and a half (18000 btu) and will go residentially as high as 6 tons (72000 btu). What a lot of HVAC contractors often forget is that bigger is not better. Yes, larger coils will produce more cooling, but if it is not paired with the right furnace, the house will be cold and damp in some spots and warm and humid in others. Additionally, if the unit is too big and your furnace is only a single stage furnace (binary on/off cooling depending on whether the air around the thermostat is above or below the set point) your Air Conditioner will constantly be starting up and shutting off. Long steady runs are best for both heating and cooling equipment so this frequent on/off condition will eventually lead to premature failure. As much as efficiency does improve as new units come on to the market, in Southern Ontario we don’t need that much cooling and so improvements in efficiency generally don’t save as much as the cost of a new unit.

Efficiency

This one is almost as obvious. As the units use less and less electricity to remove the warm humid air from the building, the cost goes up. Like the size argument above, when a unit is larger and can either absorb or expel heat more efficiently it requires more material. However, unlike the size argument, more efficient is usually better in all cases than less efficient. Efficiency in Air Conditioning is measured in something called SEER – which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating and the higher the SEER number the more efficient the unit is. We frequently find units that are operating at as low as 6-8 SEER in the field although most manufacturers produce units that range from 13 to as high as 23 SEER. In Ontario, the Ontario Power Authority has done a very effective job providing incentives for homeowners to invest in more efficient equipment. At this point in time (June 2017) the increased cost for a new unit does take some time to recover, however the payback period has been cut in half over the last few years and will continue to drop as electricity prices go up. There’s more good news – manufacturers are making big strides in efficiency improvements every day, better coils, better compressors, more efficient fans so homeowners will continue to see less energy use running their houses.

Single stage vs Two Stage

Now we’re getting into a bit of the nitty gritty. Higher SEER (more efficient) Air Conditioners usually are available in what we call ‘Two Stage’ functionality. Most people know that furnaces come with variable speeds so the furnace can adjust to how much heat is needed. If you think about it, it only makes sense that Air Conditioners have the same features. Rather than producing the same amount of cooling regardless of how fast the fan is running (making hot and cold spots with lots of humidity), two stage air conditioners have a low speed and a high speed. This works particularly well in a number of circumstances. In the shoulder seasons, when the temperature doesn’t tend to be quite as hot, you don’t need the full capacity of the air conditioner. If the furnace can run on a lower speed it would be much more comfortable for the entire house if the A/C could match that. Where two stage really shines is in the summer time when it isn’t super hot but the humidity level is high. Low stage cooling dehumidifies without trying to drastically reduce the temperature. This not only makes the house more comfortable, but also saves electricity.

Warranty

While most Air Conditioners produced in North America have similar warranty periods (typically 10 year parts, 1 year labour) we have found that an additional 10 year labour warranty is great value. This will only add less than $400 to the cost of the unit, but it completely protects you (with the required preventive maintenance) and more importantly will likely extend the life of your unit by 50-100%! As we mention in other parts of this website, once you determine the proper equipment for your house, the key to minimizing cost is to buy equipment that you won’t have to replace for 15+ years!

Installation Practices

The manufacturers of Air Conditioning equipment have gotten so good at making product that works in a variety of conditions what sometimes gets lost is the difference a good installation team (and company) can make. Contractors that have a long standing relationship with a manufacturer and are one of a select few contractors to sell the product in a given area are required to send their crews on regular installation (and service) training. The trainers from the manufacturers know exactly what conditions their equipment runs best in. While almost any technician can install an Air Conditioner and get it to blow cold air, homeowners will want to be sure of a few things:

  • Has the unit been sized properly
  • What SEER rating did I buy and will my installers be able to get it working to the required efficiency
  • Has the unit been registered for all applicable warranties
  • Will the contractor complete successfully all the rebate and incentive information

The HVAC industry has the second highest failure rate of all industries – we often joke that anyone with a license and enough money to buy a van is just one argument with their boss away from being our next competitor!

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A great big thank you goes out to you and the Hogg Mechanical Technician for fixing my 84 year old mother-in-law’s home furnace. The unit stopped working during the night of the 3rd of March and you came to the rescue within an hour notice on the 4th, which was a very cold day.

Reinhold Schuster
Waterloo Region