AC Unit For 2,000 Sq Ft House: Costs, What Size (Tonnage), 2 Options

2,000 sq ft is about an average house size in the US. You want to be ready for the summer heat. Everybody knows you need a decent AC unit for a 2,000 sq ft house. Not every homeowner is aware, however, of the best options of air conditioning systems for this house size.

There are two things you have to figure out before you start picking the best AC for your house:

  • What size air conditioner do you need for a 2,000 sq ft house? This involves adequately estimating how many BTU (or AC tonnage) you need. We are going to show you how to roughly estimate the AC sizing for a 2,000 sq ft house.
  • What type of air conditioner is best for a 2,000 sq ft house? For smaller houses, you could even go with room AC units (portable or window units). For 2,000 sq ft, however, you only have two choices: central air or ductless mini split AC units.

Of course, you want to select the best air conditioner for a 2,000 sq ft home. The preferences you should have in mind usually include:

  • Low upfront unit cost. AC units for 2,000 sq ft house can range from $4,000 to $13,000 BTU. After we see how big an AC unit you need for a house of this size, we are going to look into how much do 2,000 sq ft air conditioners cost. We are also going to look into how much it costs to install central or mini split AC units.
  • Low running costs (SEER rating). You want to pay as little as possible for cooling a 2,000 sq ft house in the summer. That means you have to go for high energy efficient AC units. Energy efficiency, as we know, is denoted by the SEER rating. An 18 SEER rated AC unit will cost about 30% less to run than a 14 SEER unit. These lower running costs will save you up to several $1,000 on energy bills in the next 20 years.
  • Durable and reliable AC units for a 2,000 sq ft house. You want to shoot for at least 15-year lifespan air conditioning systems are require minimal maintenance and are not prone to breakdowns.

To even start thing about which AC unit to choose for a 2,000 sq ft home, we have to roughly estimate the AC capacity for the home of this size. This will also help us determine which types of AC units are the best choices for your home.

What Size AC Do You Need For 2,000 Sq Ft House?

Air conditioners have to be adequately sized. Pick an oversized one, and you will run into problems with AC short cycling. That’s the overkill option. Pick one that’s too small for a 2,000 sq ft house, and you won’t get sufficient cooling (can result in sweating during summer heatwaves).

The easiest way to determine how many BTU air conditioner you need for a 2,000 sq ft house is to use the DOE’s rule of thumb. This AC sizing rule states that you need:

20 BTU per sq ft of living space (8 ft ceiling height)

This is a simple enough sizing rule everybody can use. For a 2,000 sq ft house, we are looking at 40,000 BTU air conditioners. That’s between 3-ton (36,000 BTU) and 3.5-ton (42,000 BTU) units. Here’s how the AC size for a 2,000 sq ft house is calculated:

AC Capacity (2,000 sq ft house) = 2,000 sq ft × 20 BTU = 40,000 BTU

Note: Keep in mind that 1 ton is equal to 12,000 BTU.

Of course, in hot climates (Florida, Texas, California), you will need more than 40,000 BTU cooling capacity (especially if you have below-average insulation). You’re looking at 3.5-ton, 4-ton, or even 4.5-ton AC units.

In colder climates (New York, near Canada), you will need less than 40,000 BTU cooling capacity (good insulation with high R insulation values helps bring down the cooling requirements as well). You’re looking at 3-ton or even 2.5-ton AC units.

Note: For a more exact calculation, you can check out this AC tonnage calculator.

With this cooling capacity range (between 2.5-ton to 4.5-ton for a 2,000 sq ft house), you only have two types of AC systems that are capable of providing this amount of cooling output:

Best Air Conditioner Types For A 2,000 Sq Ft House (2 Options)

As we have written in our overview article about the AC units for 1,000 sq ft houses, you do have an option to use 2 portable or window AC units.

In the case of 2,000 sq ft houses, however, this option is out of the question. You need at least 2.5-ton capacity, and there are primarily two types of AC units that can deliver this amount of cooling power, namely:

  1. Central air conditioners. These units can generate anywhere between 2 tons and 6 tons cooling output; even above that. You will need ductwork, however.
  2. Ductless mini split air conditioners. These units (that don’t require ductwork) can generate anywhere from 1 ton to 5 tons cooling output.

Which one is better for a 2,000 sq ft home: central air or mini splits?

Central AC Units For A 2,000 Sq Ft House (Upfront Cost, Installation Cost, Efficiency)

Well, in the 80s, 90s, and even 2000s, you would go with the central AC units. However, in the last decade, the ductless mini split AC units have evolved quite a lot and are currently the most popular choice of an AC unit for a 2,000 sq ft home.

Central AC units tend to be very expensive. The upfront cost of a 14 SEER 4-ton AC unit is about $3,700. If you want a more energy efficient unit – and you definitely want that to lower running costs – that will run up the upfront over $6,000 for 20 SEER 4-ton unit.

central air conditioners for 2000 sq ft house
Central air conditioners are not the cheapest option, especially if you don’t have existing ductwork in place.

Then there is installation. Central air conditioner installation with labor costs about the same as the upfront cost. Example: A $5,000 central air will cost about $5,000 to install. That is if you have existing ductwork. If you don’t, you will have to additionally pay for ductwork installation which also runs in several $1,000s for a 2,000 sq ft house.

All in all, you are looking at a minimum of about $7,000 and a maximum of about $13,000 for a 4-ton central air conditioner unit. That is if you have existing ductwork; if not, you will have to add those costs as well.

Mini Split AC For A 2,000 Sq Ft House (Upfront Cost, Installation Cost, Efficiency)

Nowadays, the majority of new air conditioners for 2,000 sq ft houses are ductless mini split AC units. These are split systems units: you install the outdoor unit outside, run the refrigerant lines through the walls, and install the indoor air handler that provides cooling.

Compared to complex central air, the mini splits are much simpler. They are also cheaper to buy and install, have higher energy efficiency, require less maintenance, and can be even installed by yourself. However, they do have a lower lifespan (15-20 years) compared to the lifespan of central AC units (20-25 years).

Example: You can get a 3-ton MrCool DIY mini split for less than $2,600. You can install it yourself (you will need some technical skills and power tools from your garage), and it has extremely high energy efficiency (20 SEER rating).

mini split ac for a 2000 sq ft house
MrCool 3-ton DIY mini split with 20 SEER rating is an affordable unit for 2,000 sq ft homes in colder climates and with good insulation. You don’t have to pay for ductwork or installation; you can install them yourself. You can check this 3-ton 36k MrCool mini split here.

If you compare that with a $10,000+ you are likely to pay for a 20 SEER central AC unit, it becomes quickly obvious why mini split AC units are so popular for 2,000 sq ft homes in recent years.

In many cases, it pays off to get a 2-zone or 3-zone mini split AC unit (or 2-3 single-zone units). This will ensure a homogenous airflow and cooling all over your 2,000 sq ft house.


For a 2,000 sq ft house, you need anywhere between 2.5-ton to 4.5-ton units (with an average of about 3-3.5 tons). For this capacity, you need either central air or ductless mini splits.

Central AC units are rapidly being replaced by mini splits. Currently, the best option to cool a 2,000 sq ft house is to get an adequately sized mini split AC unit.

If you need some help with your cooling options, you can use the comment section below and we’ll try to help you out.

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