“Just not the AC compressor.” The compressor is the last thing you want to break down in your central, mini-split, or window air conditioner. When it does, however, you have to replace it (or buy a new AC unit?).
Here we will go over the complete AC compressor replacement cost estimate process to answer a somewhat simple question:
“How much does it cost to replace the air conditioner compressor?”
Replacing a home AC compressor is not cheap at all. The upper cost of all-in-one replacement for big 5-ton units can reach as high as $3,400. The total cost to replace a malfunctioning AC compressor is comprised of two parts:
Compressor Replacement Cost = New AC Compressor Cost (1st Section) + Labor Costs (2nd Section)
A new AC compressor with parts can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,550. To get the full compressor replacement cost, you have to add the labor costs of an HVAC technician that is paid anywhere between $50/h to $150/h. Labour represents 40% to 60% of the final AC compressor replacement cost.
Further on, we break down the cost of removing and installing a new AC compressor in detail. We need to take into account the following key factors to adequately estimate the full price of an AC compressor. This includes:
- AC capacity or tonnage. Example: It’s cheaper to replace a 2-ton central AC compressor than a 5-ton central AC compressor.
- AC type and brand. Single-stage AC compressors are the cheapest. Two-stage ones are mid-level, and the variable capacity AC compressors are the most expensive to replace.
- Labor costs to replace an air conditioner compressor. The cost (and time spent) of removing the old compressor and replacing it with a new one depends on the complexity of your AC. It also heavily depends on where you live; the cost of living in New York or California, for example, is higher, and so are the HVAC technician’s hourly rates.
- New AC compressor price + relevant warranties. New compressors by Trane, Carrier, Lennox, and so on can cost up to $1,900; every AC compressor has a warranty that can help you out financially.
On average, you can expect to pay:
- $450 – $2,150 for central AC compressor.
- $550 – $2,400 for mini-split (or heat pump) compressor. Mini-split or heat pump compressors (they are the same type) cost, on average, a bit more than central AC compressors.
- $120 – $225 for window rotary or inverter compressor.
Add to that the labor costs that can be up to 60% of the final cost and you get up to about $3,400 total cost for the compressor + parts + labor costs.
In the end, we will also use the complete AC replacement costs to answer a question that is on a lot of homeowners minds:
“Should I replace my AC compressor or just buy a new air conditioner?”
AC compressor repair vs. replacement can be quite a dilemma.
In the 1st section, we will factor in all the estimates for the final price for the new AC compressor (tonnage, brand, type, warranty coverages). In the 2nd section, we will talk about labour costs (replacement complexity, location).
In the end, we will summarize the total AC compressor replacement cost (new compressor + labor) and see when it’s better to buy a new air conditioner instead of replacing the existing AC compressor.
AC Compressor Cost: $400 – $2,550 With Parts (1st Section)
The price of the AC compressor depends on several factors (we will cover all of them). Primarily, it depends on:
- Tonnage (1.5 ton, 2 ton, 2.5 ton, 3 ton, 3.5 ton, 4 ton, 4.5 ton, 5 ton)
- Type of air conditioner (central AC, mini-split or heat pump, window AC).
- Air conditioner brand (Carrier, Lennox, Ruud, Trane, Goodman, LG, Whirpool, etc.).
- Type of compressor (single-stage, two-stage-variable, variable capacity).
- Warranties (1-year, 2-year, 5-year, 7-year, 10-year compressor warranty).
The final price for a new air conditioner compressor includes the AC compressor replacement parts. To replace an AC compressor, you inevitably have to use these parts:
- Start capacitors.
- Compressor leads.
- Compressor lugs.
- Hard start compressor kit.
- (Optional) Refrigerant lines.
- (Optional) Circuit board.
All of these parts are usually already included in the air conditioner compressor price.
Let’s first look at how the price to replace an AC compressor depends on the size of the AC unit:
Tonnage-Based AC Compressor Cost
Inevitably, the home AC units with higher capacity (measured in either tons or BTUs; 1 ton = 12,000 BTU) have pricier capacitors.
Example: The price of a 4-ton AC unit compressor is, on average, higher than the price of a 3-ton AC unit compressor.
Here is the list of AC compressor parts prices (estimates) based on tonnage:
|AC Compressor Size (Tons)||AC Compressor Price|
|1.5 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$400 – $1,200|
|2 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$600 – $1,500|
|2.5 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$900 – $1,700|
|3 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$1,100 – $1,800|
|3.5 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$1,200 – $2,000|
|4 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$1,400 – $2,200|
|4.5 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$1,500 – $2,400|
|5 Ton AC Compressor cost:||$1,700 – $2,550|
It’s useful to know that a 5-ton air conditioning compressor costs about twice as much as a 2.5-ton compressor.
Note: Having these prices of AC compressors in mind is also useful when talking to your HVAC guy. If you’re being quoted $3,000+ just for the compressor alone, you’re probably getting swindled.
The bottom line is this:
The bigger the cooling capacity (in tons), the higher the cost of the AC compressor and subsequently the higher the total cost of replacing a home AC compressor.
These cost ranges are quite broad, right? Let’s narrow it down by accounting for the secondary factors:
Compressor Cost For Different Type Of Air Conditioners (Central, Mini-Split, Window)
The largest and most well-known AC units are central air conditioners. They have to be ducted and will deliver cold air to every room in the house. In recent years, ductless mini-split air conditioners have become increasingly more popular due to easier installation, high SEER ratings, and no ductwork needed.
Both of these larger units, as well as a bit smaller window AC units, might require compressor replacement. The price of the compressor and parts does depend on what type of air conditioner you have.
Here are ballpark estimates of how much is a new compressor for central, mini-split (or heat pump), or window air conditioner:
|Type Of Air Conditioner||Price Of AC Compressor|
|Central Air Conditioner||$400 – $1,900|
|Mini-Split Air Conditioner||$550 – $2,250|
|Window Air Conditioner||$120 – $225|
Do note that the price of mini-split air conditioner compressors is, on average, higher than the price of central air conditioner compressors. That is because you will find more mini-split units that use advanced variable-speed inverter compressors than central air-con.
Those are better, produce higher energy efficiency (SEER rating), and in almost 100% cases pay for themselves in electricity savings.
Compressors for window AC units are relatively cheap; even the best window AC units cost about $500. Paying $150 for a compressor is about 30% of the cost of the AC itself; that ratio is also valid for many central and mini-split AC. We’ll talk about if it’s better to replace the compressors or replace the whole air conditioner in the end.
Note: Mini-split air conditioner and ductless heat pump (basically, an air conditioner that can heat as well) use the same kind of compressors. When we talk about the price of mini-split AC units, you can assume that the price to replace a compressor in a heat pump is basically the same.
Compressor Cost By Brand (Carrier, Lennox, Ruud, Trane, Goodman, LG, Whirpool)
All big brands offer compressors, but at a slightly different cost. Generics compressors and parts – usually used in lower-quality AC units – are cheaper.
Here are rough estimates how much compressors cost for a specific air conditioning brand:
|AC Brand||Price Of AC Compressor|
|Trane Compressor Cost:||$550 – $2,350|
|Lennox Compressor Cost:||$750 – $2,550|
|Ruud Compressor Cost:||$700 – $1,600|
|Carrier Compressor Cost:||$550 – $2,200|
|Goodman Compressor Cost:||$450 – $1,350|
|LG Compressor Cost:||$500 – $2,300|
|Whirpool Compressor Cost:||$400 – $1,900|
|Copeland Compressor Cost:||$750 – $2,550|
|Rheem Compressor Cost:||$700 – $1,600|
|Amana Compressor Cost:||$450 – $1,350|
|American Standard Compressor Cost:||$550 – $2,350|
|Mitsubishi Compressor Cost:||$550 – $2,350|
|Coleman Compressor Cost:||$500 – $1,800|
|York Compressor Cost:||$500 – $1,800|
It’s hard to say which air conditioning brand offers the most expensive or the cheapest compressors. Primarily, the price depends on tonnage. As you can see Trane, Lennox, Copeland, and Mitsubishi, for example, offer $2000+ AC compressors; but that’s only because they are for big 5-ton AC units.
Brands like Goodman, Amana, and Whirpool do offer a little cheaper compressors. The prices for the same-tonnage AC units can differ up to about $300.
Prices Of AC Compressors By Type (1-Stage, 2-Stage, Variable Speed)
The price of the compressor also depends on how advanced it is. Basic 1-stage compressors are the cheapest, and the advanced variable speed ones can cost a few $100 more (depending on the tonnage and other secondary factors).
The mechanism of action also counts. The most basic compressors are rotary; they are the cheapest. According to HVAC compressors statistics by Statista, the sales of rotary compressors accounted for about 80% of global compressor sales.
In the US, however, we are more used to scroll compressors. We also know screw compressors, hermetic reciprocating compressors, semi-hermetic reciprocating compressors, centrifugal compressors, and inverter compressors.
All these specific types of compressors have their own price ranges. Example: Rotary 1-stage compressor for 2-ton AC unit might cost $800 while inverter variable-speed compressor with same 2-ton AC capacity costs $1,200.
Tertiarially, the price of compressors also depends on refrigerant type a bit. For example, the R22 AC compressor cost can be a few % higher than the cost of the R410A AC compressor.
Warranty: Does Your Warranty Covers AC Compressor Replacement?
The compressor is an air conditioner part that has the best and longest warranty protection. As we have seen, just the cost of the new AC compressor demands solid warranty protection.
Warranties can vary quite a bit from one air conditioning manufacturer to the next. Generally, you do get a warranty for parts; a warranty for an AC compressor is separate from the warranty for parts.
You have 2-year, 5-year, 7-year, or even 10-year AC compressor warranties. However, the important part to note is this:
AC compressor warranty includes only the compressor; not the labor.
While compressor costs may reach up to $2,000, the labor costs of replacing a malfunctioning AC compressor can easily go over $1,000, as we’ll discuss in the 2nd Section.
Warranty is essential when you’re deciding if you just want to replace the compressor or buy a new air conditioning unit. In most cases, if the warranty is no longer valid, buying and installing a new air conditioner makes sense financially.
If your AC compressor is still under warranty, however, you cut a big chunk of costs off your AC compressor replacement bill because you don’t have to pay for the compressor yourself.
What you have to pay for, however, are the labor costs. Let’s discuss these in the 2nd Section:
Labor Cost To Replace Home AC Compressor (2nd Section)
You might not have to pay for the AC compressor + parts (if they are under warranty), but you definitely have to pay for the air conditioning guy to replace your home AC compressor.
With the compressor, you pretty much see the price upfront. Labor costs to replace an AC compressor can vary much more. You also have to be careful not to get, well, swindled.
It’s useful to understand how the price list of HVAC guys who are going to remove the old compressor and install the new one looks like.
It doesn’t look like this:
- Labor cost to replace a central air conditioner compressor = $1,200.
- Labor cost to replace a mini-split air conditioner compressor = $1,500.
- Labor cost to replace a window air conditioner compressor = $200.
The true price list can be a bit more complex. It can include numerous intermediary tasks like:
- Disconnecting the old compressor from the refrigerant lines.
- Removing the old compressor from the AC unit, and properly disposing of it.
- Checking if there is any freon left in the refrigerant lines (be it R22 or R410A), and removing it, if necessary.
- Installing the new AC compressor, with all the parts included. There are quite a lot of extra parts to install; you can’t just plug the new AC compressor in and that’s that.
- Replacing freon. The refrigerant lines have to be filled up again; you can check our article about how to recharge freon in the window AC unit, just to see it’s not a piece of cake.
- Testing the new setup to check if the new air conditioning compressor is functioning as expected.
At the end of the day, the labor costs of replacing an AC compressor are summarized in an hourly rate. Of course, HVAC repair companies add the tool use, wages, insurance, and profit into the hourly rate.
Hourly rate to replace a new air conditioner ranges from $50 per hour to $150 per hour. The exact price of an hour of labor depends on where you live; zip code is everything.
It’s not unusual to pay at least $130/h for AC compressor replacement in California, for example.
The full price of labor to replace an air conditioning compressor is usually calculated like this:
Full Labor Cost = Hourly Rate x Number Of Hours
Example: Let’s say an HVAC technician is getting paid $100 per hour. He successfully removes your old AC compressor and replaces it with a new one in 10 hours. The full labor cost is calculated like this:
Full Labor Cost = $100/h x 10h = $1,000
Most AC compressors can be replaced in 1 or 2 days. It shouldn’t take an experienced HVAC technician more than 15 hours for the whole replacement; from start to finish.
If you’re interested in getting some quotes, you can fill in this form and get 4 free quotes for AC compressor replacement from vetted HVAC guys in your area (applies for central, mini-split, heat pump, or window AC compressors).
Bottom line: The total cost of labor to replace a compressor should be within 40-60% of the total cost of replacing the AC compressor.
To Replace AC Compressor Or Buy A New AC Unit?
Let’s end with a question that many homeowners with faulty AC compressors ask. Is it even worth replacing the AC compressor, or should I just buy a new AC?
As we have seen, the full cost of a new compressor + parts + labor can be in $1,000s. How much is a new central air conditioner, for instance? If you check this article about 2-5 ton central AC costs, you see that a new AC unit can cost up to about $10,000.
In the end, however, the replace AC compressor vs new AC unit comes down to these factors:
- Is the compressor still under warranty?
- How old is your existing AC unit? If it’s 10+ years old, buying a new one seems reasonable.
- What is the energy efficiency of your existing AC? If you have a 14 SEER rated unit and want to replace it with a 20 SEER rated AC unit, that’s a good reason to just skip the AC compressor replacement, and buy a new and more energy-efficient unit.
The simple rule of thumbs is this:
- If you have a malfunctioning compressor in an older AC (10+ years); just buy a new air conditioner.
- If you have a malfunctioning compressor in a relatively new AC unit (0-5 years); replace the compressor, especially if it’s still under warranty.
All in all, nobody really likes to deal with all the air conditioning compressor replacements and associated costs, but if you do have to go through that, it makes sense to have some costs in your mind before you start the whole process.