How Much Does an AC Compressor Cost to Replace?
A compressor is the heart of an AC unit, and replacing one typically ranges from $800 to $2,800, with an average of $1,200. Discover all the factors that make up these prices.
- The typical range for AC compressor cost is $800 to $2,800, with a national average of $1,200.
- Some of the biggest cost factors for AC compressor replacement are home size, compressor size and speed, compressor type, AC unit type, refrigerant type, brand, labor, and unit accessibility.
- Excessive cycling, inconsistent temperature, excessive noise, diminished airflow, and leaking refrigerant are all signs that the AC compressor may need to be replaced.
- Some homeowners may be able to replace an AC compressor themselves; however this may void the unit’s warranty. Also, if refrigerant is leaking, this repair is required to be carried out by a professional.
Few things are as frustrating as discovering that the air conditioning is acting up on a sweltering summer day. While there’s a chance the fix is a simple repair, the air conditioner’s compressor may be going bad. The compressor is the main component that drives the cooling of the air, so it must work well. If it’s determined that the compressor is shot, the first thing most homeowners want to know is how much will the AC compressor cost to replace?
Replacing an AC compressor isn’t a cheap fix; according to Angi and HomeAdvisor, it typically ranges from about $800 to $2,800, although the national average cost for compressor replacement is about $1,200. While that’s pricey, it’s still less than replacing an entire HVAC system, so unless the system is more than 15 years old, it’s probably a good idea for a homeowner to have the compressor replaced by a qualified professional.
What is an AC compressor?
The compressor in an air conditioner pumps liquid refrigerant through the appliance’s coils and condenser unit, keeping the refrigerant under pressure while forcing it through the coils. This results in the refrigerant drawing heat out of warm air, which cools the air. A fan blows the now-cool air through the home’s vents.
Numerous things can result in an AC compressor not turning on, struggling to keep up, or making excessive noise. These can include faulty electrical components, insufficient liquid refrigerant, leaking refrigerant, or the compressor’s motor failure. If the compressor can’t be repaired, it will have to be replaced, and only an HVAC professional can make that call.
Factors in Calculating AC Compressor Cost
A home AC compressor replacement costs about $1,200 nationally. However, the final cost will depend on the size of the system, the type and brand, and the going rate of labor in the community.
Home size will dictate what size AC unit is needed to cool the entire house. The size of the unit will then determine the size of the AC compressor that is required. British thermal units, or BTUs, are a common unit of measurement for AC unit sizes. For example, a 1,500-square-foot home needs 30,000 BTUs to cool the space, whereas a 2,500-square-foot home needs 50,000 BTUs. The larger the AC unit, the larger and more expensive the AC compressor replacement will be.
Compressor Size and Speed
BTU and tonnage determine an AC compressor’s size. The larger the compressor, the higher the initial replacement cost. However, that cost varies by size. A 1.5-ton compressor may cost $700 to $1,300 to replace, while a 5-ton compressor would cost $1,800 to $2,600.
A compressor’s BTU rating denotes how much energy the AC unit uses to cool the home within 1 hour. The larger the unit, the less (per BTU) the new compressor will cost.
AC compressors come in five basic types: centrifugal, scroll, reciprocating, rotary, and screw. These range in price from $50 to $2,400. The old compressor can be replaced with one of the same type, or this can be an opportunity to upgrade. Compressor types will be covered in more detail below.
AC Unit Type
The cost of AC unit repairs can vary depending on whether the home has a small window AC unit or a central HVAC. The type of AC unit will also impact compressor replacement cost. In some cases it may be more cost-effective to replace the HVAC rather than the compressor alone.
|Unit Type||Average Compressor Cost|
|Window unit||$200 to $500|
|Mini-split||$500 to $600|
|Heat pump||$800 to $3,000|
|Central AC||$800 to $2,800|
A new replacement compressor may come precharged with liquid refrigerant, but if the HVAC professional needs to add refrigerant to the unit or fill it from an empty state, homeowners can expect to pay an additional $100 to $350. This cost will probably only apply if the old system sprang a leak. Refrigerant, also called freon, is notoriously hazardous to the environment. More modern HVAC systems have been upgraded to use EPA-approved chemicals, but they may still be referred to by these terms.
In many cases, the replacement compressor does not have to be brand-specific. If the technician suggests using a generic replacement, this could result in savings of up to $200. Some of the best air conditioner brands accept generic compressors. If the AC unit is still under warranty, a brand-specific compressor will likely be installed. The following are some of the most common AC unit brands and air compressor prices from those brands.
|HVAC Compressor Brand||Average Cost|
|Amana||$350 to $1,200|
|Carrier||$450 to $2,000|
|Coleman||$550 to $1,500|
|Goodman||$350 to $1,200|
|Lennox||$600 to $2,300|
|Rheem||$600 to $1,400|
|Ruud||$600 to $1,400|
|York||$550 to $1,500|
Labor charges vary from community to community, but in general, HVAC service costs between $75 to $150 per hour. Labor costs for AC compressor installation are about $300 to $900 total and cover diagnostic fees, travel, and the replacement itself. It typically takes about 4 to 6 hours for a professional to replace an AC compressor.
Unit Location and Accessibility
If the unit is in a part of the home that is difficult to access easily, such as the crawl space, this can drive up costs. The contractor may charge a fee for the inconvenience, or hourly costs may be higher if the installation takes longer due to the location.
Additional Costs and Considerations
While most air conditioning compressor repair costs are straightforward, a few additional cost factors are also worth considering, depending on the unit’s brand and size. The following are some more considerations when searching online for “air compressor repair near me.”
Replacement vs. Repair
If the problem is minor, repairing the compressor is often less expensive than replacing it. While the cost to replace an AC compressor runs $1,200 nationally, repairing the compressor could run between $75 and $150. Only a professional HVAC technician can determine whether it’s better to try to fix the compressor rather than replace it based on the cause and extent of the damage. An HVAC inspection costs $250 to $400 and can provide a homeowner with a definitive answer to this question.
If the AC or HVAC compressor is still under warranty, the manufacturer may pay most or all of the cost to replace the compressor—depending on why it went on the fritz. In this case, homeowners can expect to pay around $600 to $1,200 total. Typical warranties run from 5 to 10 years, but they don’t always cover all costs, so homeowners will want to read the fine print to see if they can benefit from the compressor still being under warranty. Homeowners who have a home warranty that covers HVAC may also be able to get coverage. This may mean going with the warranty company’s chosen repair service, but it could save a significant portion of the repair costs. If a homeowner doesn’t have a warranty, they may want to look into getting one of the best home warranties for HVAC, such as a policy from American Home Shield or Liberty Home Guard, to help cover future AC repair costs.
When an AC compressor starts having trouble, it may be around the end of the AC unit’s useful life, which averages 15 to 20 years. According to Lane Dixon, vice president of operations at Aire Serv, a Neighborly company, “If the HVAC system is out of warranty, requires expensive repairs, or utility bills are high due to the system’s inefficiency, it may be time to consider a replacement.” For some, this may be the time to have one of the best AC installation companies install a more efficient unit, such as a heat pump or a mini-split. However, these systems may not be suitable for everyone’s homes, so some homeowners will want to upgrade their standard HVAC system. A new central AC unit costs about $3,882 to $7,907. An AC capacitor costs about $170 on average. Other common upgrades include new blowers, ductwork, coils, or thermostats.
|HVAC Upgrade||Average Cost|
|Central AC unit||$3,882 to $7,907|
|Blower||$200 to $500|
|Ductwork||$15 per linear foot|
|Evaporator/condenser coils||$400 to $1,500|
|Thermostat||$100 to $250|
Unfortunately, most AC problems happen in the heat of summer, when professional HVAC technicians are the busiest. If it’s at all possible to wait until fall or winter to replace the compressor, this may result in a lower price.
AC Compressor Types
Beyond brand and size, AC units feature different types of compressors. While the actual type doesn’t affect the replacement cost as much as the above factors, it’s good for a homeowner to know what the HVAC technician means if they mention one of the following compressors.
|Compressor Type||Average Cost|
|Centrifugal||$1,600 to $2,400|
|Screw||$300 to $1,200|
|Scroll||$500 to $1,500|
|Reciprocating||$400 to $1,000|
|Rotary||$50 to $100|
This type of compressor uses high-speed impellers to pressurize and cool air. They’re also known as multi-stage units because the air runs through additional cycles before exiting the compressor. This type of compressor can be costly to replace, but it’s not found in many homes—it’s typically reserved for commercial use. Centrifugal compressors can cost $1,600 to $2,400.
A screw compressor is a rotary compressor that features a spiral screw action that helps keep the cooling process quieter, making this type of compressor more desirable in many home settings. Depending on the size and quality of the unit, homeowners can expect to pay around $300 to $1,200 to have it replaced.
Many compressors require lubrication to operate smoothly, but a scroll compressor does not. Scroll compressors feature spirals that do not come into contact, so no friction is created, and no lubrication is necessary. This compressor has its limits and is typically found in small spaces (such as apartments). Homeowners can expect to pay $500 to $1,500 for compressor replacement in one of these small scroll units.
Also known as a piston compressor, a reciprocating compressor compresses air via one or more moving pistons. A reciprocating compressor is generally limited to commercial AC units and employed in large buildings. AC compressor noise is sometimes noticeable, and these units can be some of the loudest. A reciprocating compressor will cost $400 to $1,000.
A roller inside a cylinder rotates to compress the liquid refrigerant in a rotary compressor. This is a relatively efficient way to cool the air, and replacing this compressor runs much less than other types, typically between $50 and $100, depending on the above factors.
Do I need a new AC compressor?
According to Dixon, “If the HVAC unit is having a hard time starting up, this may be a compressor issue. If the HVAC unit has stopped blowing cold air even though the temperature is set to blow cooler air…[or] if the home lacks airflow, the HVAC compressor may work but at a diminished capacity.” Many things can go wrong in an AC unit or HVAC system, but the only way for a homeowner to know whether a new compressor is the reason for the AC not working is to have the unit checked by a pro. Those who don’t know much about their AC’s compressor will want to learn at least some of the signs that indicate a problem.
A malfunctioning compressor can result in the AC short cycling. A short-cycling AC unit will shut off, only to kick back on again within a few minutes. This is a sign the system isn’t running as it should be. The problem could be several things, including a leak in the ducting system letting in warm air, an open window, or a compressor on its last leg.
When an AC compressor isn’t running up to par, it can result in temperature inconsistencies in different parts of the home. The rooms farthest away from the AC unit will likely be the warmest. This occurs because the compressor is no longer forceful enough to make sufficiently cool air to reach the farthest rooms.
Some residential air compressors can be heard when they’re running, and they usually make a low humming sound. The loudness is related to where the unit is located—an attic unit will often make more noise than an outdoor unit. But when the AC is making noise such as knocking or rattling when it is running, it could signify problems with the compressor.
As the compressor struggles to produce cool air to send through the ducts, the airflow it expels is often weak. It may seem like the central AC isn’t blowing cold air at all. This will exacerbate both inconsistent temperatures throughout the house and the AC unit cycling. If the compressor is functioning at a deficient level, it may not shut off for hours.
Refrigerants can leak and create several problems, including lack of cool air, insufficient airflow, frequent cycling, and even a hissing sound if it’s leaking quickly enough. The problem may be something relatively simple to repair, after which the technician can recharge the refrigerant in the system. However, if the cause is a compressor that’s worn out, it will likely need to be replaced.
AC Compressor Replacement: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Homeowners knowledgeable in installing and servicing HVAC units stand to save up to half of the cost of having a compressor professionally replaced. Still, even then, it might not be the best idea. If the compressor itself (plus any needed materials and supplies) runs $1,200, the DIYer will ostensibly save the additional $1,200 that a professional technician would have charged to replace the compressor. However, if a problem occurs after installation, the manufacturer’s warranty may not cover the costs because the compressor was not installed by a licensed professional.
In general, it’s usually best for a homeowner to have one of the best HVAC companies do the replacement work so that there is some sort of guarantee. Additionally, if a homeowner tries to replace the compressor and runs into a problem, they’ll still have to pay full price to have a pro come out and finish the job.
It’s also important for a homeowner to consider that if any refrigerant leaked and needs to be recharged, a licensed professional will be required to do this job. The EPA has restrictions in place on who can handle refrigerants.
How to Save Money on AC Compressor Cost
Since DIY installation won’t be a consideration for most homeowners, it’s good to look elsewhere to save some money on AC compressor replacement costs. While there’s no guarantee the following tips will make the project less expensive—an air conditioner is an expensive appliance, after all—they’re worth considering.
- Check your warranty: Call the technician before the warranty expires. This makes a massive difference in cost since once the warranty is no longer valid, you’ll likely have to pay for the entire replacement yourself.
- Choose efficient parts: Ask the technician about a variable-speed compressor. Although this compressor may cost slightly more up front, it’s much more efficient than a single-speed compressor and will save money on long-term cooling costs.
- Repair, don’t replace: Consider having the compressor repaired if you’re not ready to pay to replace it. Having it fixed could keep it working for one or two more seasons, giving you time to save up money to replace it in a couple of years.
- Consider seasonality: If possible, schedule the repair for the offseason, i.e., spring or fall.
- Go generic: If the HVAC or AC unit is compatible with multiple brands of compressors, choosing a generic model can potentially save you money.
Questions to Ask About AC Compressor Cost
Very few homeowners are knowledgeable about air conditioners and compressors, so it can be simple for a fly-by-night company to take advantage of them. Asking the following questions will provide homeowners with a better idea about whether the company is professional and has its customers’ best interests at heart.
- Are you licensed?
- How long have you been in business?
- What type of guarantee is available?
- How long will the job take to complete?
- Are you insured?
- Do you have any referrals?
- Do you offer a service plan?
- Do you offer a guarantee?
- Will this project require permits? If so, who is responsible for obtaining them?
- What is the procedure for damages that occur during the job?
- Will you complete any warranty or rebate paperwork?
- Should I replace the compressor or the entire AC unit?
- Do you have EPA certification to handle refrigerants?
No one wants to think about paying expensive compressor repair costs, but the alternative may be to live in a hot, muggy home. If it seems like the AC’s compressor isn’t functioning as it should be, some questions are sure to follow.
Q. How much does it cost to fix or replace a compressor in an air conditioner?
If the problem is minor, it could cost $100 to $200 for simple repairs. If the compressor needs to be replaced, a homeowner can expect to pay somewhere between $800 and $2,800.
Q. What does an AC compressor do?
The AC compressor circulates refrigerant in the lines and supplies cooled air for distribution through the ducts.
Q. How long do home air conditioner compressors last?
Depending on how much they’re used and how well they’re maintained, homeowners can expect an air conditioner compressor to last approximately 15 to 20 years. How long do HVAC systems last? “Typically, the lifespan of an HVAC system is 12 to 15 years, with proper maintenance and service,” says Dixon.
Q. What are the symptoms of a bad AC compressor?
Unusual noises, AC cycling on and off, temperature variations, or reduced airflow could be signs of a bad AC compressor. Or the outside AC unit might not turn on at all.
Q. Can an AC compressor be repaired?
Yes, in some cases, but only an experienced HVAC technician can determine whether it can be repaired or should be replaced.
Q. How can I save money on my AC compressor costs?
It’s best for a homeowner to have the HVAC unit serviced annually to catch any problems while they’re minor. Homeowners will want to consider having repair (or replacement) work done before the warranty expires, even if there haven’t been any issues yet. Additionally, if a homeowner has a policy from one of the best home warranty companies, it may pay for some of the replacement cost, depending on the age of the unit and why it broke.
Sources: Angi (1 and 2), HomeAdvisor, HomeGuide