Commercial AC Unit Cost: Estimating the Investment for Air Conditioning

A broken AC, especially in the context of a professional HVAC system, can be expensive to replace. Buildings, regardless of their space capacity, rely heavily on optimal maintenance of these systems for adequate ventilation. There’s a lot that goes into the final AC unit cost, like installation and repair costs, purchase of necessary components, and even warranty considerations. If you know yours is on the way out, begin estimating how much a new one will cost so you can save up before it kicks the bucket. Finding out the price of a commercial AC unit can be easier said than done given the wide range of factors you’ll have to consider from the brand you want to the different prices for labor each contractor will quote you.

However, once you know how to systematically evaluate your choices for a new AC, taking into account capacity, components, and maintenance needs, you’ll be able to save time and money when the time comes to purchase a new one.

If you’re a building manager or business owner in Las Vegas who is looking into commercial AC replacement, schedule an appointment with The Cooling Company. Their professional team can guide you through the process, ensuring the right ventilation capacities are considered and the warranty and repair terms are clear. (702) 567-0707.

How Much Does a Commercial Air Conditioning Unit Cost

Knapp Schmidt Architects reports that small businesses with one cooling zone can expect to pay $3 to $4 per square foot for their AC. But this can range from $7.50 to $10.50 for larger businesses. However, this just an estimation of average costs. So, it can vary depending on the size of your business and what brand you purchase, which means your price could hit five figures or more.

Given the number of variables that affect the price, your costs could be much higher or lower depending on your needs. The following are some of the most important factors to consider before deciding which AC is right for your business.

Type of Unit

Single and multi-split constant air-volume (CAV) systems are some of the most common types of commercial AC units. They feature an outdoor compressor and an indoor blower, and they are most useful in smaller businesses with relatively few rooms to cool. Variable air volume (VAV) systems modify the amount of air they move based on the current temperature, making them more efficient than CAV systems. An integral component of many large HVAC systems in buildings, Variable refrigerant volume (VRV) systems include a coolant in their blowers and allow you to heat and cool individual rooms as needed.

Brand & Features

Each AC brand offers a different set of features and warranty terms, which need maintenance and potential repair considerations. And, you may find one suits your needs and budget better than another. Lennox is popular for efficiency and offers some of the highest SEER levels in the industry, making this a good choice if you’re trying to cut down on expenses.

Top-of-the-line brands like American Standard and Carrier are known for their reliability and value but can be expensive. Some brands like Heil offer high-tech features that offer granular control. Others like York are known for their relative simplicity and reliability of their AC units, heat pumps, and their respective components.

Size of the Commercial Building

The size of your building is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an AC unit. And size will also affect the AC unit cost. If your central air conditioner is over or underpowered, it may have difficulty keeping a stable temperature in your building. Even worse, it might start and stop frequently, which increases wear and tear on your AC and can shorten its lifespan. It can also cause your energy bill to rise.

Assuming each room in your building is 8 feet tall, you can estimate its cooling needs by dividing your building’s square footage by 500, then multiplying this number by 12,000 to determine how many BTUs your HVAC system should move.


Labor costs can vary widely from contractor to contractor, but a lower price might not be all it seems. Some professional contractors may include costs for insurance or other factors in the price they quote you for labor, while others will add them in later as a line-item. Be sure to account for these when budgeting for the installation, maintenance, and potential repair of your new HVAC system.

Finding the right contractor for your HVAC repairs can be a daunting task, but find comfort in knowing that a thorough analysis of their quotes and references can lead you to the best option. You’ll want to find out what each contractor includes in their quote for labor before comparing them. Sometimes, a seemingly higher price with one contractor might be a better offer than a lower price with another, depending on the specific requirements of your HVAC units. You may also consider asking for references to better evaluate the offers from each contractor, if possible.

Common Issues That Could Arise

Commercial HVAC systems are designed to meet the demanding requirements of maintaining a comfortable climate in large spaces, this however tends to shorten their lifespan compared to residential units. This is due to the much higher operating temperatures they are required to deliver. Residential units operate at temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, offering different options for energy efficiency and providing significant savings for customers.

Commercial units, on the other hand, are typically designed for temperatures above 70 degrees. If you’re having trouble with your HVAC unit, it’s important to contact an HVAC contractor for appropriate repairs. So let’s take a look at some of the issues that could arise.

1. Problems with the coils

High operating temperatures can undermine the energy efficiency of your HVAC units by causing issues with the coils, which are the key component of the condenser. The coils, made from copper tubing that coils around a series of finned, heat-conducting cores, endure constant wear and tear due to high operating temperatures – leading to oxidation over time. The resulting reduction in conductance can reduce energy efficiency or lead to a complete failure of the HVAC unit.

2. The compressor

One of the significant problems with the compressor relates to leaks. These are often caused by excessive vibration during operation, which is facilitated by loose screws on the unit. If this occurs, refrigerant may leak from the compressor to the surrounding air, leading to a drop in energy efficiency, or worse, complete failure of the unit.

The compressor can also overheat due to reduced lubrication, usually as a result of oil leaking through cracks in bearings or seals over time. Therefore, identifying potential issues early and conducting timely repairs is crucial to maintaining the climate control in your facilities, ensuring comfort for your customers, and saving on energy costs.

3. The duct work

Ductwork leaks are commonplace in commercial air conditioners and can pose a significant obstacle to achieving energy efficiency. Your HVAC unit circulates air throughout the entire building using ducts, and a leak in these ducts can greatly impair this, not only affecting air circulation but also making energy savings nearly impossible.

Listening for hissing sounds when your HVAC unit is running is a good way to detect potential duct leaks. Thermostat issues, causing it not to turn on when needed, are also common and can be identified by an HVAC expert.

Type of Business

Every business has unique cooling requirements. These depend on a range of factors from the type of business to the number of people working there. For instance, a restaurant may need more cooling or a stronger heating system compared to a small office. Factors like these should be considered when determining the cost of a new AC unit.

The nature of your business, the goods or services you offer, and the number of people and appliances in your workspace all affect your cooling needs. For example, each window and kitchen contributes about 1-1,200 BTUs respectively. Consider these factors when determining the tonnage of your AC unit to optimize energy efficiency.

Minimizing disruption to your business calls for adequate planning when buying a new commercial HVAC unit. Consult with a qualified HVAC technician to get an estimate of your new AC unit cost, including installation. Or if you’re only replacing a part, find out the part replacement cost. This proactive approach ensures you continue to provide a comfortable climate for your customers while maximizing your savings.