How Much Does a Commercial Air Conditioning Unit Cost?

A broken AC can be expensive to replace. There’s a lot that goes into the final AC unit cost, like installation costs. 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, 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. (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. 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 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 or their CA unites and heat pumps.

Related: What Is the Best Commercial HVAC Brand?

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 AC should move.

Related: How Many Tons of AC Do I Need?


Labor costs can vary widely from contractor to contractor, but a lower price might not be all it seems. Some 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.

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. 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 tend to have a much shorter lifespan than 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.

Commercial units, however, are typically designed for temperatures above 70 degrees. If you’re having trouble with your system, contact an HVAC contractor. Let’s look at some problems that could arise.

1. Problems with the coils

The high temperatures can cause problems with the coils, which are the main component of the condenser. The coils are made from copper tubing that is coiled around a series of finned, heat-conducting cores. Due to the high operating temperatures, oxidation occurs over time. This causes conductivity loss, resulting in lower efficiency or complete failure. Corrosion can also occur due to mineral buildup within the cooling coil if it is not properly maintained.

2. The compressor

For the compressor itself, one of the major problems involves leaks caused by excessive vibration during operation. Loose screws on the unit allows vibration to occur and they eventually loosen over time. If this happens, refrigerant will leak out of the compressor and into the surrounding air. And in effect, you will experience reduced efficiency or complete failure of the unit.

The compressor itself is also susceptible to overheating due to reduced lubrication. Often, this a result of oil leaking through cracks in the bearings or seals over time.

3. The duct work

One of the most common issues that can arise with commercial air conditioning systems is a leak in the ductwork installed. The air conditioning system needs to circulate air throughout the entire building. So it uses ducts to carry air from one part of the building to another. If there is a leak in these ducts, then not only will the air conditioner not be able to circulate air through the building. But it will also make energy saving nearly impossible.

A good way to tell whether or not there is a leak in the ducts is to listen for hissing sounds when the unit is running. There could also be a problem with the thermostat that causes it not to turn on when it should.

Type of Business

Every type of business will need different cooling needs. So this is an important factor to consider when looking for a new unit and determining AC unit cost. For instance, a restaurant might need more cooling or a stronger heating system than a small office. While a warehouse might need far more than both while using an entirely different kind of cooling system.

What your business does and how many people work there with affect your cooling needs. Similarly, what kinds of goods or services you offer can also play a role in this. For instance, each window and kitchen contributes about 1-1,200 BTUs respectively. Factor this in when determining the tonnage of your AC.

The best way to minimize disruptions to your business is to plan ahead when buying a new commercial AC unit. Speak with a qualified HVAC technician for an estimate of your new AC unit cost including unit installation. Of if you’re just replacing a part, find out the part replacement cost.