The first option would be to add them, which works best if you have open space in the attic and basement. “Finding the space is the trickiest part,” Peterman says. “It’s labor intensive to run ductwork.”
Adding traditional ductwork will increase the overall cost. Homeowners can expect to pay between $7,000 and $10,000, and should allow three days to complete installation. “Every home is different, so the design of each home really becomes the cost factor,” says Bill Stuhr, sales and installation manager for Five Star Heating & Air in Palatine, Illinois. “A two-story, a ranch, a split-level, and raised ranch will all have different costs due to the difference in design.”
A second option is to install a ductless A/C, which our experts agree is the most efficient — albeit more expensive — alternative. A ductless A/C consists of an outdoor compressor and wall units mounted in whichever rooms need cooling. It’s a good choice for structures whose walls are too thin to support ductwork or for individual rooms that need extra cooling, such as a man cave or recent addition. A ductless system averages $6,000 to $15,000 according to our experts, depending on the design and type of units selected, and would take one to two days to install.
A third option is a high-velocity system, which uses smaller, more flexible tubing than the standard ductwork required for low-velocity systems. The main hurdle for most homeowners, however, is cost. Prices can start at $15,000 and quickly increase depending on the size of the house. Expect a two- to three-day installation period for a high-velocity system.
You can also consider installing a rooftop A/C, which costs as much as $1,000 more for the unit but will include nearly double the installation cost because of the difficulty of the roof work.
“The biggest thing is understanding your options,” Peterman says. “Understand that it is an investment. We have a lot of people presented with the ductless option, and it might be the best option, but they shut it down because of the cost. The ability to turn units on and off, depending on if you’re using the room, will save you money in the long run.”
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