Central A/C

Up until now, I have been focusing my buying efforts on houses without central air conditioning installed. This was mainly due to ignorance regarding how much it will run to have central A/C installed. I realize that this figure could change drastically depending on the number of vents that are installed and several other factors, but can anybody please give me an idea of how much I can expect to spend to have Central A/C and heating installed in a house that has never had it before? I am mainly looking at 3 bedroom houses that are about 1500 sq ft. Armed with this information, I feel that I would be able to make offers on many of the houses I am currently passing up.

And I live in TX, so Central A/C is pretty much a necessity. ;D

Thanks in advance,


Since I have a friend who is a HVAC contractor, it really does not cost that much (for me). But you should find out by a local contractor on what a job like that would costs. Also you have to make sure the home has enough circuits to add the AC. Most systems use a double pole 30Amp breaker and if the panel box is full or a small 60Amp panel, you might have to upgrade the service. Also these homes would need a force air furnace, but I never been Texas so I do not know what is normal down there. Or the contactor can add a AC unit and duct work without a furnace, that could get expensive.

Thanks Dan.

It sounds like there are additional concerns to take into account when adding HVAC. I do not know that much about electrical systems. Is there any way that I (as a novice) can look at a breaker panel to get an idea of whether the electrical system will need to be upgraded in order to install air conditioning and heating?

Assuming that the electrical system does not need to be updated, are we talking about $2,000 to have central HVAC installed $5,000? $20,000? Just trying to get a ballpark figure so that I can determine if these houses are deals or not.

Do the other investors on here typically make offers on houses that do not have central HVAC? Or is it like foundation issues, where it’s typically best to just walk away?

I don’t know of any home without AC in my area (Vegas), but I would never touch one without it. I am looking at homes in Houston (via mls right now). If the home does not have AC, it gets booted from my list.

I don’t want to have to install an AC, then realize I need to update electrical to do it and then find more crap that could pop up.

In a hot climate, I am not even sure what the point of looking at a home without AC is. To possibly save a few bucks?

The point of looking at a home without central A/C is the possibility of getting the house very cheap, because nobody else wants it. Then installing air conditioning, and flipping out of it for a profit.

yea, I know what your point is. For me, there comes a point when trying to go too cheap is just not worth it.

Some things I just would not mess with because of the problems that can occur.

I guess you can always buy the prop and try then see what your experience was.

Let us know how it went.

Look at the panel, look for the main breaker, it is usually the one that says “main” or is at the top. On the handle their is usually a small number like 50 or 60 or100 or 150 or 200, this the AMP rating for the main breaker and panel. If you do not see a main breaker, it might be located near the meter box, this is common for mobile/manufactured/modular homes. Also some panel boxes might have more than one main breaker, for example Federal Pacific had upto 6 main breakers. That panel is a hazard in itself and I would recommend having it replaced, also breakers are hard to find for it and if you do find them they are very expensive. Also check for open spaces in the box. You will need two spaces, because the AC compressor is 240Volts and the breaker is going to occupy two spaces right next to each other.

I can’t say what the HVAC market is in your state, but Central Air systems installed (in an existing forced air furnace) are around 1500 to 2000 depending on size and other small factors.

Also you do not need to take a part the panel box to find it’s capacity or to see if their are open spaces. Don’t take one a part unless you know what you are doing.

Just thought I would add that


I have bought 2 houses that did not have central heat and air. One of them is my personal residence. To add a central unit to a residence that is under 1600 sq ft will run between $5-8k, depending on several factors. If the house is 2 stories, it will cost you more. If you need more than 1 unit for some reason, it will cost more. There are lots of possibilities as to why it will cost more or less, but that should at least get you started.


Thanks Dan. I just took a look at my breaker panel, and the main one did indeed say 150. So if it’s 60 or less, or if there are not two spots free, this would be an indication that the electrtical system will need to be upgraded. Correct?

Thanks for that additional information Wilson.

Seems to me the cost depends on whether there is duct work for the heat.

I am in Houston (one of the hottest and most humid places on earth!!) and am currently rehabbing a house without central ac…I am just installing 2 individual window units. All the houses in that neighborhood are designed the same way. The fact that we are even including those units is impressive to buyers in that area.

I agree, i dont think that it would be a problem to get a house rented out as long as there are a couple AC UNITS. Im in Nebraska, and although it isnt as hot as Texas or Vegas, it gets very humid and sticky, so you do need AC up here, and my rental house does not have an AC unit (Although it does have central heating) and i rented my house within 3 days of advertising with a for rent sign. I told my tenants that i would put a couple of window ac’s in, but they said they already had 2 so i lucked out there for the meantime :slight_smile:

I’m with the majority…i won’t even considerr a property without central air – too freakin’ hot here!


Being in Vegas all these years has turned me into an AC Whore. Even when I was up in Seattle, I was like no AC, no way. :smiley:

On the beach? I don’t care, give me AC just in case :smiley:

All I’m saying is houses in my particular investment area are selling with and without central AC for around the same price.

If it was 60 amps or less, it is usually a very small house or a very old house. 60 Amp services are found in small homes with gas appliances. Or older homes. I see them in small bungalows that were use to be used as vacation retreats, now they are year round homes. I would consult a electrician in the area if the panel is 60 and smaller, it might be able to be upgraded fairly inexpensively. Even if there are spaces in the panel, you have to count what is being used, if it mostly lighting it might be sufficient, if it has any appliances, dryer, stove, baseboard heating, water heater, I would have it upgraded.