Central air vs. AC units

20 Replies

Hello all,

Wondering what your thoughts are on the following: 

Just purchased a small 2BR 1 for 55k. Needs 10K in rehab and should rent for $895/mo Thing is, that 10K does NOT include central air.. That would be an additional 10K and would probably only net an additional $50/mo in rent. Should I pay for a whole new AC in a 895 sq ft house or just go nice window units? My heart says do it (it is in Texas - hot!) but the investor in me says it's not worth it. This is for a buy, rehab, hold and rent property...


Tom Camarda

Los Angeles, CA

You should get some more quotes. Adding AC here in Michigan only costs 2k-4k

I agree... That seems very high.  Maybe $5k tops.  Does the property have special circumstances that make the install almost double?

Seems high but i'm sure that 10K is more than just the fan, compressor, handler etc. Not sure if that includes all the vending etc. That might make sense then. Its up to you. You could always install in later in the future between tennat turnover if you dont have the capital right now. Im in Florida right now and alot of properties still have window units depending on the age. Look forward to hearing what you decide. 

What type of heat is there now - forced air, radiators, electric baseboard, etc?  The price seems high to me but I'm not in LA, CA. 

I have a similar size unit in Maryland , I dont have Central air , I tell the tenants that they supply their own window units . I have nothing to repair .  No problem renting . When asked why I dont supply them ?  Because when they break , its not my responsibility to fix , when you move they are yours ( as opposed when they move they take mine) . 

Where I am (TN) central air commands at least $100 more per month on the low end, and is a requirement on anything more than $800. I can have an entire system put in, including ductwork, for $5k or so, maybe a little less depending on the setup. At the very least you should consider a Mitsubishi ductless. I don't know about other places, but window AC around here is slumlord material. I am curious as to how you know it only adds $50? One other thing is that it will make your place more competitive against other places. 

I own a couple of small 2/1s in Texas. They have window units. The window units last forever and if one does go out a quick trip to home depot to pickup a new one cures the problem quickly. As long as that's not unusual for the area the home is located in I would leave them alone. 

I was thinking along the same lines as Jd Martin. Those wall mounted ductless systems are pretty much the standard in lots of Asia, work pretty well, and I think from optics look a step up from window units.

Thanks everybody,

I'm going to be getting a few more estimates.. Meantime, I am looking into the in-wall, ductless units as well. (They work great in Central America) However, the heat is forced air and it's an old unit so I'd have to replace it anyway... If I can get a quote for 5k I'd do it. 

Any HVAC pro's in Fort Worth??

Tom Camarda

Los Angeles, CA

@Tom Camarda

10k and you already have the ducting in place as well ? That is outrageous 

Assuming no electric upgrades are needing except for the outside disconnect, you should be in the 4k range

Last time I used them, there was a company out of Illinois that would ship the inside/outside system 2 ton to the property for approximately $1700

@GregH, no ducting in place... Only a wall unit heater exists currently. Would love to know the name of the company you mention.


Tom Camarda

Los Angeles, CA

$10K seems a tad high but not that outrageous.  That should include a new furnace, coil, compressor and ducts.  If it's a long term rental I would bite the bullet and install it.  

In my estimation, you would be able to demand higher rent for Central as opposed to AC units. Someone said and I agree that is slumlord material.

$10K is extremely high. I would get a couple more quotes. 

However, if you need electrical and duct work, that could be the reason. If you got an estimate, let us know what they are charging for all the typ eo fowkr they are going to be doing.

@Tom Camarda

What is the norm in that neighborhood? If it is window units, you may be "over improving" and it won't give you a decent ROI. How long can you recoup the money with higher rent? If it is more than 3 or 4 years, then it would not make sense. Central AC's also have higher maintenance costs than window shakers.

With that being said, I strongly prefer Central AC, but would have to "check" my preferences by running the numbers.

If you do go the Central route, get at least 3 estimates and possibly do it in the off season when AC companies are slow.

I have a background in HVAC. Ten thousand may not be that high if a new duct system is included. However, for a 2/1, I would seriously consider window units for all the previously listed reasons.   As for heat .... I have had great luck with electric baseboard heaters.  A national big box chain sells them online. I get a 4 foot, 120 volt, 1kw unit with thermostat per room for well under $100/each.  They are so easy to install too. DIY.

I have a 2/1, 720 sqft. It has two window units and a gas fired wall heater. No complaints in the two years I've owned it. Central air was too expensive and I'd never recoup money out of it.

@Tom Camarda ,

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@Tom Camarda

You can get a portable air conditioner/heat pump that is rated for 400-500 square feet for $250:


I'm guessing a couple of these will do the job. I'm about to test this one in my own home this winter.  They are typically at least $300-500 though.

There's also some models of window air conditioners that work in reverse cycle but every one I've seen is at least $400.

A 2 ton ductless system is $950 on eBay and will probably work better in heat pump mode at low temperatures.

Tom Camarda,

In Fort Worth you can't beat  Air Tex  817-236-0013. That is for quality work not for cheap work.

Hey all, just an update on the HVAC, Decided to go with the Mini split system:

Love these in Central America! Seems like the best way to go for the size of the house and works for heat as well!

Thanks for the feedback!


- Tom

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