How Much Do Commercial HVAC Systems Cost? Price Guide

Commercial HVAC /
How Much Do Commercial HVAC Systems Cost? Price Guide

Whether you oversee one or multiple buildings, the right commercial HVAC unit can make the difference between a comfortable, energy-efficient environment or a more significant investment than you expected. In some applications, your HVAC system plays a critical role in your production speed and overall operations. But how much do commercial HVAC units cost?

Many factors determine how much a commercial HVAC unit costs, from brand and energy efficiency rating to labor and installation costs. But if you take the time to plan for a new or replacement HVAC installation, you can save a lot of time and money. Today we’ll review how to estimate the cost of a commercial HVAC system and the pricing factors in commercial HVAC.

How Much Do Commercial HVAC Systems Cost?

HVAC systems are designed to last a long time. With regular maintenance, they can run for a decade or more. A typical commercial rooftop air conditioning unit starts at around $4,000, depending on the size of the building, the type of business, and the climate. However, don’t forget about additional costs like installation, maintenance, and repairs, which add up over time.

Generally, replacing your HVAC system will be cheaper than installing a whole new system if you're using existing ducts. However, if you don’t already have a duct system or need to replace damaged or worn-out ducts, the installation will increase your HVAC costs. Ductwork can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on how much you need to replace.

Pricing Factors in Commercial HVAC

The most significant factor determining the cost of your commercial HVAC unit will be the square footage of the premises. However, the price also varies depending on the type of HVAC unit installed, unit size, location, and more. Here are six variables that determine what you can expect to pay for a commercial HVAC unit.

Type of HVAC Unit

Depending on the property, some types of HVAC units are better suited than others. For example, larger buildings like apartments and hotels often require packaged units or large rooftop systems. In contrast, smaller commercial properties could get away with installing a residential HVAC unit. Depending on how they use air to heat and cool a building (or if they use air at all), HVAC systems fall into three main categories:

  1. Variable air volume (VAV) systems: VAV commercial HVAC systems are similar to high-end, energy-efficient residential HVAC units. They adjust the airflow according to the current room temperature, making the room more comfortable for its occupants while conserving energy. A VAV system is ideal for applications with varying heating and cooling needs, like retail stores, restaurants, and other consumer-facing spaces.
  2. Constant air volume (CAV) systems: A CAV system uses an indoor air handler or blower with an outdoor AC compressor, operating at full capacity until the building reaches a set temperature. Like single-speed residential HVAC systems, CAV systems have only two modes: on and off. Because of this, they are less energy-efficient, so they cost more to run. A CAV system is ideal for commercial spaces that require constant temperatures, like warehouses and manufacturing facilities.
  3. Variable refrigerant volume (VRV) systems: Unlike VAV and CAV systems, a VRV system doesn’t push air through the air ducts. Instead, it uses a pipe system to circulate coolant throughout the building, enabling you to heat and cool individual rooms as needed. A heat pump system works well for open spaces, while a heat recovery system is best for commercial spaces with multiple rooms.

Building Size and Type

The size of your building is one of the most significant determinants of how much a commercial HVAC unit costs. So naturally, a larger facility will require a bigger HVAC system, while a smaller building needs a smaller unit, and finding the right size is essential.

If your AC unit is too big or too small, you might struggle to maintain a stable temperature in your building. Furthermore, if your system starts and stops too often, it can increase the wear and tear on your AC, shortening its intended lifespan.

You can estimate your building’s heating and cooling system needs by dividing its square footage by 500, then multiplying this number by 12,000 to figure out how many BTUs (British thermal units) are needed to generate the right amount of energy. Note: If your ceilings are taller than eight feet, you may need to adjust these calculations.

Different types of businesses have their own HVAC needs based on activity, occupancy, and insulation. For example, a restaurant with lots of active occupants and heat-generating equipment needs more cooling than a small office, so an energy-efficient HVAC system will be essential.

Some facilities, like warehouses and manufacturing plants, need to be kept at stable temperatures, which other HVAC systems are better suited to do. Another specific example is a server room, which requires special HVAC equipment and sometimes even separate controls to protect different types of computer hardware.

HVAC Brand

With so many commercial HVAC brands on the market today, you’re sure to find an HVAC solution that is best suited for your needs and budget. Unfortunately, while it might be tempting to automatically choose a big, well-known brand, they tend to price their products higher than smaller brands.

However, small brands often specialize in certain types of HVAC units and installation for more unique applications. To get the best return on your investment, we recommend doing your research so you can find the HVAC brand that will give you the right solution for your business and the maintenance and repair services that fit your budget.

Efficiency Rating

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (or SEER rating) is the average cooling output an HVAC system provides compared to how much energy it consumes. A higher SEER rating means a more energy-efficient HVAC unit, which makes a noticeable difference for larger commercial spaces.

Although the initial investment of an AC unit with a high SEER rating will be more, higher-rated HVAC systems are much cheaper to run. This will result in a lower monthly energy bill, so you’ll recoup those costs quickly.

Labor and Installation Costs

Other significant factors in how much commercial HVAC units cost are the labor and installation, which comes down to the degree of installation difficulty.

Old or historic buildings usually require a special permit to make major structural changes. Unfortunately, this also means that unusual architectural characteristics could create a more challenging installation. For example, if you oversee an older building, you might need to replace the air ducts before you can install a commercial HVAC system at all.

Additionally, each contractor quotes HVAC installation costs differently. For example, some may include insurance costs and other factors in their labor fee, while other contractors will add these costs later as a line item. Therefore, when comparing price quotes, a higher but more inclusive quote might be a better deal than a lower price with a competitive HVAC contractor.

Climate and Location

The cost of a commercial HVAC system also depends on your location and climate, which determine your business’s heating and cooling needs. For example, larger capacity HVAC units with a higher BTU are better in cold temperatures, while a system with a lower BTU is more suited for warmer climates.

Call FASTECH for Your Commercial HVAC Needs

Whether you’re looking to install a new commercial HVAC unit or add to your existing system, finding the right option can be tricky. But don’t worry: FASTECH is here to help.

FASTECH is the leading provider of end-to-end commercial HVAC and refrigeration services. Our team of engineers and HVAC technicians has over 25 years of experience to provide you with expert commercial HVAC system installation, maintenance, and upgrades that save money and extend the lifespan of your heating and cooling systems.

Over the past two decades, we have provided cooling and refrigeration services for thousands of clients across nearly every industry, including retail, restaurants, pharmacies, service stations, and more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can find the right HVAC system to fit your needs.

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