overhead view of air conditioner unit outside next to house

If you’re considering replacing the air conditioner compressor, there is a lot to consider. Factors such as the warranty, type of compressor, unit size, refrigerant type, brand, and even the time of year determine the replacement cost. Ultimately, your choices are to replace the compressor or the whole unit. Replacing the compressor makes sense in some instances, but replacing the AC unit may prove to be a better choice.

How does an A/C compressor work?

The HVAC compressor pumps refrigerant through the air conditioning system and performs the initial step in the cooling process. Refrigerant is the substance that cools the air in the house by absorbing heat and humidity. Most people are familiar with the refrigerant brand Freon, although it’s being phased out of use.

Refrigerant that has absorbed heat from the home’s air at the evaporator coils flows outside to the compressor. At this point, the refrigerant is a warm, low-pressure vapor. The compressor applies energy until the refrigerant becomes a hot, high-pressure vapor. The refrigerant must be heated to a temperature higher than the outside air to release heat as it travels through the condenser’s coils. Pressurization allows the refrigerant to flow smoothly through the coils.

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How long do air conditioner compressors last?

Air conditioner compressors are reliable, lasting 10 to 20 years, depending on your home’s location. Compressors last 15 to 20 years in the northern regions of the U.S. with proper maintenance. Due to higher usage, A/C compressors typically last 8 to 10 years in the southern zones.

Region Years

Northern U.S.

15 - 20

Midwest and Western U.S.

10 - 20

Southern U.S.

8 - 10

Routine maintenance, regularly replacing the air conditioner filter and keeping the outdoor unit clean and free of debris extend the compressor’s lifespan.

A/C Compressor Replacement Cost

According to HomeGuide, a home AC compressor replacement costs $1,650 on average, generally between $1,000 and $2,500. Many HVAC professionals charge $100 to $150 per hour plus the cost of parts to repair an A/C compressor, which accounts for about 40-60% of the total price.

Capacity Part Cost Installation Total Cost

1.5 - 2 Ton

$445 - $925

$450 - $625

$895 - $1,550

2.5 Ton

$500 - $980

$535 - $710

$1,035 - $1,690

3 Ton

$595 - $1,065

$615 - $840

$1,205 - $1,905

3.5 Ton

$650 - $1,235

$700 - $925

$1,350 - $2,160

4 Ton

$735 - $1,450

$765 - $995

$1,500 - $2,445

5 Ton

$815 - $1,600

$845 - $1,150

$1,650 - $2,750

Cost Factors to Replace a Compressor

The cost of an air conditioner compressor replacement will depend on various factors, including whether or not it is still under warranty, the type of compressor, BTU rating, refrigerant, brand, and season. Units with higher energy efficiency tend to be more costly, but you save money in the long run on energy costs.


Compressor warranties differ among brands and range from 5 years to a lifetime. Some warranties guarantee a replacement of the entire condensing unit if the compressor fails.

It’s important to know what your warranty covers and its stipulations. Some warranties will be voided if the condensing unit is not routinely maintained. The labor costs to replace parts are not typically included in warranties if the unit is more than two years old, so you will likely have to pay for removing and installing the new compressor or unit.

The most common warranty options:

  • 5 years: 5-year compressor warranties are less common as manufacturers become more competitive with extended warranties. Cheaper air conditioners and base models from the Lennox Merit Series may offer this warranty.
  • 10 years: 10-year compressor warranties are the most common and are offered by leading brands such as Trane, American Standard, Carrier, Bryant, Lennox, Rheem, Ruud, Armstrong Air, and Heil.
  • 12 years: The best models by American Standard, Trane, and Maytag offer 12-year compressor warranties.
  • Lifetime warranty: Some Goodman and Amana (a sister-brand of Goodman) models offer lifetime compressor warranties.
  • Unit replacement warranty: A few warranties offer replacement of the condensing unit if the compressor fails. Goodman, Rheem, and Ruud offer replacement of the unit if the compressor fails in the first 10 years. International Comfort Products brands such as Heil, Day & Night, and Tempstar offer 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year unit replacement warranties and 10-year general parts warranties. Daikin offers 6-year warranties on its mid-range models and 12-year warranties on its best models.
Type of Compressor

Compressors can be single-stage, two-stage, or variable-speed. Each type has benefits and drawbacks. Simpler single-stage compressors have lower initial and repair costs but are less efficient. More intricate, better-performing compressors have higher initial and repair costs but are more efficient and cost less to run.


  • Single-stage: Single-stage compressors are the cheapest to buy and repair and least likely to break. They are, however, the least efficient. Single-stage compressors have one speed and always operate at 100% capacity. Working at full speed means they shut on and off frequently, leading to cold and hot spots in the home, less humidity removed from the air, poor air quality, and more energy consumed. Single-stage compressors are noisier than the other types because they always run at full speed.


  • Two-stage: Two-stage compressors are “middle of the road” in terms of cost and efficiency. They cost more than single-stage compressors to buy and repair and are less likely to break than variable-speed compressors. They are efficient because they usually run at low speed, typically about 70% capacity, for a longer time. Running at a lower rate for a more extended time cools the house more evenly, removes humidity better, produces better air quality, and consumes less energy. Two-stage compressors are quieter when running at low speed.


  • Variable-speed Compressor: Variable-speed, also known as modulating, compressors are the most expensive but the most efficient. They are costly to buy and repair and are more likely to break down than other compressors. They typically can run at 40% to 100% capacity and vary the speed in increments of less than 1%. Of the three compressor types, variable-speed compressors have the longest run time and slowest pace. They are only installed with a furnace or air handler possessing a variable-speed fan that can match the compressor speed. Variable-speed compressors are great at cooling a house evenly, removing humidity, and filtering the air. They are the quietest compressors because of their ability to run at a very low speed.

Single-Stage vs. 2-Stage A/C Compressor

Stage Pros Cons

Single-Stage Compressor

  • Less expensive to install
  • Easiest to repair
  • Less efficient
  • More costly to run

Two-Stage Compressor

  • More efficient
  • Less expensive to run
  • Better at humidifying
  • More expensive to install
  • More costly to repair

Variable-Speed Compressor

  • Most efficient
  • Least expensive to run
  • Best at dehumidifying
  • Most expensive to install
  • Most costly to repair
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Unit Size

Compressor prices range from $1000 to $2500 installed. Large AC units have large compressors, which are more costly. The compressor’s price depends on the AC unit’s capacity in tons. A 5-ton compressor costs nearly twice as much as a 2-ton. Compressor sizes are not interchangeable. An old compressor can only be replaced with a compressor of the same size.

Your compressor’s size can be determined by locating the unit’s model number on the outdoor unit. The last two digits of the model number indicate the compressor’s size in BTUs by thousand. The number 24 indicates a 24,000 BTU compressor. 1 ton equals 12,000 BTUs. Therefore, a 24,000 BTU compressor is equivalent to 2 tons of cooling capacity.


After replacing the compressor, the AC system must be recharged or topped off with refrigerant. The cost depends on the type and amount of refrigerant. Most systems require 2 to 4 pounds of refrigerant. R22 Freon costs $90 to $150 per pound, while R410A costs $50 to $80 per pound. Refrigerants are not interchangeable. Systems can only use the refrigerant they were designed to operate.


Compressor prices vary by brand. Expensive AC units typically have costly compressors. Replacing the compressor with the same brand is recommended for optimal performance, but some units are compatible with generic compressors or other brands.

HVAC Brand Compressor Price *


$450 - $2,000


$600 - $2,300

Goodman / Amana

$350 - $1,200


$600 - $2,300

Rheem / Ruud

$600 - $1,400

Trane / Americana Standard / Mitsubishi

$450 - $2,200

York / Coleman

$550 - $1,500

*Not including labor cost to install.


Rates are highest during summer and winter, during which HVAC contractors are busiest. Rates are lower from mid-January to March and late September to November.

Common Issues with A/C Compressors

With proper maintenance, your air conditioner compressor should last over a decade with little issue, but here are some problems that can occur without regular care.


  • Lack of Lubrication: The air conditioning system must stay lubricated for optimal performance. The compressor uses oil to lubricate its moving parts. Without lubricant, the parts wear out, come apart, and fail. The additional stress on the compressor may cause it to break down. Leakage from the evaporator, condenser, pipe connections or the compressor shaft seal causes insufficient lubrication. A technician can check the lubricant levels and oil pump.


  • System Contamination: The condenser coils are located in the outdoor unit so that they can become covered in dirt, bird droppings, and other grime. Dirt on the coils prevents the coils from releasing the home’s heat, causing the air conditioner to run more often. The compressor may eventually overheat and shut down. The condensing unit should be kept clear of leaves and weeds and regularly cleaned by the homeowner or a service.


  • Electrical Problems: Acids and oxidation can build up over time, eat away at the circuitry, and cause a power failure. An HVAC technician can inspect the unit for damaged wires and fuses.


  • Low Refrigerant Charge: An air conditioner requires the correct amount of refrigerant to work correctly. The Freon can leak from a crack or hole in the refrigerant line, causing the level to be too low. The system has to work harder to cool the house, and the compressor could fail. Most newer AC systems contain a fail-safe switch that will turn the system off if it has too little or too much refrigerant. A technician can determine whether the refrigerant is undercharged.


  • Clogged or Damaged Suction Lines: The suction line is a hose that pulls gaseous refrigerant from the house’s indoor unit to the outdoor compressor to release its heat. A clogged, bent, kinked, or otherwise damaged line will affect the unit’s ability to cool the house. The compressor must work harder and can overheat. Frost on the line indicates a problem with the system. A technician can inspect the line for damage, repair it, and recharge the system with refrigerant.
Replace Compressor or Whole Unit?

If you have an older AC (10+ years), buying a new air conditioner is probably best. The average compressor costs $1,300 to $2,500 to replace if it’s not under warranty. If you have a new AC unit (0-5 years), it makes sense to replace the compressor, especially if it’s still under warranty. The average compressor under warranty costs $600-$1200 to replace.


Deciding whether to replace the compressor or the whole unit is no easy task. Knowing what factors to consider is crucial. The warranty, type of compressor, unit size, refrigerant type, brand, and season all impact a compressor's replacement cost. If your AC is over nine years old, replacing the unit is usually more economical. You might want to replace only the compressor if it's under six years old. Remember that regular air conditioner maintenance can help you avoid common compressor issues and prolong the compressor's life.

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