A 3 Ton Air Handler Costs Less Thank You Think

How Much Does a 3 Ton Air Handler Cost?

A 3-ton air handler can move up to 36,000 BTUs of heat per hour. On the back of a 3-ton air handler is the manufacturer’s ID plate, number 36.

If there is no number 36, then there is a big chance that you are not using a 3-ton air handler.

This unit is past the middle of the average range for residential or commercial air conditioners.

How much does a 3 ton air handler cost? The typical cost of a 3-ton air handler is between $700-$2,000 and more. The reason for its expensive price range is because of its capacity to move 36,000 BTUs per hour.

This article will give you a deeper understanding of the total estimated cost of a 3-ton air handler.

I will also list prices from different brands and some helpful tips for choosing an air handler.

Factors Affecting the Price of a 3-Ton Air Handler

Quality of the Air Handler

Similar to buying cars, bags, and other appliances, air handler brands vary in quality.

  • Budget Brands – The budget brands are those that are lower in price. These brands are the cheapest amongst other brands, such as Payne, Goodman, and Aire-Flo.

    While they are less expensive, their life expectancy is only about 8 to 15 years.

  • Standard Brands – If you can stretch your budget, go for the standard or middle brands. These are known to have a durability of 12 to 18 years – depending on your maintenance routine.

    The standard brands include Armstrong/Ducane, Amana/Daikin, York/Luxaire/Coleman, and Nutone/Tappan.

  • Premium or High-Class Brands – Expensive brands such as American Standard, Lennox, and Bryant fall in the category of premium brands.

    Yes, they are costly, but the quality and durability are better than the budget and standard brands. They can last up to 25 years with proper care and maintenance.

Performance of the Air Handler

  • Best Performance – The air handlers that give off the best performance are those that have variable speed ECM blowers.

    They provide full support for two-staged and modulating ACs and heat pumps.

  • Average Performance – Their average performance is better than that of basic air handlers.

    These air handlers have a multispeed PSC or ECM blower. Also, they support single-stage and two-staged ACs and heat pumps.

  • Basic or Low Performance – Basic or low-performance AC handlers have a constant-torque or single-speed PSC blower.

    This means they can support only a single-stage AC and heat pump.

3-Ton Air Handler Unit Price, Costs, and Extras

A 3-ton air handler unit costs anywhere from $700 to $2,000. That’s the unit alone – excluding the other costs such as ductwork and repairs.

A home-sized 1601-1900 SF 3 ton air handler unit usually costs $950 plus an installation fee of $1,500.

Air Handler Installation

Installation of any air handler includes setting the unit, ductwork, installing the indoor coil, and testing the refrigerant.

Testing the refrigerant means running the line of the outdoor condensing unit and the indoor coil.

I will categorize the estimated cost based on the required amount of work – single-speed, multi-speed, and variable-speed.

  • A single-speed AHU has an estimated cost of $1000-1,500. This cost is only if you reuse the same sheet metal connection.

  • A multi-speed or variable speed AHU should cost you $1,450-$1,900. It includes new sheet metal connections.

  • A variable-speed AHU costs anywhere from $1,600-$2,100. It also includes new sheet metal connections.


Ductwork should also be replaced if you replace the AHU unit. The reason is that the old ductwork may not be compatible with the new AHU. This process costs about $10-$15.

In some cases, the ductwork is compatible with the new AHU but has a leak. Reduced energy loss and low cooling/heating bills are the results when you tighten ductwork and seal it with mastic.

This costs between $3 and $5 for every linear foot of exposed duct.


Older thermostat models do not offer energy savings as compared to newer thermostats. The latest thermostat models have a programmable schedule that is accessed through Wi-Fi.

The replacement of a non-programmable thermostat is $15-$100. The second type of thermostat is the basic programmable thermostat, which costs anywhere from $15-$124.

The newest thermostat is the Wi-Fi programmable thermostat, which costs $130-$375.

Inspection and Permit

For safety purposes, the majority of states require proper inspection of a newly installed HVAC.

Once your HVAC has been inspected, you will need a permit to use it. Inspection and permit costs are about $50 to $130.

Price Comparison

Some factors that affect a brand’s price are warranty, marketing, and popularity. I created a list of brands and their unit prices plus installation costs.

Comfort Maker

Unit Price: $695

Installation Cost: $1,600

Day and Night

Unit Price: $700

Installation Cost: $1,300


Unit Price: $765

Installation Cost: $1,535


Unit Price: $850

Installation Cost: $1,500


Unit Price: $850

Installation Cost: $1,460


Unit Price: $900

Installation Cost: $1,585

Keep Rite

Unit Price: $925

Installation Cost: $1,620


Unit Price: $1,280

Installation Cost: $1,645


Unit Price: $1,235

Installation Cost: $1,900


Unit Price: $1,100

Installation Cost: $1,600

Replacing Air Handlers

When replacing your air handlers, consider replacing the outdoor unit, too. Your indoor unit needs to match the outdoor unit.

However, if you do not want to replace the outdoor unit, that’s fine as well. Just make sure the AC handler is compatible with your outdoor unit.

Keep in mind that a matched system will perform better than an unmatched system.

Over time, technology has changed the HVAC system. Older models are not compatible with newer models.

It will only create bigger problems. Replacing indoor and outdoor units may be a bit costly at first, but will save you money in the long-term.

Tips to Get the Best Deals

As a general rule of thumb, do not settle for something very cheap. It won’t save you from unnecessary repairs and maintenance.

What’s worse is that it will lead to higher energy bills with the least cooling or heating efficiency.

Also, do not let inexpensive contractors handle your installation process, as most of them do not size the unit correctly.

When your air handler is not installed correctly, it will immediately hurt your pocket.

The major problem with poorly installed units is multiple mechanical failures.

The best way to get the best deals is to stretch your budget – get the best brands and a reputable contractor.


When you purchase a 3-ton air handler or any air handler, always consider the cost of installation.

Installation is the key to having the best experience with your air conditioner. If you “cheap” your way through installation, you will only be placing your bank account in danger.

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