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Cost of Ducted Air Conditioning – Upfront

Ducted air conditioning is one of the most common types of air conditioning.  It is found in homes and businesses throughout the world due to the many benefits of air conditioning.  Like any heating or cooling system, there are an array of costs involved in installing and maintaining such a system.

The true cost of ducted air conditioning varies significantly based on 6 Key Factors.  These 6 key factors can be divided into 2 main categories: Upfront Costs and Ongoing Costs.

Part One – Upfront Costs:

  1. The ducted air conditioner price.
  2. The addition of zoned AC control.
  3. The air conditioner installation cost.

Firstly, we need to know what ducted air conditioning is and how it works.  We can then move onto understanding upfront costs of a ducted air conditioner.  This is Part One of ducted air conditioning costs, which is the topic of this article.

For ducted air conditioning Brisbane, estimate of supply and install pricing is as follows:

  • Small home or studio:                                     $5,000 – $10,000 + GST
  • Standard 2-3 bedroom home:                                 $6,000 – $12,000 + GST
  • Standard 4 bedroom / small double-storey: $7,000 – $15,000 + GST
  • Standard 5+ bedroom / double-storey home: $8,000 – $18,000 + GST

Considering the number of factors involved and broad price-range, it is recommended to get a free ducted air conditioning quote based on your specific property, personal preferences, and price range/budget.  A ducted air conditioning specialist can save you a lot of time, money, and pain every step of the way.

Part Two – Ongoing Costs:

  1. The cost to run the air conditioner.
  2. The aircon servicing and maintenance.
  3. The price of air conditioning repairs.

It is strongly recommended to consider the cost to run the air conditioner, as well as maintain it, when making such a significant investment.  For this reason, we will go through ongoing costs of a ducted air conditioning system in Part Two of this topic in a separate article. Stay tuned!

Ducted Air Conditioning

There are many frequently asked questions in relation to ducted air conditioning.  This is understandable given the complex nature of a ducted aircon.  There are many moving parts, located inside and outside a building, with connections between both units and rooms being air conditioned.

Male technician installing a ducted air conditioning

What is Ducted Air Conditioning?

Ducted air conditioning refers to a refrigeration system use in conjunction with ductwork to condition the air inside a building.  Furthermore, ducted aircon typically refers to a split ducted air conditioner.

A split ducted air conditioner consists of two units; the outdoor condenser unit and indoor evaporator unit.  The AC condenser (“outdoor”) is designed to sit in a well-ventilated location, usually outdoors, and transfers heat with the external environment.  The AC evaporator unit (“indoor”) is typically concealed in the ceiling or roof space and distributes conditioned air to the indoor environment.

The two units are connected by refrigeration pipework and interconnect cabling.  Indoor rooms or spaces are connected to the indoor unit via ducts.  Supply air outlets in each room allow air to flow out of the ducted system and into the room.

The whole ducted aircon system is controlled by a wall controller or sometimes a remote control.  Wi-Fi control is a common extra available with most modern-day ducted air conditioners.  Furthermore, adding an AC zoning system is highly recommended and becoming commonplace.

How does Ducted Air Conditioning Work?

Ducted air conditioning can be a complete system of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), making it a popular HVAC system.  Air conditioning can be further broken down into temperature and humidity control.

The heating or cooling effect is felt as a result of air moving over refrigerant-filled heat exchanger coils.  An evaporator fan is located within the indoor unit to blow air over the coil and out into the room.  There will also be condenser fan/s in the outdoor unit to blow air through the unit and reject heat into the outside air.

With a ducted air conditioner, heat is transferred directly with the refrigerant within the system, making it a direct expansion (Dx) system.  It is worth noting that ducted Dx air conditioning, referred to in this article, is different to central air conditioning which involves heat transfer via a secondary medium such as water.

Refrigerant in the ducted system undergoes conversion from vapour (gas) form to liquid form as it moves around the refrigerant cycle, converting from high pressure to low pressure as it passes through the expansion valve.  The path the refrigerant takes depends on whether a reverse cycle aircon is heating or cooling.

DX refrigeration cycle

What is Ducted Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning?

Reverse cycle refers to the ability of an air conditioner to heat and cool using the same device, although not at the exact same time.  Ducted reverse cycle air conditioning is most common form of ducted aircon used as a home air conditioner.

Ducted reverse cycle comes standard for all air conditioner brands as the price between cool only and reverse cycle is minimal.  The advantages of ducted reverse cycle air conditioning out-way the relatively small price difference.

Commercial air conditioning may only be required to cool the indoor environment, with heater banks, heater elements, and other heating equipment in place to warm the workplace.  However, there is a trend towards reverse cycle ducted in the workplace as it simplifies the HVAC system; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning can all be performed by the one device.

Upfront Costs

The upfront cost of ducted air conditioning includes, but is not limited to:

  • Ducted air conditioner units themselves, including indoor evaporator/s, outdoor condensing unit/s, and controller/s,
  • Freight of the ducted units to the installer and then transport to site,
  • Ductwork components including flexible duct, supply/return air plenums, t-pieces, joiners, return air grille/filter/s, supply air outlets, etc.,
  • Freight of the ductwork components to the installer and/or transport to site,
  • Ducted connection materials, including pair coil/pipework, interconnect cables, duct tape, insulation materials, etc.,
  • Mounting equipment and materials, including lifters, supports, brackets, straps, slabs, etc.,
  • Ducted AC drain materials, including drip tray, safety tray, main drain, drain run, p-trap (where applicable), insulating materials, etc.,
  • Electrical materials, including circuit breaker, safety switch, junction box, isolator, cables, etc.,
  • Coverings such as electrical conduit, j-box, pipework capping, etc.,
  • Collection and transport of all of these additional materials to site,
  • If chosen; Zoning system, including wall controller/s, module/s, zone motors/actuators/barrels, connections, cabling, sensors (individual room temperature and/or in duct, where applicable), Wi-Fi module and connections (where applicable), etc.,
  • Freight of the zoning gear to the installer and/or transport to site,
  • Install labour, include technician/s, apprentice/s, and electrician where applicable,
  • Hourly pay rate of each employee/team member involved, both technical and admin,
  • Superannuation,
  • Staff days off, including public holidays, sick/careers leave, annual leave, etc.,
  • Business overheads, including licences, insurances, vehicles, tools, phones, upkeep on all equipment, office outgoings and rent/mortgage, training, downtime, administration expenses, advertising, etc.,
  • Clean up materials/equipment, including wet/dry vacuum cleaner, cleaning sprays, wipes, rags, bags, etc., and,
  • Rubbish disposal or collection fees, especially when a ducted aircon is changed over and the ductwork is also replaced.

Industrial workers

As you can see, there is a lot more to a ducted air conditioner price than first meets the eye.  Any new ducted installation or ducted aircon replacement is a relatively large-scale job, like a mini-project, assuming it is thoroughly planned out and executed to the correct standard.

With all this in mind, it pays to use the services of a reputable, experienced ducted installer.  Otherwise, there are many common air conditioning mistakes that can be made that can cost you a great deal of time, money, energy, and sanity in the short term and long run.

Ducted Air Conditioner Price

The first expense to consider is the ducted aircon unit cost itself.  That is, the indoor and outdoor units that make up the system.  Most ducted units also come with a wired wall controller or remote as part of the kit.

Pricing also depends on where you buy the complete AC system from.  Sometimes air conditioning retailers offer discounts or specials.  Some air conditioning manufacturers offer cashback offers at certain times throughout the year, especially winter.

An air conditioning company will typically be able to offer better pricing than in stores.  This is due to wholesale pricing, buying in bulk, lower retail overheads (by using existing warehouse and staff), and often smaller mark ups on AC units.

For the cheapest air conditioner buy price, it is recommended to contact a local AC company directly.  They may have the price of ducted air conditioner units listed online, or they may be able to advise special pricing over the phone or via email.


The first thing that will impact the cost of ducted air conditioning is the size of the system.  This predominantly relates to the KW rating of the system.  The smaller the system, the cheaper the ducted aircon becomes.  However, it’s a fine balance, as an undersized system can end up cost you a lot more in the long run due to excessive run time, overworked units, shortened lifespan, etc.

There is more than just floor square meterage to consider with ducted aircon sizing.  Other factors such as building usage (residential or commercial AC application), heat load, airflow requirements, ceiling heights, building orientation, insulation materials, size/number/treatment of windows, future renovation or fit out plans, etc.

Architecture Composition

The size and number of return air (RA) grille/s and filter/s will also play a small part in the ducted aircon cost.  RA grilles and filters literally filter the circulating air before it returns to the indoor unit.  Some larger ducted units and buildings require a larger and/or more than the one standard grille and filter to allow sufficient air to circulate.


There are many well-known brands in the ducted air conditioner market; Daikin, Mitsubishi (Electric or Heavy Industries), ActronAir, Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Fisher and Paykel (Haier), LG, and Samsung, just to name a few.  There are many other brands of ducted aircon available, of varied quality and price.

The quality of the ducted AC unit makes a big difference to the overall cost of the ducted air conditioning system.  Like just about any piece of equipment, there is a wide range of brands available with a wide range of quality to match.

The cost of the air conditioner generally correlates with quality, as you would expect; the better the quality, the greater the cost.  This is because higher quality ducted air conditioner units are the result of superior parts, careful assembly, being built to last, more research and development, greater quality controls, and greater after-sales support.


Within each AC brand, there can be a range of models to consider to further increase choice when it comes to the matter of ducted aircon cost.  The Daikin ducted air conditioner range is a primary example of this diversity.  For example, when considering Daikin units, you may need to decide between the standard inverter and Daikin premium inverter ducted air conditioners.

Ducted outdoor units come with a wide range of differences, contributing to their overall quality, performance, and cost.  This includes vertical or horizontal discharge, single, dual or quad fans, and single or three phase power.

Daikin Air Conditioner

Indoor units vary to some extent also, including slimline, bulkhead, or standard height, low, medium, or high static pressure, and splitting or non-splitting versions.  Sometime the indoor unit requirement dictates what outdoor unit will be required.  For example, limited ceiling space may limit choices for that given space, and therefore system options in general.


As mentioned, the cost of ducted air conditioning generally correlates with quality, synonymous with a brand.  However, buyer beware.  Before you buy anything, it’s important to speak to reputable ducted air conditioning specialist who has accounts set up with a wide range of air conditioner manufacturers.

This way, the ducted aircon supplier can offer you a range of brands, of different qualities, at an accurately reflective price.  As an example, one small installer may only have accounts with Fujitsu and Carrier, making other brands that may be more suitable, such as Daikin and Haier, more expensive options in comparison for that particular installer.

By finding a comprehensive ducted air conditioning provider, you can choose from a diverse range of ducted air conditioners at the best price possible.  Pricing should be consistent with quality and features, to ensure you only pay more for a ducted aircon if it is warranted.

Ducted Air Conditioning Zoning

AC zoning is an optional extra that impacts the cost of your completed ducted system in many ways.  From upfront pricing, to installation, to operational costs, to ongoing maintenance and repairs, zoned air conditioning can vary the costs involved with ducted aircon dramatically.

House plan for Brisbane air conditioning zone controller – izone system designed and installed

First is pays to understand what AC zoning is and what are the best zoning options available.  Ducted zoning involves dividing up any indoor area on paper, whether it be residential, commercial, or industrial.  More specifically, the areas where individual control is desired.


Similar to the ducted unit itself, the size of the ducted zoning system will impact the price.  Specifically, the number of individual zones chosen.  Most zoning controllers allow up to 8 zones as standard.  However, this can be extended to 14 and even more (up to 27 zones created in one case) with smart zoning systems such as iZone.

There are many components that make up a zoning system.  For each zone, you require:

  • Zone motor/actuator,
  • Zone barrel,
  • Cable/s,
  • Connections,
  • Sensor/s (room and/or in duct, if elected),
  • Sensor cables (if elected),
  • Installation of all parts, and,
  • Programming/set up of all parts.

Therefore, for each additional zone, there is additional material and labour costs involved.


Similar to ducted AC brands, there is a wide range of brand/manufacturer options when it comes to ducted air conditioning zoning.  Some zoning systems are brand-specific, like Daikin and Mitsubishi Electric, while some come from a third party, like Polyaire (AirTouch) or All Air (iZone).

Price is reflective of quality in most cases, although specific features also play a large part in the cost of a zoning system.  It’s worth asking your installer if they have a preferred zoning supplier, or take the time to shop around and secure a number of cost-competitive zoning options for you to consider.  At the end of the day, you want value for money and the optimum combination of factors for you.

Optimum Air Conditioning Price

It is worth taking some time to review the different types of air conditioning zoning available.  Zoning doesn’t come standard with ducted air conditioner units, and it can make a significant impact to ducted aircon costs, AC system functionality, and overall satisfaction with your heating and cooling system.


Like AC brands, every zoning system has its own list of functions and features.  The primary difference between them starts with the degree of control possible for each area.  Zone control starts with basic on/off, works up to control of airflow percentage, then individual temperature control with room sensors, and you can even have individual room controllers.

Then there are a range of features available for the whole zoning system.  This includes Wi-Fi, touch screens, electronic bypass, motion sensors, timers, child lock, smart home control, and integration with complete home automation.

Some of these features come standard with certain ducted zoning system, while some can be added as an extra.  However, they do add to the cost of the zoning system and therefore complete ducted air conditioning system.

It is worth reviewing each feature and consider how it could be used in your home or business.  While some of them are nice to have (e.g. touch screens), some can actually save you money if used correctly (e.g. electronic bypass).

Wi-Fi or Timers are handy features to have to pre-cool your home before the hot summer sun heats it up while you are away from home.  Meanwhile, Sleep Timer or Mode can improve sleep and save you money also.  It can really pay to chat to an air conditioning company nearby about the different options and your particular requirements.


The timing of your zoning system installation affects the cost of your ducted aircon system as a whole.  Zoning tends to cost less when installed at the same time as a new ducted aircon system, compared to separate installation down the track.  This is because men are already in the roof, running ductwork, and can more easily install each zoning component.

A later installation date of the zoning may also limit your options.  Current zoning systems are not all compatible with older models of air conditioner unit.  Alternatively, additional costs may apply for special adaptors or components to make the zoning gear compatible.

While not impossible, if you are considering zoning, it is recommended to do it when the ducted air conditioning system is being installed.  While it is an additional cost upfront, it can save you considerable money and prevent option restriction down the track.

Woman turning air conditioning on

It is also worth noting that having zoning, or any ducted air conditioning components for that matter, installed in the cooler months of the year will typically save you money.  Many AC companies offer off-peak/winter discounts when suppliers have sales, better unit availability, and it is is safer for staff to work in roof spaces.

Air Conditioner Installation Cost

When is comes to ducted air conditioner installation costs, it’s important to note that installation typically includes everything except the actual ducted air conditioner units themselves.  That includes labour, materials, and equipment required for the installation and connection of a ducted aircon.


Installing an air conditioner depends on many different factors such as the type and number of units, space available for all components, the degree of difficulty of the installation, and materials required.

The size of the ducted aircon has many implications for installation cost.  Larger units are physically more difficult to handle and put in place, thus require more labour and/or additional lifting equipment to install.

Larger units are also more expensive due to being mostly three-phase power units (~18kW and above).  Aside from the considerable step up in pricing from single-phase units (~17kW and below), electrical cabling and materials required with three-phase units is more costly.  A three-phase ducted unit installation can also be more labour-intensive to install.  These differences between single and three-phase power impact the cost of ducted air conditioning.


When looking at getting ducted air conditioning installed, there are usually many companies to consider.  It can be difficult to know where to start and evaluate what costs are reasonable.

Firstly, please do not be tempted to DIY or use an unlicenced contractor when it comes to ducted aircon installation.  Ducted aircon is one area where licensing and certification is really worth it, for warranty, insurance, and legal reasons.

Claim Form

By installing a ducted air conditioner incorrectly and/or illegally, you can cause extensive damage to your home, the electrical grid, the air conditioning itself, and worst case yourself and those around you.  Warranty would also be void, related insurance claims can be declined, and you risk losing a life.  It surely isn’t worth the cost savings upfront, given the costs you are risking down the track.

A good ducted install company will look after you and provide good value for money.  They typically negotiate best pricing possible from suppliers in order to help keep costs down.

The best AC companies also calculate and manage their overheads to further ensure the provision of high-quality ducted installs at the best possible price.  At the end of the day, value for money should be more important than bottom-line pricing upfront.  This philosophy can help you save far more in the long run.


The quality of a ducted air conditioner installation can vary significantly, to say the least.  Pricing from different companies and cowboys can vary dramatically because of this.  As mentioned, price is often an indication of quality.  This is with some exceptions, as there are too many companies out there taking advantage of customers and overcharging for their services.

On the flip side, it is important to note that the cheapest installer may not always be the best.  If they don’t have the experience, knowledge, longevity, and ethics of a reputable ducted installer, you can end up with a nasty, frustrating, and expensive experience, upfront and ongoing.

The materials available for use with a ducted aircon install also vary in quality and price.  A good ducted installer will use higher quality, suitable materials.  This helps prevent air, water, and gas leaks as well as premature material degradation, while improving energy efficiency and allowing the system to operate as designed.

A good quality installation typically saves you far more than the cost difference between a cheap and nasty vs reputable and professional air conditioning installer.  This includes not only money, but also peace of mind and AC lifespan.  There are many mistakes made when installing air conditioning, and many of them come down to the quality of the service and materials provided.


Before considering ducted conditioning, you will need to ensure there is suitable roof space to house the ductwork.  If you are replacing an existing ducted aircon, then this shouldn’t be an issue as ductwork is already in place and can be reused or replaced.

One of the next things to consider when installing ducted air conditioning is the location of both the indoor and outdoor units.  One of the many common air conditioning installation mistakes is incorrect unit locations.  This can be due to access issues but also additional costs involved with installing the units correctly, whether it be due to additional labour and/or materials required.

For the indoor unit, it is cheaper to install it in the most convenient location for the installers.  This may be not far in from the return air grille where the unit entered the roof, along way away from the manhole, hard up against the roof, and/or close to a structural beam preventing ease of future access to the internals of the unit.  It is worth paying a few hundred dollars more now to save potentially thousands in ceiling repairs down the track if cutting the ceiling becomes the only way to access the indoor unit.

Similarly with the outdoor unit, it may cost a bit more initially to get it installed in the most suitable location for system longevity but is usually worth the additional cost.

Air conditioning technician installing air conditioner

The outdoor condensing unit is the more costly of the 2 units (indoor vs outdoor), as it is the powerhouse of the whole ducted system.  The easier and more efficiently it can work, the more efficient the whole system is and the more money you save in the long run.  When discussing outdoor unit placement, it’s recommended to negotiate a cool, shaded location if possible and practical.

Ducted air conditioning system costs present significant upfront costs.  It is a real investment in the indoor temperature and climate control of your home or business.  We hope this article has been of use in understanding ducted aircon costs, what to expect, and what to look out for.

However, once your new ducted air conditioner is installed, that’s only half of the story.  Then comes the running, servicing, and repairing of the system, until it reaches end of life and requires replacement.  Stay tuned for Part Two on the topic of ducted AC costs to learn all about the ongoing costs of ducted air conditioning.