How Much Does an AC Compressor Cost in South Carolina?

June 5, 2024
An AC Compressor on a Workbench

AC compressors are a crucial part of your HVAC system since they circulate refrigerant and maintain your system’s cooling cycle. When the compressor fails, you’ll start to notice your home’s temperature rise, especially during South Carolina’s hot and humid summers. 

As one of the top-rated HVAC companies in South Carolina, we’re in a great position to help you understand the cost of this component and the associated maintenance. Several factors influence the cost of an AC compressor, including the type of compressor, the size of the AC unit, the brand, and labor costs specific to South Carolina.

AC Compressor Cost: The Short Answer

Replacing an AC compressor typically costs $1,500 to $4,000 in South Carolina. This variation depends on factors such as the type and size of the compressor, the brand, and labor costs in different areas of the state.

Detailed Cost Breakdown

Cost by Type of Compressor

AC compressors come in various types, each with a cost range and efficiency level. The main types of compressors are single-stage, two-stage, and variable-speed compressors.

  • Single-Stage Compressors: These compressors operate until the desired temperature is reached. They are the least expensive but also the least efficient, costing around $1,500.
  • Two-Stage Compressors: These have two operating speeds, providing better energy efficiency and more consistent cooling. They are more expensive than single-stage compressors, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.
  • Variable-Speed Compressors: These compressors adjust their speed precisely to match the cooling needs, offering the highest efficiency and even temperatures. They are the most expensive, costing between $2,000 and $4,000. 


If you want to learn more about how your AC system works, make sure to check out our blog on this topic.

Cost by Size of the Unit

The size of the AC unit significantly impacts the cost of the compressor. AC units are measured in tons and British Thermal Units (BTUs), with larger units requiring more powerful and expensive compressors.

  • 1.5-ton unit (18,000 BTU): $800 to $1,400
  • 2-ton unit (24,000 BTU): $900 to $1,500
  • 2.5-ton unit (30,000 BTU): $1,000 to $1,700
  • 3-ton unit (36,000 BTU): $1,200 to $2,000
  • 3.5-ton unit (42,000 BTU): $1,300 to $2,200
  • 4-ton unit (48,000 BTU): $1,500 to $2,500
  • 5-ton unit (60,000 BTU): $1,800 to $3,000

These prices reflect the cost of the compressor itself and do not include labor or additional parts required for installation.

Labor Costs

Labor costs for AC compressor replacement can vary widely depending on the region and the complexity of the installation. In South Carolina, labor rates typically range from $75 to $150 per hour. The total labor cost for replacing an AC compressor usually falls between $400 and $1,200. Factors that can influence labor costs include:

  • Complexity of Installation: More complex installations that require additional repairs or modifications can increase labor costs.
  • Accessibility of the Unit: If the AC unit is in a difficult-to-reach location, such as an attic or a tight outdoor space, labor costs may be higher due to the increased time and effort required.
  • Additional Repairs: If other HVAC system components need to be repaired or replaced along with the compressor, labor costs will rise accordingly​.

Additional Costs to Consider

Refrigerant Costs

The type of refrigerant used in the system can impact the total price as well. Common refrigerants include R22 (Freon) and R410a (Puron).

  • R22 (Freon): This refrigerant is being phased out due to its environmental impact. As a result, it is becoming more expensive and more complicated to find.
  • R410a (Puron): This is the more environmentally friendly alternative widely used in newer systems. The cost for R410a is generally lower, ranging from $500 to $1,000 for a recharge​​.

In some cases, if the refrigerant level is low due to a leak, additional repair costs for leak detection and repair might be necessary. Depending on the severity and location of the leak​ , these costs can range from $200 to $1,500​.

Other Repair Costs

Other potential repair costs should also be considered when replacing an AC compressor. These include:

  • Start Capacitors: The cost to replace a start capacitor ranges from $100 to $350. 
    • This component is essential for starting the compressor and is often replaced during compressor installation​​.
  • Contactors: Replacing a contactor can cost between $100 to $350. 
    • The contactor controls the flow of electricity to the compressor and other components of the HVAC system​.
  • Filter-Driers: The filter-drier removes moisture and contaminants from the refrigerant. Replacement costs range from $650 to $900​.
  • Troubleshooting and Diagnostic Fees: Service calls for diagnosing issues with the HVAC system typically range from $75 to $200. Many companies will apply this fee towards the total repair cost if hired to complete the work​.

Cost-Saving Tips

Consider Generic Parts

Using generic or compatible parts instead of brand-specific components can significantly reduce costs. While high-end brands like Carrier or Lennox might offer the best quality, generic parts often provide similar performance at a lower price. However, ensuring these parts are compatible with the existing system is essential to avoid performance issues​​. This is why hiring an HVAC technician specializing in this type of work is generally recommended.

Check for Warranties

If the AC unit is still under warranty, the cost of the compressor might be covered. Most manufacturers offer warranties that last between 5 and 10 years. It’s essential to check the terms of the warranty, as labor costs might not be included, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in parts costs​.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance can extend the lifespan of an AC compressor, delaying the need for a costly replacement. You should schedule annual maintenance checks to ensure their system is running efficiently. This can include cleaning the unit, checking refrigerant levels, and inspecting electrical components.


How long does an AC compressor last?

An AC compressor typically lasts 10 to 15 years, depending on the quality of the unit, the level of maintenance it receives, and the operating conditions. Regular maintenance can help extend the compressor’s lifespan by ensuring that it operates efficiently and preventing minor issues from escalating into major problems​.

Is it worth repairing an old compressor?

Repairing an old compressor can sometimes be a cost-effective solution, especially if the issue is minor and the unit is relatively new. However, if the compressor is more than ten years old or has frequent problems, replacing it with a new, more efficient model may be more economical​.

Can I replace my AC compressor myself?

Replacing an AC compressor is a complex task requiring specialized tools and HVAC system knowledge. Homeowners are not recommended to attempt this replacement themselves, as improper installation can lead to system damage, void warranties, and pose safety risks​.


Carney & Son Air Conditioning and Heating

Carney & Son, 72 Degrees

We are a family Owned & Operated HVAC Services in Charleston, SC, proudly serving the Charleston community for 39 years.

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