Air conditioning bid help needed..

We're looking to install air conditioning in our home (~1800 sq feet single story) in southern california.
It has never had AC so all of the duct work will need to be run.
It is an old home and the walls/ceiling are plaster but there is excellent access to all of the ceilings and some walls via the attic which has 20' of headroom.
I am in the process of getting bids and would like some help as to whether what I am being presented with is fair or overpriced. I have no problem with someone trying to make a living, but I'd like to not be taken to the cleaners.
It seems as though ALL bids on this home happen to be high (for any type of service) because of its beach front location.
Bid:
Install 4 ton Carrier 38YRA w/ matching coil/air handler and duct work (consisting of 10 drops plus a return) Install thermostat Carpenter Subcontracter needed to make duct holes in the lathe and plaster ceiling.
$8400 -------- Is this a fair price?
Thank you for your time. :)
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We had a similar situation and didn't want to spend the money to duct everything and buy central air...we have a log house that would be tough to run ductwork in. We purchased a Sanyo ductless air conditioning system that has the compressor situated outside with a blower unit mounted inside. We could have gotten 2 blower units but settled for 1. Then there are pipes running between the two for the coolant. Ours is mounted on our main floor and keeps the entire house cool except for the upstairs bedrooms, but for us it works great! It has remote control, timers, oscillating flap, etc. It's definitely not as nice as a whole house central air system but it's quite a bit less expensive that's for sure...

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I am not an HVAC contractor nor have I seen your house, but I do have an electrical contractors license in California though I no longer live there.
California is a VERY regulated state when it comes to contractors. There are so many laws and codes that one must follow to stay in business. In addition to the normal trade codes, there are seismic codes and sound codes and handicap codes etc. An HVAC contractor usually must have a license from the EPA to handle the Freon (Or whatever they use now). The cost of maintaining an office in California is higher also thanks to the real estate market. Consequently, the overhead that a contractor must carry is higher than in other less regulated states. That overhead cost gets passed onto the consumer.
It does not surprise me that you got a price of $8400.00 to install air conditioning in your home.
The best way to protect yourself from being ripped off is to have a set of plans and specifications made. You can do this yourself or have an engineer do it. Get bids from several contractors who all base their price on the same plans and specs. That way you can compare apples to apples.
If the prices come back too high for your wallet, perhaps you can do some of the work yourself such as the carpentry and let the contractor do the heavy stuff. I would discuss this with your contractor ahead of time to see it that would be acceptable.
I hope that this helps.
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv

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Well, depending onnthe price of the AC itself, 8400 seems like alot, but that is ALOT of labor. that is what your paying for. I have heating ducs in my house. THREE, yes three go to the kitchen, ONE to the living room. And that's it. I was quoted 5200 for removing all the old duct and replacing and addding upstairs ducts. Materials was around 300, labor for the rest.
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Thank you to everyone who posted a response. I really appreciate it.
Best Regards,
hw
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