We are looking at a split-level house with no air conditioning, no ducts. What is the best way to add a/c? What is the least expensive way? And approx cost of each. House is approx 2500 sq ft on 3 levels- at grade, up 4 steps and up 6 steps. //
The most economic and sensible method of adding air conditioning to a split level is to simply install window air conditioners in the family room, master bedroom and one in the lower level. In this manner you can basically control ( 3 ) areas of the home independently and not spend a lot of money. The cost of individual room air conditioners, for this size home, would be less than $300.00 each and are always on sale. If you don’t like the window units, most of these air conditioners can be placed in a wall opening. Of course unless you are handy, these openings would require air conditioning sleeves and should be installed by a professional, which would be another expense of probably $350.00 per opening.
Another great method, but definitely more expensive is the installation of a ductless system which incorporates what is referred to as an evaporator in designated areas of the home, these areas would be determined by a professional HVAC ( Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning ) installer, and would be serviced by a condenser on the exterior of the home. A ductless cooling system is basically a heat pump that uses refrigerant similar to a refrigerator and transfers energy ( heat ) from the interior to cool and from the exterior to heat, depending upon the systems requirements. The cost of this type of system would probably be at least $6.00 to $8.00 per SF for your home, however, prices differ around the country.
I would suggest you make some inquires with local HVAC installers and obtain some pricing. Your home is very typical and each contractor will not hesitate to provide you with prices for installation. If you can live with the window units, that is the way to go.