I am getting ready to hang drywall in my basement but before I do that, I need to run wire from the main panel upstairs to the future location of the central AC furnace through the basement ceiling joists. I do not know yet who will be installing my AC but I will probably outsource it. At this point I just need to know what the electrical requirements for AC are so that I can bring the cable and hang the drywall. The house has three bedrooms and two living rooms, 1800 sq ft, two floors.

What amperage/AWG am I looking at? The wire distance from the panel to the furnace is only about 20' +/- and then I plan to sit the condenser on the roof (it is a low pitched mod bit roof so I can do this, many of my neighbors with similar homes do) directly above the furnace, two floors above (so another 16-20' total). It also may be worth mentioning that I plan to use this for just AC and not heat -- I have already a radiator system in place and I love radiant heat.

  • What would the length of this wire be? It's important to know for the calculation.
    – longneck
    Nov 11 '13 at 16:29
  • Company installed spilt unit on inside wall and the condensor outside atop a wall the man that installed unit requires a 30 amp line 208 1ph lime
    – user56654
    Jul 21 '16 at 1:27
  • You need no extra wire to the furnace. The power will be needed outside at the compressor. Aug 31 '19 at 15:36

It's going to completely depend on the unit that's being installed, but commonly it'll be 30-60 amp with 10-4 AWG wire. You're probably looking at a 3.5 ton unit, so you'll be in the 30-40A (10-8 AWG) range. It might be worth it to get a few quotes from local HVAC companies, and see what they want to install. The companies may have a preferred breaker and wire size, so they may want to redo any work you do anyway.

Don't forget you'll also need high and low pressure tubing, and control wires between the indoor and the outdoor units.

  • 5
    An alternative to installing wiring now would be to install conduit instead.
    – longneck
    Nov 11 '13 at 16:41
  • no, @longneck, it needs to go through ceiling joist holes
    – amphibient
    Nov 11 '13 at 16:52
  • do the condenser and air handler run on the same or separate circuits?
    – amphibient
    Nov 11 '13 at 19:20
  • @amphibient Usually the furnace is on a 120V circuit, and the condensing unit is on a separate 240V circuit.
    – Tester101
    Nov 11 '13 at 22:12
  • but do you run just a single cable (10-4?) hooked into two circuits from the panel to the air handler inside and then another cable from the air handler to the condenser?
    – amphibient
    Nov 11 '13 at 22:15

Most likely you need 8-3 with ground thnn or thwn with 50 amp disconnect mounted within several feet from unit with a 50 amp circuit breaker in the main distribution panel. This is good for 50 amp rated unit. Use 10 awg for 30 amp unit or 6 awg for 60 amp unit. These rating are adequate for runs of up to appx 60 ft

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to contribute here. Aug 31 '19 at 16:16

You should either sort out what the AC is going to be, so you can get specific power supply and cabling needs sorted out now, or line up your joist holes nicely and follow the excellent suggestion from @longneck to run conduit, leaving the wiring for later. Use flexible conduit, if needed to get it in place. Run at least two - there may well be low voltage control circuits that need to be run separated from the power supply. Alternatively, leave a section of the drywall open for now, allowing for both cabling and refrigeration tubing to be run before you close it up.


First the wire size depends on the size and requirements of the unit itself. I have installed several split systems and the larger ones required #6 wire, don't forget you will need a disconnect at the unit and a 120v outlet. I use a combination 240v disconnect and. 120v GFCI outlet that is weather and tamper resistant similar to Eaton dpf222rgf20wtst this is good for up to 60 amps but most split systems don't require a disconnect this large. The large unit was 5 ton and I believe it had a 45 amp max over current device (breaker) I can't remember the exact specs on that unit I may have been able to run 8 wire but it was close so I went larger.


The ac should be installed prior to any finish work from what is being said here. A 240 line is needed for the condenser directly to breaker panel with a disconnect at outside unit. Breaker size depends on what is installed and length of wire.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; I've removed the discussion that didn't answer the question. Apr 26 '20 at 2:15

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