Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient way to both heat and cool your home and have become increasingly popular with many homeowners across the country. They’re much more efficient than regular electric heaters and air conditioners, saving homeowners hundreds of dollars a year. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), heat pump systems can produce 1.5 to 3 times more energy than the electrical energy consumed during operation.
Each type of heat pump has different associated costs for the unit and installation, but the This Old House Reviews Team has done in-depth research to show you what to expect for each one.
Types of Heat Pumps
There are a handful of different types of heat pumps to choose from, each offering different benefits and drawbacks at various price points. To each out to a professional for a consultation to help you decide, enter your ZIP code below and connect with a local HVAC contractor near you:
Air-source heat pumps trap air from outside in refrigerants and compress it, sending hot air through the centralized ducts in your home, warming each room. Even in cold climates, the heat pump can extract energy from the ambient air outside your home and turn it into useful heat for the interior. Typically, air-source heat pumps can last up to 20 years without much maintenance and can save homeowners substantial money on energy bills.
Air-source heat pumps are generally affordable compared with other systems, so long as ductwork is already installed in the house. Switching from typical resistance heating to an air-source heat pump can open up opportunities for long-term savings. On average, unit and installation costs come to around $3,500 to $7,500.
Geothermal heat pumps heat and cool buildings using the constant temperature of the earth by collecting and storing it in an underground loop of pipes called a heat exchanger. These temperatures are sent to the indoor unit, which treats the air and sends it out through the ducts of the house. These ground-source heat pumps are ideal for those looking to save money on their yearly energy bills since the system works with minimal energy consumption.
Although extremely efficient in the long-term, geothermal heat pumps have high startup costs because of the extensive work required for installation. Since it uses heat from the ground, the pipes must be laid in dug-out trenches at least 4 feet down. The labor for this installation can be costly and varies depending on how deep the pipes must be installed. On average, you can expect to pay $13,000 to $36,000 total for the unit and installation.
Ductwork in HVAC systems can account for 30% loss of energy during operation, especially if the ducts are in unconditioned areas in the home such as the attic. Ductless mini-split heat pumps help mitigate that energy loss by using a small indoor unit in each zone connected to the outdoor unit. They’re ideal for homes with lower square footage and fewer conditioning zones and can be an efficient option for homes that don’t already have ductwork installed.
This is one of the cheapest options, since installation is fairly simple and the cost of labor is lower than other heat pumps. We recommend this option to anyone looking for a quick, cheap heat pump in their smaller home. We estimate these heat pumps cost somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000.
Gas-Fired Heat Pump
Heating and cooling systems powered by gas can be less efficient than other heat pump types since they require access to natural gas, leading to expensive yearly energy costs. However, gas-fired heat pumps can be a great choice for commercial businesses and larger buildings, since the 5-ton systems can support large rooms and buildings with multiple different temperature zones. In fact, they’re becoming more common in residential homes that are larger than 4,000 square feet.
The overall total average for a standard unit and installation together is around $4,500 to $8,000.
Average Heat Pump Costs by Type
|Type||Unit Cost||Installation Cost|
|Type||Unit Cost||Installation Cost|
|Gas-Fired Heat Pump||$3,000–$6,000||$1,300–$2,000|
Costs of Heat Pumps Explained
Here are a few factors to consider when reviewing pricing of heat pump units:
- Size: Generally, heat pump capacity is measured in tons, and the typical units on the market fall between 2 and 5 tons. Finding the right size for your home is important — purchasing one that’s too small may require it to run constantly, raising your energy bill and wearing out the system. On the other hand, higher tons can come at pricier up-front costs.
- Brand: Many brands offer a range of units at different prices — from cheaper, lower-quality to expensive, high-quality systems. Shop around on the market and read reviews for each brand to ensure the best choice, rather than choosing solely on price.
- Installation: Hiring an HVAC contractor to assist with your heat pump installation is likely necessary. Labor costs can vary depending on the heat pump type. For example, geothermal units require more work to install because they need to be buried under at least 4 feet of ground. But ductless mini-split heat pumps can cost as little as $500 for a quick and easy installation.
- Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): This is an efficiency rating metric that each manufacturer discloses to help homeowners choose the most efficient and sustainable HVAC solutions. The SEER number shows how efficiently a heat pump cools a home. Typical SEER ratings on the market fall between 14 and 24, with the higher number being the most efficient.
- Heating Seasonal Performance Ratio (HSPF): Similar to SEER, this rating is a metric used to measure the efficiency of a heat pump, but specifically for how it heats a home. Typical HSPF ratings on the market fall between 8.2 and 13, with the higher number being the most efficient.
Heat Pump Repairs
Contacting a professional to help with repairs on your heat pump is typically necessary to bring a broken unit back to working order. If you have a home warranty, you can check your contract to see if HVAC breakdowns and duct systems are covered. Then you’ll need only pay your service fee to have a technician out for the repair.
You can also reach out to local HVAC contractors such as Michael & Son for a quick consultation to determine the best solution. The company is available in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
There’s a range of repairs that may be necessary when maintaining a heat pump of each type. Based on our research, here are average costs associated with typical heat pump repairs:
|Compressor and condenser||$1,500–$4,500|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a heat pump?
A heat pump is an efficient way of heating and cooling a home using heat from outside sources. Each type of heat pump may use a different source such as ambient outside air, cooler temperatures in the ground, water, or gas absorption. Through a reversing valve, they’re able to produce both cool and warm air to make the home a comfortable temperature, acting as both a heating and an air conditioning system. Heat pumps use less external energy than typical forced-air or electric resistance systems.
Do you save money with a heat pump?
Heat pumps can save homeowners money on energy costs, since they use a sustainable process of extracting usable heat from ambient air or other outside sources for both heating and cooling. When compared with conventional HVAC systems, the long-term savings are considerable. In fact, according to the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership, savings average around $600 compared with electric resistance heating systems.
What’s an alternative to a heat pump?
If you live in an area with especially cold winters where temperatures consistently fall considerably below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), you may look for alternatives to heat pumps, such as gas furnace units or electric resistance heaters. However, geothermal heat pumps may still be a good solution, since the temperatures in the ground remain at useful levels during extreme cold.
What types of heat pumps are most efficient?
Not only are geothermal heat pumps the most eco-friendly options on the market, they also offer the most economical and efficient option when it comes to energy bills. However, the up-front cost of these can be extremely high due to the complicated and time-consuming installation. Air-source heat pumps are the most common and can still save you hundreds of dollars each year in efficiency and reduced energy usage compared with traditional HVAC systems.
What is the cheapest heat pump?
Based on our research, ductless mini-split heat pumps are the cheapest option for both unit cost and installation. Since they don’t require ductwork, they’re easy to install with a quick setup. However, since the airflow is not centralized, you may be required to set up multiple units in different zones of your home to be sure each room remains at a comfortable temperature.
These would be an ideal purchase for those with smaller homes. If you have a larger house with multiple rooms, you may need to consider central air units that utilize the existing ductwork.
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