Many homes have two separate units to heat and cool the living space, but heat pumps are an alternative that do both in one. 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 pumps can produce 1.5 to 3 times more energy than they use to run.
Each type of heat pump has different costs for the unit and installation. We’ve researched each type available and their average prices to help you determine which is right for your home.
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is an efficient way to heat and cool your home using heat from outside sources. It’s installed outside your home like a central air conditioning (AC) unit. Each type of heat pump uses a different source, such as gas, water, outside air, or cool temperatures absorbed from the ground. They all use a reversing valve to produce cool and warm air, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature in every season.
Heat pumps use less external energy than typical forced-air or electric resistance systems. We recommend heat pumps for homeowners whose home’s average temperature doesn’t typically drop below freezing. However, homeowners can combine their heat pump with a furnace in colder regions for more energy-efficient heating. This is called a dual-fuel system.
Types of Heat Pumps
Now that you know how heat pumps work, you can review the various types available. Each has different benefits and drawbacks and comes at a different price point. We go over in these in detail below, but a professional can best help you assess which type is right for your home. Enter your ZIP code below to connect with local HVAC contractors and schedule a consultation.
Air-source heat pumps cost an average of $3,500–$7,500 for both the unit and professional installation. These heat pumps trap air from outside in refrigerants and compress it, sending hot air through the centralized ducts in your home and warming each room. Even in cold climates, the heat pump can extract energy from the air outside your home and turn it into useful heat for the interior. 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 to other systems, so long as ductwork is already installed in your house. Switching from typical resistance heating to an air-source heat pump can generate long-term savings.
Geothermal heat pumps cost an average of $13,000–$36,000 for both the unit and installation. Though extremely efficient in the long-term, they have high startup costs because of the extensive work required for installation.
Geothermal heat pumps heat and cool buildings by collecting and storing the ground’s constant temperature 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. 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.
Because the unit 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.
Ductless mini-splits are one of the cheapest options, since installation is fairly simple and the cost of labor is lower than other heat pumps. They cost an average of $1,500–$5,000.
Ductwork in HVAC systems can account for 30% of energy loss during operation, especially if the ducts are in unconditioned areas 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.
We recommend ductless mini-splits to anyone looking for a quick, cheap heat pump in their smaller home.
The total average for a standard gas-fired heat pump and installation is around $4,500–$8,000. 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.
Costs of Heat Pumps Explained
Here are a few factors to consider when reviewing pricing of heat pump units:
- Size: Heat pump capacity is usually measured in tons. Typical units are 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. However, higher-ton units cost more up-front.
- Installation: Hiring an HVAC contractor to assist with your heat pump installation is necessary in most cases. 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 systems. The SEER number shows how efficiently a heat pump cools a home. Typical SEER ratings fall between 14 and 24, with the higher number being the most efficient.
- Heating Seasonal Performance Ratio (HSPF): Similar to SEER, this rating measures a heat pump’s efficiency, but specifically for how it heats a home. Typical HSPF ratings are between 8.2 and 13, with the higher number being the most efficient.
Additional Costs and Considerations
In addition to a heat pump’s type, size, and energy efficiency rating, you should consider some additional factors before making a decision. We’ve compiled these considerations below to help you budget for the project’s total cost.
The cost of heat pump installation can significantly increase if your home doesn’t currently have ductwork. Air duct installation costs $250–$12,000, depending on your home’s size. You may also have to pay for air duct cleaning if your ductwork hasn’t received maintenance in a long time. However, if your home is smaller, you can avoid extra fees for ductwork by installing a ductless mini-split.
Location and Climate
Your local climate determines the heat pump’s needed power output and size. You can use a smaller, less powerful unit in warmer climates, such as the southern United States. Moderate climates still benefit from a heat pump, but you’ll require a larger, more powerful unit for spring. If you live in a cold climate, we recommend seeking out other heating methods for your home, such as an electric furnace.
Most local municipalities require a permit for heat pump installation. You’ll need a building permit at minimum, but additional permits may be required if you have to excavate land or go near established pipelines for installation. Permit requirements and fees vary by state and city, but you’ll most likely pay somewhere around $100 for the building permit.
We recommend checking with your local government or asking your HVAC contractor about the required permits before beginning any work.
Heat Pump Removal
If you already own a heat pump and are installing a new one, you’ll have to pay to remove the old unit. This can cost $200–$400 per hour. These additional fees should be included in your original estimate, so we advise you to ask the HVAC technician what portion of the quote goes toward removal. This will help you more accurately compare the quotes you receive for heat pump installation.
Heat Pump Cost by Brand
Most AC brands offer a range of units at different prices, from cheaper, lower-quality options to expensive, high-quality systems. A typical air-source heat pump costs $3,500–$7,500 to install, but a more well-known, high-end brand may charge closer to $7,000–$11,000. Make sure to check the brand’s warranties before trying to save money with a cheaper option. Shop around and read reviews rather than solely choosing based on price.
Average Heat Pump Cost by Brand
Below is a breakdown of some popular heat pump brands’ average costs.
Heat Pump vs. Furnace
Though both heat pumps and furnaces heat your home, they’re different types of heating systems. There are many different types of furnaces, including electric, natural gas, propane, and oil. Furnaces use one of these power sources to ignite burners inside the furnace cabinet. That burner then heats up a heat exchanger, warming the air distributed through your home. Any home can use a furnace, but your home’s layout, size, and local climate determine which type of furnace is best.
Furnace installation costs an average of $1,700–$9,700, making it cheaper than heat pump installation. We recommend reading our guide to the best furnace brands if a furnace matches what you’re looking for.
Heat pumps are an all-in-one HVAC unit, not only heating your home but also acting as an air conditioner, dehumidifier, and air filter. This makes heat pump installation more expensive than a traditional furnace, starting at $3,500. However, you’re paying for the total cost of HVAC installation rather than only one part of the system. If you install a furnace, you’ll also need to pay to install an AC.We recommend comparing heat pumps and AC units before deciding which type of system fulfills your needs. Read our complete guide to HVAC for more information.
Benefits of Installing a Heat Pump
Though they cost more than furnaces, heat pumps provide many benefits. We’ve listed the most significant perks below.
You can reduce the cost of your heat pump installation with tax credits. Energy Star supplies a 30% (or $2,000 maximum) tax credit for air-source heat pumps. We suggest researching all of Energy Star’s tax credits to learn other ways to save.
Heat pumps are also more efficient than other heating and cooling systems. This results in more savings on your energy bills long-term.
Because a heat pump handles all aspects of a traditional HVAC system, you can save space by installing one. Many homeowners are able to avoid having a furnace take up space in their basement, opening the possibility of a finished basement.
Return on Investment
The Department of Energy reports that homeowners can save $1,000 per year by switching to an air-source heat pump. At the very least, you’ll receive a 10% return on investment (ROI) each year. This means that heat pumps can eventually pay for themselves, depending on your typical energy consumption.
Heat pumps are considered a safer HVAC system because they don’t rely on combustion. Oil and gas furnaces pose a greater risk due to lack of maintenance, and heat pumps reduce your overall carbon emissions compared to other heating options. Additionally, they require less maintenance than combustion heating systems, meaning there’s less room for error when working on them and fewer ongoing air conditioner repair costs.
Heat Pump Repairs
Contacting a professional to complete repairs is typically necessary if your heat pump experiences an issue. If you have a home warranty, you can check your contract to see if HVAC breakdowns and duct systems are covered. Then, you’ll only need to 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.
Here are the most common heat pumps repairs and their average costs:
Heat pumps are expensive up-front, but their performance and long-term energy savings make them a worthwhile investment. As long as you practice proper heating and cooling maintenance, a heat pump can keep your home comfortable for up to 15 years.
We recommend hiring a professional HVAC contractor for installation, as it’s a complicated and potentially dangerous process to attempt yourself. Use our tool below to connect with reputable HVAC technicians in your area.
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