Cost of a Heat Pump
It’s true that HVAC systems typically last for many years. Eventually, for most homeowners, the day will arrive when it’s time to start researching about prices for heat pumps and labor costs to install them. And when that time comes, there are typically a number of new technologies and overall quality and performance improvements available. Some of those newer technologies, naturally, can affect pricing, especially with higher end systems that have changed the way HVAC dealers in northern climates approach selling heat pump systems.
We do not list prices on this website due to the wide variety of factors that influence how much heat pumps cost. Typically, the exact cost of a heat pump installation or replacement is determined by the local HVAC dealer. The final price fluctuates based on a number of factors, including the local market, condition of the home and area climate. It also depends upon the type of system. Carrier® heat pumps, for example, offer a variety of energy efficiency ratings such as SEER* and HSPF**, various types of comfort-enhancing technologies and even sound ratings. Installed costs might range from anywhere between $3,000 to $15,000 or more.
That’s quite a range! The good news is there are a number of ways to make heat pump installation costs more manageable. These include promotional rebates available during select times of year as well as utility company rebates, financing options through your dealer, lease-to-own options and/or tax credits. To find out more, check out our dedicated rebate and HVAC financing web pages.
Factors that Influence Heat Pump Prices
Due to the wide range of factors involved, determining the average cost to replace a heat pump is best done by contacting a reputable HVAC contractor in your area. Also, to be clear, commercial HVAC systems are often larger and more expensive than residential heat pump systems. The pricing and determining factors discussed in this article are geared toward residential heating and cooling systems for a typical single-family U.S. home installed using a qualified, professional, heating and cooling dealer. Some of the factors that can influence the cost of a heat pump include
- Size/type of your home
- Type of heat pump system
- The climate in your area/region
- Supplemental/back-up heat source, if needed
- Condition/quality of existing ductwork
Size of Your Home
One factor that influences the cost to replace a heat pump is the size of the home. Depending on the size, a larger home will require higher heating and cooling capacity to move heat effectively and properly cool your home. Heat pump capacity is measured in BTUh (British Thermal Units per hour). This is also referred to as the “size” of the heat pump, and sometimes is represented by “tonnage” (i.e. you might need a 3-ton unit, or maybe a 2.5-ton unit, etc).
- Higher capacity units tend to cost a little more, and the size of the home also affects material costs, especially if new copper refrigerant lines or ductwork need to be installed.
- Higher than normal ceilings can increase the amount of heating and cooling capacity needed – For example 10’ ceilings, vaulted ceilings and rooms with an open 2nd story and/or a loft.
- Larger multi-story homes or single-story homes that are spread out might be better suited for a zoned system with a second heat pump, or the addition of a ductless heat pump. Zoned systems will add both material and labor costs on top of the cost of a second outdoor unit.
Other home-related issues that can affect heat pump installation cost include:
- Quality and amount of insulation, caulk and weather stripping
- Quality and condition of existing ducts
- Number, size, quality and placement of windows
- Color of roof surface
- Orientation of home
- General condition of the home/quality of construction
Many of the above factors can make the installation or replacement more labor-intensive for air conditioner contractors. For example, if the existing ductwork is undersized or in poor repair, your contractor may need to spend extra time sealing or replacing ductwork before completing the installation. And, even a properly sized and installed air conditioner might struggle on hotter days if the home is poorly insulated and sealed.
Additionally, previous energy-saving modifications to the home, such as upgraded insulation, energy-efficient windows and even ENERGY STAR® qualified roofing may also reduce the peak heating and cooling capacity requirements of the system that is required, potentially reducing cost.
Type of Heat Pump
One of the biggest factors determining the price of the job to expect will be what type of system is being installed or replaced.
Air-source heat pumps: Most typical heat pump systems are air-source systems that extract heat from outdoor air to provide heating energy for your home. Dual-fuel versions combine an air-source heat pump with a natural gas furnace and automatically use the heating source better suited for current conditions.
Ground-source (geothermal) heat pumps: One of the most efficient heat pumps available, ground-source heat pumps use buried loop systems to extract useable heat from your home. Ground-source systems, also referred to as geothermal systems, offer extremely high energy efficiency, but include higher up-front cost of installing the underground loop system.
Residential small packaged system: A residential small packaged system combines the indoor and outdoor units of an air-source heat pump into one cabinet.
Assuming you are looking for a typical split system, there are still a number of determining factors for how much a heat pump can cost. Just like buying a car, you can get into a basic economy model that will reliably get your from point A to point B... or you can get a top-of-the-line, luxury model with all the bells and whistles. Are you likely to look for a more basic heat pump unit that meets the minimum energy efficiency SEER ratings for air conditioning and HSPF ratings for heating? Or are you shopping for a unit that offers energy savings in the long run with higher energy efficiencies and technology upgrades that supply better comfort and humidity control with quieter operation?
Naturally, the higher end, higher performing units come with higher price tags. They also tend to be the models that qualify for utility company or U.S. government rebates for more energy efficient operation and reduced electrical usage.
Carrier heat pumps offer a number of energy-saving and comfort-enhancing features to consider when you are getting estimates for a new HVAC system. Features available include:
- Communicating systems that work together to improve both comfort and energy efficiency
- Variable-capacity and modulating systems that deliver precise heating and cooling loads based upon current conditions, and change as needed when conditions change
- Humidity-reducing technology to make you feel comfortable during hot, sticky days at higher indoor temperatures (during cooling operation)
- Sound-reducing features and functions that make your system whisper-quiet, outside and in
Regional climates can also influence how much a heat pump cost.
In warmer climates: You could argue that typical air-source heat pumps are perfect for year-round comfort in warmer climates where heating demands are less rigorous. This is because heating efficiency drops during more extreme cold temperatures. In the summer, a heat pump system will have a longer overall runtime compared to how it would operate in a more moderate climate. Installing a higher efficiency heat pump system in a warmer climate home can help save money on monthly utility bills. However, keep in mind that higher efficiency systems tend to have higher prices for the unit and installation. In some cases, your local utility or the U.S. government may have available rebates for installing heat pumps with high SEER (cooling efficiency) and HSPF (heating efficiency) ratings. Higher efficiency units also tend to come with additional comfort features as well, so if you are more interested in comfort over energy efficiency, this might be the choice for you regardless of climate.
In cooler climates: Heat pumps in cooler climates will have less calls for cooling, and therefore less overall runtime over the duration of the cooling season. And because outdoor temperatures cool off sooner and tend to get more extreme, and the heating season lasts longer, heat pumps aren’t as popular in these areas. However, recent breakthroughs in heating capacity and efficiency (HSPF) have changed the game and made high efficiency heat pump models a practical alternative in some cooler climates.
In moderate climates: Many manufacturers like Carrier offer mid-range units that strike a balance between higher efficiency and higher comfort operation and the bare-bones models. If you live in a more moderate area with periods of high temperatures, but potentially shorter or less intense heating seasons than in the North, these mid-tier offerings might be perfect for you. Mid-tier units might have two-stage operation, higher SEER/HSPF ratings than the more basic models, and some of the comfort-enhancing features found on higher end units. As you would expect, these models price out somewhere in the middle and often represent a great value in cooling comfort.
Presence of Backup Heating
Especially in northern climates, air-source heat pumps typically need some type of auxiliary or backup heating. Traditionally, that would have meant adding electric resistance heating elements to the indoor air handler unit. Electric resistance heating, however, has low energy efficiency, and can result in high electric bills during periods of extremely cold temperatures.
Dual-fuel systems that include gas furnaces as an alternative type of heating source are becoming more popular solutions, especially in northern climates with longer and more intense heating seasons. These systems automatically choose the more efficient heating source based on current outdoor conditions – electric heat pump for milder temperatures, gas furnace for more extreme cold temperatures.
The installation costs for each of these types of systems can vary depending upon the size and number of electric heating elements needed for all-electric systems, or the AFUE (gas efficiency) of the furnace for a dual-fuel system.
State of Existing Ducts
When you contact a reputable HVAC contractor for heat pump prices, they will likely do a complete assessment of your current system and your home. That inspection should include the existing ducts. Older ductwork that has leaks, is clogged, or hasn’t been properly sized for the needs of the system will affect the price of installation. To better assure that your new heat pump delivers the efficiency and comfort you expect, and meets your overall satisfaction, your estimated installation costs will include the time and expense needed to make the necessary ductwork repairs. And, depending upon the severity of the issue(s), the labor and material costs can really add up. Prices for ductwork repair will vary according to the amount and severity of the repair job.
Contact a Carrier HVAC Dealer
When contacting a local HVAC dealer about the cost of a heat pump, be wary of those who are willing to give a quick quote over the phone. Every home and every homeowner is different, so every job will have unique pricing based on the technician’s expertise. Carrier has a nationwide network of highly qualified, independent dealers who can assess your home’s requirements, discuss your comfort preferences and deliver options for heat pump installation costs. To contact a dealer near you, go to the Carrier HVAC Dealer page and click on the dealer locator link.
*SEER = Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, an industry standard measure of energy efficiency during cooling operation for AC units and heat pumps
**HSPF = Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, an industry standard measure of energy efficiency during heating operation for heat pump systems