How much does it cost to install an air source heat pump?
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Air Source Heat Pump Installation Cost Guide
Updated: Jan 01, 1970
If you are looking for a quiet, energy-efficient way to heat and cool your home, an air source heat pump may be the right fit. Air source heat pumps do not use fuel to heat the air. Instead, they move heated air through a compressor, either into or out of your home. They come in a wide range of sizes and types, as well as installation options, meaning they can be used in many homes.
This results in a wide range of costs, with a national average range of $5,000 to $20,000 for installing an air source heat pump. The average homeowner spends around $10,539 on a 3-ton split system unit designed to heat and cool a 2,000sq.ft. home in a moderately cold climate.
Air Source Heat Pump Cost
|Air Source Heat Pump Installation Cost|
|National average cost||$10,539|
How Does an Air Source Heat Pump Work?
Air source heat pumps work by moving the heat from the air outside into your home during cold weather and from your home outdoors in hot weather. They consist of a compressor and coils of copper tubing - one coil outside and another inside in most systems - along with aluminum fins. The tubes are filled with refrigerant that extracts the heat from the air and runs it through the compressor, which condenses the heat. This is passed through an air exchanger, which circulates the warmed air through your home.
Air Source Heat Pump Cost by Type
Depending on your home size, configuration, and whether you already have ductwork installed, you may opt for one of three systems.
|Heat Pump Type||Average Cost|
|Ductless||$900 - $5,000|
|Short run ducted||$2,000 - $8,000|
|Ducted/Central||$2,000 - $8,000|
Ductless/mini-split Heat Pump
Ductless air source heat pumps are sometimes referred to as mini-splits. They are meant to cool a single room per unit, so if you want to cool several rooms, install one compressor with several indoor air handlers. They are usually less expensive per unit because they are smaller. But their costs add up if you use them to cool the entire house because each unit is purchased and installed separately. They are good for additions, small homes, and homes in moderate climates that do not have ductwork installed. Each unit costs approximately $900 to $5,000.
Short Run Ducted Heat Pump
A short run ducted unit is just that - a single unit that runs along a short run of ducts. They often tie into other ducts and can be a good way to heat and cool an addition. The unit itself is usually the same type used in a standard ducted installation, but the installation differs. Expect additional installation costs to run the extra ducts. The units cost between $2,000 and $8,000 each.
Ducted/central Heat Pump
Ducted or central air source heat pumps are designed to heat the entire home from one unit. They can be packaged or split and run off of existing ducts. If you already have ducts installed, this can be the most cost-effective way to heat and cool your home. If you do not have ducts installed, you need to add them, increasing the project cost. Each unit costs between $2,000 and $8,000 on average.
Air-to-water vs Air-to-air Heat Pumps
If you have hydronic heating in your home, you can use an air source heat pump in an air-to-water configuration to heat your home. The system can heat water to 130 degrees F, circulating it through pipes to in-floor radiant heating or hydronic radiators. In cold climates, this can be a more effective and comfortable way of heating your home. Air-to-water heat heat pumps are less common than air-to-air because they do not cool your home. They only heat the water, while air-to-air heat pumps also effectively cool your home.
The cost of the heat pump unit is roughly the same, but installation for air-to-water can be slightly more expensive because you need to tie in the water circulation, rather than an air handler.
Single vs Multi-zone Air Source Heat Pumps
Heat pumps heat your home in different ways, depending on the pump style and your home configuration. If you have a central system, you will most likely have a single-zone air source heat pump, unless you want to break your home into two zones by adding dampers, a zone control board, and a second thermostat to your current setup. Doing so increases your costs by $3,000 to $5,000.
For ductless systems, you can use a single-zone heat pump to heat a single area or a multi-zone system, which requires air handlers in each room you want heated. This is the most expensive option because each air handler costs around $2,000 to $3,000. So, the costs add up quickly the more zones you add to your home. However, this is often less expensive than installing new ductwork, while allowing you to heat and cool your entire home.
Split vs Packaged Air Source Heat Pump
Air source heat pumps come in two varieties - split or packaged. Split systems are the most common. They consist of two sections, an outdoor compressor and an indoor air handler. Because part of the system is indoors, these systems generally have lower overall maintenance costs. However, you must have space to install the indoor section, such as an attic, basement, utility closet, or another designated area.
If you do not have room for the indoor section, it is possible to use a packaged system, which means that the compressor and air handler are in one unit, which sits entirely outside. Because the entire unit is outdoors, these systems often have higher maintenance and may not last as long as split systems. They have comparable total costs because outdoor systems need special pads to sit on, which makes up for the higher split system installation cost.
Air Source Heat Pump Size
Heat pump size is only one consideration that you need to make when selecting your air source heat pump. Heat pumps are sized from 1.5 to 5 tons, with each ton measuring roughly 12,000 BTUs. For heat pumps in very hot or very cold climates, it is recommended that the pump is sized properly and that it is also high-efficiency to handle the heavier demands.
To determine the size of the heat pump you need, find your climate zone on this U.S. Climate Zone map.
Then multiply the square footage of your home by the recommended number of BTUs per square foot for your zone and round to the nearest 12,000 BTUs or ton.
|Climate Zone||BTUs per Square Foot|
|1 & 2||22 - 30 BTUs per sq.ft.|
|3||20 - 24 BTUs per sq.ft.|
|4 & 5||16 - 22 BTUs per sq.ft.|
|6||20 - 24 BTUs per sq.ft.|
|7||22 - 30 BTUs per sq.ft.|
To heat and cool a 2,000 sq.ft. home in each zone, you need the following sized heat pumps:
|1 & 2||4 - 5 tons|
|3||3.5 - 4 tons|
|4 & 5||2.5 - 3.5 tons|
|6||3.5 - 4 tons|
|7||4 - 5 tons|
Several things influence the size of the heat pump needed, such as how energy-efficient your home is and how much insulation you have. In addition, if you live in zones 1, 2, or 7, you need to add a backup heat or air conditioning source. In zones 3 and 6, you also need to make sure that the unit you choose is very high-efficiency to handle the load when heating and cooling.
Air Source Heat Pump Installation Cost
Air source heat pumps are installed in one of two ways - as a central heating and cooling system using existing ducts or as mini-split systems installed with air handlers in each room to be heated or cooled. You can also have ducts installed if you use a central HVAC system without them, but this adds to the installation costs, making the mini-split system much more cost-effective.
Central air source heat pumps can be installed in about 4 to 6 hours, with installation costs of $2,000 to $3,000 on average, plus costs for supplies and air handlers that adds another $1,000 to $3,000 to the total. Mini-split systems may take less time when installing a single or a dual-zone unit or take the same amount or more time when installing several zones at once. Mini-split systems cost around $800 to $2,300 in labor for a single zone or up to $5,000 in labor costs for multiple zones. This makes the two systems fairly comparable in costs when heating and cooling a 2,000 sq.ft. home.
If you decide to add ducts for a central system instead of using a mini-split system, expect another $5,000 to $10,000 in costs for the ducts.
Air Source Heat Pump Replacement Costs
Air source heat pump replacement costs can sometimes be less expensive than the initial install because it is common in split systems to only replace one part of the system, rather than the entire setup. If you have a packaged system, your replacement costs will be close or equal to the costs of a new installation. If you have a split system, you may find that your costs can be lower, around $5,000 to $7,000, rather than $10,000 on average to replace the system’s outdoor parts, leaving the existing air handler in place.
Air Source Heat Pump Efficiency Rating
Air source heat pumps are designed to heat and cool your home. So, they have two separate efficiency ratings, one for heating and one for cooling. When it comes to cooling, heat pumps use the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). Basic heat pumps have a SEER of 13 - 14, but high-efficiency heat pumps can reach a SEER of 23 or 24. If you live in a very hot climate, it is recommended that you invest in a unit with a SEER of 23 or 24 to offset the higher costs.
For heating, air-source heat pumps use the Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF). Most heat pumps have an HSPF of 8 - 11, with the most efficient units having a rating of 13 or 14. If you live in a very cold climate, consider a unit with an HSPF of at least 13.
Cost to Run an Air Source Heat Pump
Air source heat pumps come in a range of efficiencies and sizes, so they can have differing running costs. The difference between these systems and conventional HVAC is that it is not using fuel to heat the air, so you only use electricity to move the air through the compressor and air handler. For this reason, the cost to run an air source heat pump is roughly half the cost of running an electric furnace or air conditioner of the same size.
The actual cost to run an air source heat pump depends largely on your climate, the unit’s efficiency, and the outside temperature. Your unit will cost more to run on very hot or very cold days than it will to run on more temperate days.
Assuming moderate temperatures, it costs around $0.28 an hour to heat your home and $0.08 an hour to cool it.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Installing an Air Source Heat Pump
Many factors influence your project’s final cost, including your location and climate zone, home size, ducted or ductless system, and whether you need ducts installed, repaired, or replaced. The efficiency of your unit, installation location, and the brand all impact your final costs.
Advantages of Air Source Heat Pumps
Air source heat pumps are a more energy-efficient way to heat and cool your home. They cost less to run than most HVAC systems and are available even in areas where oil, propane, or gas may be expensive or difficult to obtain. They can also run year-round, keeping your home at a more moderate temperature. Some units can also be used in moderate heat but high-humidity situations to make your home more comfortable.
Air source heat pumps have become more efficient in very hot and cold climates, but they are not recommended to be used on their own in zones 1, 2, and 7, as well as many parts of zone 6. In these areas, you may need supplemental heating and cooling, which increases costs.
Air Source Heat Pump vs Gas Furnace
Air source heat pumps are a more economical way to heat and cool your home than electricity, propane, or oil. However, when it comes to heating your home, another lower-cost option is to use a natural gas furnace. Gas furnaces are a good option for homes in very cold climates where a heat pump will not be enough on its own. It is possible to use a gas furnace with an air pump, letting the furnace be a backup method of heating on the coldest days of the year, while the air pump is used in the more moderate times.
Gas furnaces only heat a home, so they are not a good option for warmer climates where the cooling options from the heat pump may be more desired. However, they are one of the better choices for cold climates.
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
Reverse Cycle Chiller
Reverse cycle chillers are a newer heating and cooling method that uses a tank of water stored outdoors. Rather than using air, it extracts and deposits heat in the water. They have similar costs as air source units, with slightly higher installation costs for an average cost of $12,000.
Updating your insulation before installing a new HVAC system can help you use a smaller model, while also saving on energy costs. Insulating your home can also make it more comfortable. Costs range from $3,500 to $4,500 on average.
If your windows are old and drafty, it could raise your energy costs. Replacing your windows with newer models may reduce costs. Replacement windows cost around $650 - $1,500 each.
Having an energy audit done determines where your home may be losing energy, allowing you to make updates to improve your efficiency. An audit costs around $250 on average.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Heat pumps have traditionally been used mostly in the southern and warmer areas of the U.S. However, newer technologies mean that these units can be used in colder areas up to zone 5 or 6, depending on the unit and its efficiency.
- While the units are fairly quiet, it is a good idea to place the condensing unit away from bedrooms or patios where it may be heard.
- Opt for a unit that has demand defrost control to minimize the defrosting cycles and reduce energy usage.
- Place your outdoor units away from areas affected by high winds, which can cause defrosting problems.
- Air source heat pumps can be left on at all times. They switch between heating and cooling as needed to maintain a constant temperature.
- Heat pumps continue to operate in all temperatures, including extreme cold, because they can still extract heat to 5 degrees F.
- There is no need to cover your heat pump. It operates in all climates and seasons.
- How much does an air source heat pump cost to run?
This depends on whether it is heating or cooling, your climate, and the unit size. Expect costs between $0.08 and $0.28 an hour.
- Is an air source heat pump cheaper than oil?
Yes, you can save several hundred dollars a year on heating costs by switching from oil.
- Do you need a boiler with an air source heat pump?
No, but if you have hydronic heating, you will need a hydronic heat exchanger.
- Does a heat pump use a lot of electricity?
No, they use considerably less energy than an electric furnace or baseboard heater.
The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources. For more information, read our Methodology and sources.