The Ultimate Guide to Air Source Heat Pumps for Homes
Air Sources Heat pumps (ASHPs) are rapidly gaining market share because of their proven efficiency advantage over gas and oil furnaces. Modern high-efficiency air-source heat pump can deliver up to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. — This is possible because a heat pump absorbs and moves heat (both heating and cooling are delivered via forced air distribution) rather than converting it from fuel like combustion heating systems do.
This air exchange heat pump buying guide will help you decide whether a heat pump is the right heating and cooling option for your home. Let’s start with the bottom line: Heat pump prices and the cost of installation.
How Much Does a New Heat Pump Cost?
Heat pump split systems include a heat pump and an air handler or gas furnace and evaporator coil. Here are your potential equipment and installation costs:
Heat pump only: Here are the three cost tiers based on efficiency and performance, factors explored in detail below:
- Basic heat pumps: $1,200-$2,400
- Better heat pumps: $1,850-$2,950
- Best heat pumps: $2,750-$4,500
Air handler costs: Split system heat pumps are usually paired with an air handler, but many work with a gas furnace, too. Here are air handler costs in two basic grades:
- Basic air handlers and coil: $550-$975
- Better air handlers and coil: $800-$1,750
Heat pump installation costs:
Your total cost installed will depend on the size of the unit, since the larger it is, the more refrigerant is needed, the complexity of the installation and whether an air handler is being installed too.
- Heat pump installation, no air handler: $1,200-$1,900
- Heat pump and air handler installation: $1,900-$3,500
Pro Tip: Make sure your contractor gets a permit to install your new heat pump. The permit includes a mechanical inspection to ensure the unit is properly installed.
Did you Know?
Heat pumps cost far less to operate than gas furnaces because they are two to three times more efficient.
In fact, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships found that ASHPs offer a legitimate space heating alternative in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions; when the old heating units are completely replaced, the annual ASHPs savings are around 3,000kWh (or $459) as compared to electric resistant heaters and 6,200kWh (or $948) as compared to oil systems.
When displacing oil (i.e. the oil system remains, but operates less frequently), the average annual savings are near 3,000 kWh (or about $300).
While furnaces burn fossil fuel to create heat, heat pumps heat and cool using electricity to circulate refrigerant.
When heating, the refrigerant captures heat outside and dumps it inside, and it does the opposite when cooling (heat pumps are air conditioners too).
Yes, the electricity used to power a heat pump is often created by burning fossil fuel, but far less energy is required to produce the same amount of heat pump BTUs as furnace BTUs.
While you’ll pay more for a heat pump than you would for a gas furnace, the extra cost can be recouped through lower utility costs in 5-7 years.
Top 6 Reasons to Get a New Heat Pump
It’s possible you’re still considering your options, so here are the top 6 reasons to buy a new heat pump:
- Repair costs to an existing heat pump are mounting (see Pro Tip below).
- You’re not moving. The longer you plan to stay in your existing home, the more it makes sense to replace the heat pump rather than pay for even minor repairs. This is especially true if the new unit is significantly more efficient. You’ll start saving on energy costs from the first day of use.
- Your current heat pump is running, but it’s getting older and has had repair issues. A preemptive decision to replace it before the next summer or winter can prevent you being without AC or heat when you need it most.
- The old heat pump is losing efficiency with age – it costs more to run, even after having it cleaned and maintained.
- You want improved energy efficiency and/or indoor comfort.
- You’re building a home and deciding between a heat pump and a gas furnace.
Pro Tips: When repair costs of an old unit reach 50% of the cost of a new unit, it makes sense to put your money into a new heat pump. This is especially true if your heat pump is 10+ years old or you don’t plan to move soon. Even if you move, a newer heat pump will be more attractive to potential buyers than an old one with a history of repairs.
Also, beware of heat pump technicians that push repair of an older unit. This is a technique sometimes used by unscrupulous contractors. Their goal is to gain your trust, encourage you to pay for one or more repairs over the course of a few years and then sell you a new heat pump when it becomes clear that the old unit is too far gone to repair.