Geothermal Heating and Cooling Cost 2021: Pros & Cons, Comparisons

Growth in the geothermal heating and cooling market averages 12% annually, as demand continues to rise for highly efficient HVAC systems that leverage sustainable energy.

Today, Geo system pricing is more competitive than it was a decade ago because there are many more manufacturers selling ground-source heating and cooling systems and there are more experienced installers competing for projects.

Cost

The current national average cost ranges between $18,000 and $20,000 for the installation of a new mid-range Geo heat system. This is before the 26% federal tax credits for the geothermal home energy efficiency upgrades that were recently extended by congress through the end of 2022.

On a wider pricing range: Most homeowners can expect to pay between $12,000 and $30,000 for a complete mid-range geothermal heating and cooling system fully installed, before the 26% federal tax credits. This wider range captures 80% of all residential Geo installations.

High-end ground-source heat pump systems for larger homes can cost as much as $30,000 to $45,000.

The size of your home and its location, available land, the type of soil, local climate, condition and usability of current duct work, and the type of heat pump you choose will impact the overall cost.

Let’s itemize the cost of a geothermal heat pump system in the following table:

Equipment Equipment Cost Total Cost with
Horizontal Loop
Total Cost with
Vertical Loop
Packaged Water to Air Heat Pump* $3,300 to $7,500 $12,000 to $20,000 $15,750 to $24,000
Split Water to Air Heat Pump $3,850 to $7,500 $14,250 to $23,000 $17,500 to $27,000
Packaged Water to Water System** $4,000 to $8,000 $16,250 to $25,000 $19,500 to $30,000

* Water to air systems are forced air systems. In winter, heat is collected with water circulating through the pipes in the ground and transferred to air being forced by a blower fan through your home’s ductwork.

The opposite occurs in summer. Heat is collected from the air in your home, transferred to the water in the pipes, which are then cooled by stable ground temperatures.

** Water-to-water systems are hydronic systems. Heat is transferred between the water in the loop system and water in an indoor radiant heat floor system or baseboard heat system.

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2021 Ductless Heating & Cooling Cost: Mini-Split Prices, Pros & Cons

The limits are off for ductless heating and cooling systems, as double-digit growth in installations for six years running demonstrates.

ductless mini-split heating and cooling system

Mini split HVAC systems are no longer just for additions, rooms far from central heating that are too hot or too cold, or locations where installing or extending ductwork is impossible.

Indoor and outdoor-ductless mini-split system

New technology and competitive costs are behind the growing number of applications including new construction.

This comprehensive ductless heating and cooling guide covers costs, system types, options, features, efficiency, pros and cons, and more.

Did you know?

Ductless mini split outdoor units are now being produced for cold climates. For example, the Fujitsu Halcyon XLTH Extra Low Temp system is an impressive 33 SEER ductless system that provides heating in temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Trane’s low-temperature 4MXW38 system offers 38 SEER/15 HSPF efficiency and 100% heating performance to -20F.

Haier America, Samsung, Friedrich, and several other brands have introduced cold climate ductless heat pumps. A base pan heater in these outdoor units allows condensate to drain without freezing.

How Much Does It Cost?

Mini split heat pumps cost higher than standard split systems, but significantly less than geothermal system costs.

Small, single-zone systems with installation start as low as $1,900. Large, complex systems can cost as much as $13,500 installed. Here are the average installed costs for three common system sizes. There’s more detail in various sections below.

  • Single zone systems: 1 indoor unit (6,000-36,000 BTU): $1,900 to $7,500
  • Average multi-zone systems: 2-4 indoor units (18,000-36,000 BTU total): $6,600-$10,500
  • Large multi-zone systems: 4+ indoor units (up to 60,000 BTU total): $9,250-$15,500

Here’s a quick breakdown of mini split HVAC costs for equipment and installation:

  • Outdoor unit cost: $950 to $5,800 (9K to 60K BTU)
  • Indoor unit cost: $200 to $2,000 (6K to 36K BTU)
  • Accessory package: $250-$1,950
  • Ductless HVAC system installation (warrantied labor) cost: $700 to $5,000

The accessory package may include a line set, drain tubing, wiring, thermostat, remote control, additional refrigerant when indoor units are distant from the outdoor unit, condensate pan heater for cold climates and other equipment required for installation.

Did you know?

Knowing the technical terms will assist you when researching your options, shopping and discussing the project with an installer. In technical terms, outdoor units are also called condensers.

A condenser contains the compressor that circulates refrigerant and the condensing coil that disperses heat during an AC mode and collects heat in heating mode.

Indoor units are also called air handlers and evaporators, and there are several types (explained in the section of Indoor Unit Types below).

Pro Tip: You’ll spend less on equipment and installation when you choose one large outdoor unit that supports multiple indoor zones rather than several separate single-zone ductless systems. In a multi-zone system, the climate of each room or zone can be independently controlled for customized comfort.

Mini Split System Cost Factors

Ductless mini split system costs vary widely based on:

  • Whether it is AC-only ($-$$$) or a heat pump ($$-$$$)
  • Cost rises as energy efficiency goes up.
  • Cost rises with the size of the outdoor unit, though again, one outdoor unit costs less than two outdoor units with the same cumulative capacity (1-48,000 BTU unit vs. 2-24,000 BTU units, for example).
  • The number, capacity and type of indoor units (single zone vs. multi-zone)
  • Indoor units with variable-speed fans for better climate control cost 15% to 25% more.
  • The complexity of the installation

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Central Air Conditioning Cost in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Staying cool during the sweltering heat of summer takes power. A fan helps but doesn’t quite cut it. Portable air conditioners and window units are decent for a single room use.

Central Heating and Air Conditioning system outside the house
via Red Star Air

For the whole house, you’ll want a central system that can maintain steady temperatures in multiple rooms. Central AC delivers on power, yet there are many units to select from in the current market. Our buyer’s guide will walk you through the primary considerations such as the appropriate models, installation costs, and other relevant factors to help you make the most informed decision.

Cost

The national average cost to install a new split-system central AC is $5,500. This includes a new mid-range 17-21 SEER (2-stage) outdoor unit and evaporator coil (split system), professional (warrantied) installation, any required site assessments and building permits, and the workmanship warranty from the installer. It is assumed that most of the required ductwork is already in place, with only minor alterations or updates required to be made to the existing ductwork.

The numbers provided above translate to a licensed HVAC contractor installing the most feasible central unit with a minimum 17 SEER (2-stage) rating for your home. The installer’s expertise draws upon many factors, not the least of which is evaluating your current ductwork strengths and weaknesses, along with how well your home is insulated, and will therefore retain the cool energy in your home.

All else being equal, higher SEER efficiency AC units with 20-26 SEER (variable-capacity) ratings will cost more (between $5,500 and $6,500+ installed) than typical mid-range 17-21 SEER (2-stage) units (between $4,000 and $5,500 installed).

Wider (80%) Pricing Range: Most homeowners spend between $4,000 and $8,500 for a full installation (replacement) of a split-system central air conditioner across the US. The total cost of a project depends on the brand and type of the AC unit (SEER and ERR ratings) being installed, project specifics (AC unit size in tons/BTUs, project complexity), and your home’s location (local real estate market dynamics).

Did you know? Central Air Conditioners come in two types; a split-system unit or a packaged unit. If your home already has a heating furnace, but no AC, then the split-system central AC unit is the most economical option to install.

Central AC Unit Costs
Typical “per Unit” price list, with models organized by Climate requirements

Did you know? Energy Star has a list of Most-Efficient Central Air Conditioners and Air Source Heat Pumps. To have an Energy Star rated unit appear on that list, a minimum rating of 18 SEER and ERR of 13 is the table-stakes.

Modern Central AC units are 20% to 40% more efficient than Central ACs from 10 years ago. So, if your home happens to have an older central AC unit, then getting a modern Energy Star rated central AC might prove to be a smart and economically-sound decision, especially if your current AC is not performing well and/or is in need of an expensive repair.

central AC average installation costs breakdown
Professional Installation Costs breakdown (not including the cost of the AC unit itself)

via US Veterans Home Services Inc.

Did you know? When added to an existing forced-air heating system with the already existing ductwork already in place, a new central air unit for a typical 2,000 sq. ft. home will cost between $4,000 and $6,500 to install.

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